Review | MACBETH : by Jo Nesbo

If you are a frequent browser of thrift bookstores, you will understand the excitement felt when dislodging Jo Nesbo’s MACBETH from the shelf. Two literary favorites in one package – the treasure of a day’s hunt. There was a great deal yet to discover in this 500 page crrime thriller.

In addition to finding the book, there was another discovery waiting to be made – The Hogarth Shakespeare Project –

The Hogarth Press was founded by Virginia and Leonard Woolf in 1917, with a mission to publish the best new writing of the age.
In 2012, Hogarth was launched in London and New York to continue the tradition.
The Hogarth Shakespeare Project sees Shakespeare’s works retold by acclaimed and best selling novelists of today.

– Hogarth Shakespeare –

Who better than Jo Nesbo to take Shakespeare’s time honored tale. Shakespeare’s “Scottish Play”, with a focus on human psychology and morality, bridges the test of time in its significance, as it is transformed into a modern novel.

This story is not told in the setting of a dark, sinister, Scottish castle in Cawdor. Instead, it is set in a 1970’s nameless city (seemingly Scottish) suffering a contagion of abandoned factories, high unemployment, and a rampant narcotics market with deep connections in law enforcement.

Complements of Hecate, aka “The Invisible Hand”, and his three menacing assistants (the three witches), the city is plagued with a narcotic called “Brew”, a bizarre potion that plays with the mind and heart and delivers an after effect of paranoia (a human condition throughout time). They work their mischief on a former addict turned police official named MACBETH. They do not possess supernatural strength. Instead, they deliver “Brew”, a dangerous and powerful drug. In return, The Invisible Hand (Hecate), and his minions are given tremendous power for their wicked manipulations.

After the murder of Duncan, the police Chief Commissioner, whose primary goal was to clean up the city and bring back jobs, MACBETH steps into the position of Chief Commissioner. Macbeth now holds the reins of power. However, he is a man who lacks strength of character. With a thirst for power always at odds with his conscience, Macbeth suffers the terrible effects that ambition and guilt can have on a man. The conflict resides primarily between Macbeth and the individuals who mistrust his power and how he got it. The list of doubters include Duff (Macduff), Banquo, the man who brought Macbeth into the police force, and Fleance, Banquo’s son. Macbeth, a paranoid individual with unrestricted power and manipulative acquaintances, has a consistent response to every problem – VIOLENCE and MURDER –

The story is nowhere near complete without Lady (Lady Macbeth). In this modern story, Lady is the owner of a casino called “The Inverness”. She is stronger, more ruthless, and more ambitious than Macbeth. She is fully aware of this and knows she will have to push Macbeth into committing the murders she sees necessary to gain power. Both Shakespeare’s play and Jo Nesbo”s novel imply that women can be as ambitious and cruel as men. Yet, social restraints , whether in the 11th/ or the 20th/ century, deny them the means to pursue their ambitions on their own. The crimes and the motives, whether in Shakespeare’s tragedy or in Jo Nesbo’s modern thriller are startlingly the same.

This book stands alone as a modern thriller, but, WOW, add the plot and character development of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the reader is treated to a power house of a tale.

Hogarth Shakespeare list :

  • The Tempest : retold by Margaret Atwood
  • Othello : retold by Tracy Chevalier
  • Hamlet : retold by Gillian Flynn
  • The Merchant of Venice : retold by Howard Jacobson
  • Macbeth : retold by Jo Nesbo
  • King Lear : retold by Edward St, Aubyn
  • The Taming of the Shrew : retold by Anne Tyler
  • The Winter’s Tale : retold by Jeanette Winterson

Published by Audrey Newhall

I am an avid reader and contributor to Penna Book Reviews

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