Review: Macbeth

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Book Title: Macbeth
Jo Nesbo
Series: Hogarth Shakespeare
Genres: Crime Fiction, Classics, Retelling
Pub Date: 04/05/18

Set in a dark, rainy northern town, Nesbo’s Macbeth pits the ambitions of a corrupt policeman against loyal colleagues, a drug-depraved underworld and the pull of childhood friendships.

Get ready to helter-skelter through the darkest tunnels of human experience.


Joe Nesbø’s Macbeth is a standalone retelling of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth with a modern day, Joe Nesbø crime fiction spin that we all love and respect from the Stephen King of police drama novels. The novel starts sets the stage in the 1970s, in a destitute, crime and drug ridden town in rural Norway, where the townsfolk are ruled by addiction. Both drug ring leaders, Sweno and Hecate, are the supreme leaders of the organized crime and drug power in the town. Another ruler of the town is Lady, who owns and operates the town’s casino, Inverness. After a successful crime bust, Macbeth is promoted to the Head of the Organized Crime Unit. Through manipulation and the thirst for power, the shift of balance in the crime force is completely descended. If you are a lover of William Shakespeare or the New York production of Sleep No More, I encourage you to check this story out.

My rating
I am giving this story right down the middle 3 stars out of 5 and I’ll tell you why. Although I’m not the biggest Shakespeare fan, I do enjoy Macbeth and was excited to pick up this retelling. I have broken down reasons why Joe Nesbø’s upcoming book gets a right down the middle review for me.

1. The characters in this story are very similar to Shakespeare’s story. Mainly, most of the characters are named exactly as their original counterparts, which at first was interesting, but then sort of bored me. I’ve read other retellings where the cast of character slightly deviate from the characterization in their original work and it has worked astoundingly for me. It allows the reader to not guess the next steps of each character and also not be bored by a story that they’ve read or heard already. It keeps the reader engaged, focused, and confused (but in a good way!). This was my main concern about this story and I felt the need to get that out there first before getting into the good stuff.

2. In contrast to the character originality, the story presented to us is uniquely defined and was masterfully done. Rather than the story be about royals and servants, this retelling involves crime units and drug lords–still interconnecting the main themes that you come to expect with this story: manipulation, power, greed. These centralized themes are portrayed perfectly from the moment you crack open the book, until the final chapter. Human behavior can be it’s own worst enemy.

3. This was my first read by Jo Nesbø, but everyone I know has been raving about him for a long time so I figured, let me start off with a standalone and see what I thought. Jo Nesbø is truly an artist when it comes to creating the picturewith words. I could picture exactly what Nesbø was describing and it was incredibly captivating for me. He can uniquely describe a setting better than most authors I’ve come across lately, and that is a skill that can’t be taught

My final thoughts: If you’ve never read Macbeth or absolutely loved it, pick up this book! If you’re hesitant because you know what happens already, or want something a little more original–maybe sit this one out. Retellings can be difficult to review, because everyone has a different emotional attachment to the story being reenacted and I truly believe that this story will also be polarizing.

* I was provided an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

15 thoughts on “Review: Macbeth”

  1. I’ve been following the other books in this Hogarth project and have had pretty mixed reaction to most of the retellings. I’ve got this one on my TBR and am eager to read Nesbo’s take.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the honest review!! I think I’m going to skip this one, I like Shakespeare but I don’t think I’m in the mood for a retelling… and I prefer the Harry Hole series for now 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmmm… Definitely sounds interesting and different, but I feel like retellings are never as fabulous as the original stories! Great review 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great review Dennis, although calling it straight down the middle hasn’t helped me decide whether or not to read it, haha! I’m leaning toward yes, just because I did a school play of this and I was Lady Macbeth lol but I don’t know if I loved Macbeth enough for a three star retelling! *decisions, decisions*

    And Chelsea, you’ve got an eye for talent – I’m loving Dennis’ guest reviews!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Janel!

      Thanks so much for your nice (and very awesome to hear on a Monday morning) words! I say if you have that much knowledge and interest in the play, you’d probably rank this story much higher than me!

      Liked by 2 people

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