cover image Macbeth


Jo Nesbø, trans. from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett. Hogarth Shakespeare, $27 (464p) ISBN 978-0-553-41905-4

In this ambitious entry in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, bestseller Nesbø (The Thirst and 10 other Harry Hole novels) transmutes Macbeth into a crime novel set in 1970s Scotland. Macbeth heads the SWAT team in a dreary city called Capitol, determined to take down criminal gangs and to clean up the corrupt local government, a goal shared by Duncan, Capitol’s upstanding police chief. But local drug kingpin Hecate wants to be rid of Duncan and schemes to put Macbeth, something of an outsider and an addict to a drug called “brew,” in charge. Hecate sends Macbeth three sisters (the witches in Shakespeare’s original), who foretell his future: that he will be head of the Organised Crime Unit and then chief commissioner. Macbeth is promoted to the first post by Duncan, and “Lady,” Macbeth’s consort and a local casino magnate, has the manipulative wiles to ensure Macbeth does whatever it takes to eliminate Duncan and rule the city. The themes will resonate well with contemporary readers, but, at nearly 500 pages, the story feels bloated. It’s a clever reengineering of one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies, but may disappoint Nesbø’s fan base. (Apr.)