Book Review: Macbeth by Jo Nesbø

MacbethAbout the Book

He’s the best cop they’ve got.

When a drug bust turns into a bloodbath it’s up to Inspector Macbeth and his team to clean up the mess.

He’s also an ex-drug addict with a troubled past.

He’s rewarded for his success. Power. Money. Respect. They’re all within reach.

But a man like him won’t get to the top.

Plagued by hallucinations and paranoia, Macbeth starts to unravel. He’s convinced he won’t get what is rightfully his.

Unless he kills for it.

Format: Paperback (624 pp.)    Publisher: Vintage
Published: 20th September 2018 [5th April 2018] Genre: Fiction, Thriller

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Find Macbeth on Goodreads

My Review

Jo Nesbø is the latest author to participate in the Hogarth Shakespeare project.  Launched in October 2015, the project’s stated aim is ‘to see Shakespeare’s plays reimagined by some of today’s bestselling and most celebrated writers. The books are true to the spirit of the original plays, while giving authors an exciting opportunity to do something new.’

This is the first book by Jo Nesbø I’ve read, although I’m aware of his books and his many fans across the world.  Therefore, I came to the book with high expectations both because of his reputation and the Shakespeare play he had chosen to tackle, Macbeth. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed.  At over 600 pages, I found the book rather a slog and not as gripping as I had expected.  For me, the author didn’t really succeed in ‘doing something new’ to the extent I was hoping for.

The book certainly fleshes out the back stories of many of the characters in Shakespeare’s play but I didn’t find this added much for me.  A lot of time was devoted to the detailed planning of police operations, carried out with ruthlessness and little regard for the rule of law.  So if you like plenty of blood and guts, you’ll be happy. Things picked up a little when Lady (the character who represents Lady Macbeth) arrived on the scene but not enough to reignite my interest in the book as a whole.

The book is set in a rundown Scottish town in the 1970s but has a distinctly dystopian feel.  It’s a place where unemployment and deprivation has led to a high level of addiction to drugs, gambling and alcohol.  In practice, the drug barons are in charge and corruption in local institutions, including the Police, is rife.  To my mind this was where the book worked best; conjuring up an atmosphere of decay and hopelessness, a society divided into ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ and torn apart by violence and gang warfare.

I think if the writing had been tauter, some of the detail had been excised and the author could have done more than just retell the story but set in another time and place, it would have made Macbeth a more compelling read.  Although there were elements I enjoyed, like some other reviewers, I don’t believe this is the most successful contribution to the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Vintage, and NetGalley.

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In three words: Atmospheric, dark, weighty

Try something similar…New Boy by Tracy Chevalier (read my review here)

Jo NesboAbout the Author

Jo Nesbø is a bestselling Norwegian author and musician. He was born in Oslo and grew up in Molde. Nesbø graduated from the Norwegian School of Economics with a degree in economics. Nesbø is primarily famous for his crime novels about Detective Harry Hole, but he is also the main vocals and songwriter for the Norwegian rock band Di Derre. In 2007 Nesbø also released his first children’s book, Doktor Proktors Prompepulver.

(Photo credit: Goodreads author page)

Connect with Jo

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10 thoughts on “Book Review: Macbeth by Jo Nesbø

      1. OK, thanks for letting me know. I’d definitely seen others sharing my posts on Twitter and not encountered any issue sharing others’ posts. Like you say maybe a temporary problem. And thanks for the shares😁

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Even 100 pages less and perhaps losing some of the minor characters may have improved it. However, he did create a great atmosphere and kudos to him for taking on such an iconic play. And I know some readers have absolutely loved it.


  1. I enjoyed this more than you – and I can’t normally stand blood and gore, but somehow it didn’t strike me as over the top although it does describe violence. I enjoyed the vagueness of the setting and thought it conveyed a powerful sense of the despair at the lawlessness and corruption in that society.

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