Buzzworthy 2018 Books: MACBETH by Jo Nesbø
Hogarth; April 10, 2018
If there’s one book that has been my most-anticipated ever since I started Crime by the Book, it’s this one. Jo Nesbø’s MACBETH (Hogarth; April 10, 2018) is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare’s collection of modern-day retellings in honor of the Bard’s 400th birthday—and it’s a story worthy of its namesake in every sense. This book doesn’t release until April 2018, but trust me: I wouldn’t bring this book up so early if it weren’t a must-read. Nesbø’s MACBETH is a modern-day crime novel with the ageless beating heart of Shakespeare’s play: it captures the moral complexity, menace, and despair of the original, with a grim, gritty twist that is trademark Nesbø.
On a personal level, I can’t imagine a better pairing than to have my favorite author write a retelling of my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays—but even removing my personal bias from the equation, this is a match made in literary heaven. Nesbø is a master at crafting razor-sharp, gritty crime novels that explore the dark corners of the human soul—and Macbeth is nothing if not a story exploring this exact same space. Nesbø’s MACBETH is a thunderous action thriller, a sly political game, and a resounding reminder of the timeless message of Shakespeare’s own Macbeth: there is nothing so fundamentally antithetical to the flourishing of humanity as the fundamental human thirst for power beyond measure.
Jo Nesbø’s MACBETH is my most-anticipated book of 2018, and it's also my latest Buzzworthy 2018 Books pick! This post will highlight three key reasons why MACBETH belongs on your 2018 TBR. Need a suggestion to help the time pass quickly? Pre-order your copy today, and then pass the time by reading the original play! Nesbø’s MACBETH is a 2018-must read.
If you’re unfamiliar with my “Buzzworthy Books” series: these posts serve to preview reads I’m already recommending for the coming year. Each post highlights three key elements that make the featured book exceptional enough to start learning about them well in advance!
Plot Summary: MACBETH
Set in the 1970s in a run-down, rainy industrial town, Jo Nesbo's Macbeth centers around a police force struggling to shed an incessant drug problem. Duncan, chief of police, is idealistic and visionary, a dream to the townspeople but a nightmare for criminals. The drug trade is ruled by two drug lords, one of whom—a master of manipulation named Hecate—has connections with the highest in power, and plans to use them to get his way.
Hecate’s plot hinges on steadily, insidiously manipulating Inspector Macbeth: the head of SWAT and a man already susceptible to violent and paranoid tendencies. What follows is an unputdownable story of love and guilt, political ambition, and greed for more, exploring the darkest corners of human nature, and the aspirations of the criminal mind.
What to Love about Nesbø’s MACBETH
Three key elements that make MACBETH a 2018 must-read:
- A multifaceted story that remains focused. Bear with me while I try to explain. Nesbø’s MACBETH has a whole lot going on: readers will encounter components that read like an action thriller (SWAT missions, shootouts, and more), complex, ruthless political machinations (moving parts between players in local government trying to outpace and outsmart one another), and, at the heart of it all, Nesbø’s razor-sharp insight into the human psyche: the desires that drive people to do unthinkable things, and the ramifications - mental, emotional, and interpersonal - of every single one of those destructive decisions. Through all these layers, Nesbø delivers a focused story with sharp teeth—a cohesive examination of the forms and fallout of greed. MACBETH is certainly not “light” reading material: it would, in fact, be impossible to write a “light” version of Macbeth that does justice to the original play. Nesbø’s MACBETH delivers the necessary complexity to explore the many elements of this play while remaining a driving, focused story.
- Trademark Nesbø character development. If you’ve read a Nesbø book before, you’ll already know what I mean: Nesbø is a master at crafting rich, vivid characters whose flaws are as engaging as their charms. I can’t imagine an author better suited to writing the complex and reprehensible character of Macbeth himself, not to mention the myriad other men and women who fill the pages of the original play with their own demons. As readers of Nesbø’s books will already know, he has a knack for writing almost mythically tough yet tender and human characters that are totally endearing (think Olav, the “fixer” in BLOOD ON SNOW, or my favorite, his series lead Harry Hole), and this same style is at play in MACBETH. Readers will be hard-pressed to find a single character in this book whose presence is not deeply intentional and well-crafted; as in every single Nesbø book I have read, every character here is three-dimensional and human. One of the most compelling elements of Macbeth (the play) is, to me, the blurred and often deeply conflicted morality of its characters, and Nesbø ably portrays the spectrum of intentions, motivations, and desires of his book’s namesake characters in these, their new iterations.
- Gripping, gritty crime fiction. Lest we forget why we’re all here: MACBETH is also simply a darn good crime novel. When reading this book, I actually had a number of moments where I had to just sit back and soak up what a masterful job Nesbø has done in retelling such an iconic play not only in a way that is true to the spirit and message of the original play, but that also succeeds in reshaping this infamous story to fit his own style and voice as an author. Marrying these two seemingly contradictory intentions requires an almost unfathomably delicate balancing act, but Nesbø makes it look effortless. MACBETH is Nesbø through and through, from its grim, gritty backdrop (an industrial town that is quite literally dirty, from its dirty politicians to the actual filth that covers its streets), to the action-packed intensity of its plot (our new Macbeth is the leader of the town’s SWAT team), down to the police procedural-oriented details of its plot. Readers will naturally take the most away from this book if they are already familiar with the original Macbeth play, but there is more than enough action, intensity, and intrigue here to make MACBETH a must-read for crime fiction readers across the board.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.
Series: Hogarth Shakespeare
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Hogarth (April 10, 2018)
Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.
Plus: Looking to Start reading Jo Nesbø while you wait for MACBETH?
There are a ton of fantastic crime novels by Jo Nesbø out there, just waiting for you to discover them! While you wait for MACBETH to be released, sample another Nesbø book and try NOT to fall in love with his work, I dare you.
Check out recent Nesbø coverage on CBTB, and find your next Nesbø read in the process!