Macbeth: William Shakespeare's Macbeth Retold: A Novel

Macbeth: William Shakespeare's Macbeth Retold: A Novel

by Jo Nesbo


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Shakespeare’s dark and tragic play retold in a heart-pounding New York Times bestselling thriller from the author of The Snowman and The Thirst.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553419078
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 01/08/2019
Series: Hogarth Shakespeare Series
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 46,774
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

JO NESBO is a musician, songwriter, and economist, as well as a writer. His Harry Hole novels include The Snowman, The Leopard, and Phantom and he is the author of several stand-alone novels, including The Son, as well as the Doctor Proctor series of children's books. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Glass Key for best Nordic crime novel.

Read an Excerpt

The man hadn’t shown himself for months, but only one person owned that helmet and the red Indian Chief motorbike. Rumour had it the bike was one of fifty the New York Police Department had manufactured in total secrecy in 1955. The steel of the curved scabbard attached to its side shone.
Some claimed he was dead, others that he had fled the country, that he had changed his identity, cut off his blond plaits and was sitting on a terrazza in Argentina enjoying his old age and pencil-thin cigarillos.
But here he was. The leader of the gang and the cop-killer who, along with his sergeant, had started up the Norse Riders some time after the Second World War. They had picked rootless young men, most of them from dilapidated factory-worker houses along the sewage-fouled river, and trained them, disciplined them, brainwashed them until they were an army of fearless soldiers Sweno could use for his own purposes. To gain control of the town, to monopolise the growing dope market. And for a while it had looked as if Sweno would succeed, certainly Kenneth and police HQ hadn’t stopped him; rather the opposite, Sweno had bought in all the help he needed. It was the competition. Hecate’s home-made dope, brew, was much better, cheaper and always readily available on the market. But if the anonymous tip-off Duff had received was right, this consignment was big enough to solve the Norse Riders’ supply problems for some time. Duff had hoped, but not quite believed, what he read in the brief typewritten lines addressed to him was true. It was simply too much of a gift horse. The sort of gift that – if handled correctly – could send the head of the Narco Unit further up the ladder. Chief Commissioner Duncan still hadn’t filled all the important positions at police HQ with his own people. There was, for example, the Gang Unit, where Kenneth’s old rogue Inspector Cawdor had managed to hang on to his seat as they still had no concrete evidence of corruption, but that could only be a question of time. And Duff was one of Duncan’s men. When there were signs that Duncan might be appointed chief commissioner Duff had rung him in Capitol and clearly, if somewhat pompously, stated that if the council didn’t make Duncan the new commissioner, and chose one of Kenneth’s henchmen instead, Duff would resign. It was not beyond the bounds of possibility that Duncan had suspected a personal motive behind this unconditional declaration of loyalty, but so what? Duff had a genuine desire to support Duncan’s plan for an honest police force that primarily served the people, he really did. But he also wanted an office at HQ as close to heaven as possible. Who wouldn’t? And he wanted to cut off the head of the man out there.
He was the means and the end.
Duff looked at his watch. The time tallied with what was in the letter, to the minute. He rested the tips of his fingers on the inside of his wrist. To feel his pulse. He was no longer hoping, he was about to become a believer.
“Are there many of them, Duff?” a voice whispered.
“More than enough for great honour, Seyton. And one of them’s so big, when he falls, it’ll be heard all over the country.”

Duff cleaned the condensation off the window. Ten nervous, sweaty police officers in a small room. Men who didn’t usually get this type of assignment. As head of the Narco Unit it was Duff alone who had taken the decision not to show the letter to other officers; he was using only men from his unit for this raid. The tradition of corruption and leaks was too long for him to risk it. At least that is what he would tell Duncan if asked. But there wouldn’t be much cavilling. Not if they could seize the drugs and catch thirteen Norse Riders red-handed.
Thirteen, yes. Not fourteen. One of them would be left lying on the battlefield. If the chance came along.
Duff clenched his teeth.
“You said there’d only be four or five,” said Seyton, who had joined him at the window.
“Worried, Seyton?”
“No, but you should be, Duff. You’ve got nine men in this room and I’m the only one with experience of a stake-out.” He said this without raising his voice. He was a lean, sinewy, bald man. Duff wasn’t sure how long he had been in the police, only that he had been in the force when Kenneth was chief commissioner. Duff had tried to get rid of Seyton. Not because he had anything concrete on him; there was just something about him, something Duff couldn’t put his finger on, that made him feel a strong antipathy.
“Why didn’t you bring in the SWAT team, Duff?”
“The fewer involved the better.”
“The fewer you have to share the honours with. Because unless I’m very much mistaken that’s either the ghost of Sweno or the man himself.” Seyton nodded towards the Indian Chief motorbike, which had stopped by the gangway of MS Leningrad.
“Did you say Sweno?” said a nervous voice from the darkness behind them. “Yes, and there’s at least a dozen of them,” Seyton said loudly without taking his eyes off Duff. “Minimum.”
“Oh shit,” mumbled a second voice.
“Shouldn’t we ring Macbeth?” asked a third.
“Do you hear?” Seyton said. “Even your own men want SWAT to take over.”
“Shut up!” Duff hissed. He turned and pointed a finger at the poster on the wall. “It says here MS Glamis is sailing to Capitol on Friday at 0600 hours and is looking for galley staff. You said you wanted to take part in this assignment, but you hereby have my blessing to apply for employment there instead. The money and the food are supposed to be better. A show of hands?”
Duff peered into the darkness, at the faceless, unmoving figures. Tried to interpret the silence. Already regretting that he had challenged them. What if some of them actually did put up their hands? Usually he avoided putting himself in situations where he was dependent on others, but now he needed every single one of the men in front of him.


Excerpted from "Macbeth"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Jo Nesbo.
Excerpted by permission of Crown/Archetype.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Macbeth 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
LEH0644 More than 1 year ago
Macbeth, the good-natured and much-loved head of SWAT, is talked into going after a more important position by his lady love. The woman known as Lady is owner of a casino and manipulates Macbeth into getting the power she desires. He comes to desire it too and it destroys him. He turns back to drugs and becomes a pawn of the drug kingpin. He turns against his former friends and the man who took him in and raised him and ultimately faces loneliness. I am a fan of the Harry Hole novels but did not care for this book at all. I kept reading it hoping it would get better but it never did. I thought the book was dark and depressing.
atinman More than 1 year ago
I’ve never had much interest in reading Shakespeare after the forced reading in Highschool. The other side to this equation is I’ve definitely enjoyed every work by Jo Nesbo. Sounds like a cage match with the winner having his hand raised in victory. Mr Nesbo’s writing won the day. I don’t often give 5 star reviews. I reserve this for works that I want to talk about, read again, see the movie. Thatis what we have here This is a reimagined MacBeth. Instead of the Shakespearean fight over a kingdom we have a police department. Duncan is Police commissioner , MacBeth is the SWAT commander. After successfully stopping a large drug sale/transfer MacBeth is placed as third in the chain of command. Three prostitutes give him a message from Hecate a drug lord. In Shakespeare these are the three witches and the Queen of the Witches respectively. Lady, MacBeth’s wife, puts a thought worm into MacBeth’s ear. He could be commisioner if he just eliminated Duncan. MacBeth at first recoils but not for long. He can already see the path to the Commissioners Office. This is where everything gets interesting. Each of these characters has depth. The storyline unfolds as neatly as a butterfly emerging from it’s cocoon. It starts out not looking like much but when it fully opens it’s wings it is ready to fly. This is Jo Nesbo at his finest. Flawed, sometimes deeply, the characters are given life. The moral/amoral ambiguity is clear in many of the main players. These are flawed people who want to do good or bad people who can do good. The line is often blurred. I can whole heartedly recommend Jo Nesbo’s MacBeth. I want to thank Mr Nesbo, his Publisher Hogarth, and NetGalley for my copy in exchange for this honest review
tedfeit0 More than 1 year ago
Since Shakespeare’s Macbeth was first performed in 1606 it has been reenacted in many guises and venues. For instance, Orson Welles staged the play in 1936 with an all-black cast. Jo Nesbo’s “Macbeth” is the most recent of six books in the Hogarth Shakespeare series in which the play is retold by various authors. However, this is the first time the tale has been written as a crime story, Nesbo’s forte as a top Scandinavian writer well-known for his noir fiction, especially the Harry Hole novels. As the author notes, the play is one of his favorites and provides an outline for the novel, a tale of love, corruption and lust for power. Set in a decaying unnamed town, abandoned by industry, ridden by drugs and unemployment, the story has at its heart Macbeth’s grab for power using his position on the police force and his pact with the drug lord, Hecate. Coupled with his love, Lady, whose ambition for power even exceeds his, Macbeth murders his way to the top, becoming police commissioner and grabbing to become Mayor and complete control of the town. It is a gruesome story that only Mr. Nesbo could write, with a force so powerful only a Bard could have written it. Highly recommended.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
Macbeth by Jo Nesbø is a highly recommended retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth for the Hogarth Shakespeare Series. Nesbø sets his updated version in a hopeless, gloomy industrial town during the drug wars of the 1970s. He keeps many of the original names from the play, so a comparison is easy to make. Duncan is the new chief of police, idealistic and determined to clean up the town by taking on the city's drug lord Hecate. Inspector Macbeth is the head of the SWAT team who is regarded as a natural leader, but he also has problems with addiction and craves power. Add in the other characters, three sisters/witches, and Macbeth's scheming wife, Lady, and you have the stage set for corruption, guilt, ambition, violence, greed, and murder on all sides. Assuming readers will know the plot of Shakespeare's Macbeth and have at least a little familiarity with the characters, it quickly becomes clear that Macbeth translates well to a crime novel and Nesbø is the perfect writer to tackle this play for the Hogarth series. It is more violent than the play, but that is to be expected with a Nesbø novel. He is an excellent writer and I felt he did a great tackling the rewriting while keeping some of the iconic scenes. Along with the adapting the plot of the original play to a novel, Nesbø adds the descriptive passages that his other novels are well known for, setting the scenes up in his own unique way. The novel does go on a bit longer than necessarily warranted and the opening is a bit slow, but as a whole this is a successful addition to the Hogarth Shakespeare Series. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Crown Archetype.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Decent, but not great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not Nesbo’s best, but a decent read...I missed Harry Hole.
EclecticBooks More than 1 year ago
A retelling of Macbeth with a modern style. Well modern, back a few decades from our current time. This is Nesbo's contribution to The Hogarth Shakespeare project, which is modern retellings of Shakespeare's plays. While I am not a huge Shakespeare fan (don't hate me), this retelling was quite good and I really enjoyed reading this retelling. This story stars with actions and pretty much does not stop until the end. There are many reviews of this book on Goodreads, so I am not going to say the same things everyone else has already said, but I will say, this book needs to be on your summer reading list. I am giving this a solid 4-star review and looking forward to going back and reading other books by Mr. Nesbo which I have missed.
bookaholique More than 1 year ago
Murder, betrayal, corruption, drug abuse, power struggles - this books had it all. While not quite a page turner, I did find this to be a pretty compelling read. With only a few exceptions, most every character has a game plan that is not based in goodness or morality. This does become a good versus evil story and all I can say is,there are few survivors. I think the Hogarth Shakespeare series is the best thing since sliced bread. I have never read Shakespeare and I love going into these stories with no preconceived ideas. The series has gotten me to read more about Shakespeare. In the back of my mind I have this little feeling that I may even try to read an original Shakespeare story. Holy smokes! Never say never. I received this from Crown Publishing via Netgalley.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the psychological battles between the characters How they plotted against one another, with Nesbo surprising us by coming up with surprise solutions to the problems
Ribeiro More than 1 year ago
If the beginning of the book doesn't seem to gel, since it's a different style of plot, it seems unfamiliar, and you're not quite sure where this is going, just keep reading. Because soon you'll see, it gets on fire. The match is lit and it catches fire. Everything makes sense. Haven't reached the end of the book yet with 100 more pages to go, but I just had to stop and write a review of this book. It's very good, the characters, plots, twists and turns. The bad guys are really evil, and they seem to getting the upper hand, but it just seems that way, because in the end, and I know it, the good guys will turn the table on them. Enjoying the story as it is told and enfolding. It keeps moving ahead and you just want to catch up. I'm waiting for Duff and Fleance to squash the bad guy or guys.
TeeP2 More than 1 year ago
A modern re-telling of a classic tragedy featuring a man, Macbeth, who is trying to make a name for himself in a no-name town. Jo Nesbo reimagines Shakespeare's character of Macbeth as a police officer in the 70's working in a drug-riddled city that is also filled with corruption. When we first meet Macbeth, he's likable - a bit cocky to be sure, but likable. But as his ambition grows, so do his troubles, while his moral standards quickly take a nosedive. Nesbo writes a great adaptation filled with strong "modern" versions of familiar classic characters. The story is still very much a tragedy and lacks none of the dark mood and circumstances of the original. There is also that special dark other-worldly sense just under the surface. I would recommend this book to lovers of classic literature, mysteries, and crime fiction.
Ann-S More than 1 year ago
Jo Nesbo's Macbeth is a real bloodbath. A creative retelling full of double-crossing, powerful men of a fictional police force in a run-down noir town which I'll call Glasgow. My mind made me envision a rainy, dreary town where the inhabitants search for meaning through chemicals and gambling. I was reminded of Trainspotting. I'm not going to lie. Parts of the Shakespearean story of Macbeth were way in the recesses of my brain. I remember the hags and their prophesy-telling, Lady Macbeth and her manipulation and trying to get that spot out, and murder. Most of all, I remember ambition for power. Nesbo incorporates all of these things in such an interesting way. I especially love the use of skanky prostitute minions of Hecate to tell their prophesy. These "hags" appear as Macbeth is on the preciface of remaining honest and doing wrong. These hags play a more minor role in Nesbo's tale than Shakespeare's and it works well. I pictured his role models on one shoulder and the hags on the other, arguing for his next move. A real moment of no-turning back. And Macbeth surely does not turn back. He gets more driven, nasty, and creepier as the story unfolds. The bulk of this book is the relationship of lawmen vs the outlaws. I was uncertain about the use of a true motorcycle street gang; however, having a specific criminal group to fight against seems the only option, in hindsight. The alliances change so quickly that readers have to pay close attention to all of the players. That Macbeth is pretty persuasive. He seems to be able to talk most of his comrades into anything involving a Gatling gun and a dagger. The most compelling relationship; however, is that of Lady and Macbeth. Lady is such an interesting character: a former "lady" of the night (more of a Madam) who now is the owner of the Inverness Casino, the classier of the 2 casinos in town. And Lady, surprise, brings a little baggage to her relationship with the younger Macbeth. Macbeth will do anything for love; and therefore, anything for power. And Lady wouldn't have it any other way. Macbeth is nearly 500 pages long. Honestly, it didn't lag much throughout that length. Things ratchet up just when you think they can't ratchet up anymore. This is probably going to become a movie. I don't want it to. But, if that happens, but Colin Farrell in it.
357800 More than 1 year ago
What a cast of ruthless psychotic killers! Is anyone NOT a cold blooded assassin in Jo Nesbo's reimagined take of Shakespeare's MACBETH? Is there even a hero to root for? Well, you'll have to read it to find out. Having not experienced the classic myself, I have nothing to compare to, but will surely be reading it sooner than later. My interest is now peaked! DARK and DEADLY from start to finish, I could not believe the betrayals....the backstabbing....the threats....the blackmail....the corruption, or the NUMEROUS egotistical power hungry political types. No human regardless of age is exempt from murderous beware, some parts are pretty tough to take. I did have my ups and downs with this novel along the way. There were times it even felt a bit long and wordy, but then Nesbo would throw in another bizarre character type or development and I was hooked again. As the story begins, it's's ALWAYS overcast and rainy in the small polluted town of 6,000. There's a wasteland of industrial factory closings and no jobs....except in the two rivalry casinos or law enforcement....or unless, of course, you're a drug lord or dealing junkie. AND NOW, after 25 years, corrupt police commissioner Kenneth is finally dead, and it seems EVERYONE is vying for his job or others that will become available because of anticipated change....thus the battle for power begins. Who can clean up the town? Is there a savior? Just remember, no one can be trusted in Nesbo's MACBETH, and there's much going on here....lots of strange characters to follow. I have not even made mention of the Norse riders, the mysterious Lady Macbeth, other worldly beings...or the ending...hehehe, but enough said already. If Nesbo is your man, you have a little patience, and you're in the mood for a treacherously creative tale, you'll like this one.
RowingRabbit More than 1 year ago
3.5 stars When I was in high school, I was that weird girl in your english lit class who actually liked Shakespeare. The Hogarth Shakespeare project gave 8 authors a chance to recreate one of the Bard’s classic plays & when I heard Jo Nesbo was taking on MacBeth, I had to read it. And he’s done a remarkable job. It’s a daunting challenge. After all, we already know who did what & how it ends. But Nesbo has given it a modern facelift by turning it into a dark, violent tale of cops vs criminals set in an unnamed city drowning in drugs & corruption. Poor old Duncan is the shiny new Chief Commissioner of police while MacBeth heads up the SWAT team. Other familiar names have been assigned to characters on both sides of the law, their roles staying true to the originals. I won’t dwell on the story except to say this is decidedly bloodier than “the Scottish play”. But there are several things that make it work. First, the setting. Nesbo vividly describes his city & it’s a pretty bleak place. Relentless rain, dark streets full of skeletal junkies & rusted out factories litter the landscape. Now add in cops & politicians who have been bought & paid for by the rival drug gangs that rule the city. The result is a grim & gripping read that practically oozes moral decay. And that of course is the point. Shakespeare wanted to shine a light on the psychological & physical ramifications for those who seek power for power’s sake, how ambition without morality leads to carnage. He also distinguished between the sexes. Not that women can’t be just as reprehensible. It’s just their methods that differ. In this story, MacBeth’s wife may not care to actually get her hands dirty but she’s more than capable of inciting violence with well chosen words whispered in the right ears. Nesbo has nailed the themes & even sneaks in symbolic moments such as blood that won’t wash off. What I found most startling is how relevant something written over 400 years ago still is. But then all you have to do is read the news to find modern examples of his characters. It’s not an easy read but Nesbo pulls it off with style. My only quibble is the wealth of long descriptive passages that at times stall any building tension. As always, the wonderful Don Bartlett has done an outstanding job of translation. Recommended for fans of Shakespeare and/or gritty crime drama. If you’re keeping track of this series, next up is Gillian Flynn of “Gone Girl” fame taking on “Hamlet”.