macbeth“Macbeth” by Jo Nesbó is, as one would expect, a modern rendition of Shakespeare’s classic play. I will not infuriate teachers of English Literature everywhere by comparing the two versions except to say that all the elements of the classic are found in Nesbó’s version, the people, the drama, the conflict, the tragedy. What is to be discovered is how all that tragedy is translated into modern Scandinavia.

The opening line sets the stage for the vivid descriptions in the rest of the book.

“The shiny raindrop fell from the sky, through the darkness, towards the shivering lights of the port below. Cold gusting north-westerlies drove the raindrop over the dried-up riverbed that divided the town lengthwise and the disused railway line that divided it diagonally.”

The city is in crisis; corruption abounds; crime is rampant, and the city’s inhabitants get rich with casinos, drugs and politics. Unemployment  six times higher than average; the number of drug users ten times greater, and the risk of being robbed was six times higher here than in Capitol,

Extensive descriptive backgrounds make Nesbó’s characters real and relatable. We almost want a different ending for them all, but alas, we know the plot, and we know how it ends.

“It’s just one of those self-fulfilling things. You’ve always known, all your life, you’re doomed to lose in the end. That certainty is and always has been you, Macbeth.”

Macbeth is a man of few words, but then no one expects the head of SWAT to be a wordsmith. He is haunted by his deeds, and sees them everywhere.

“Macbeth saw the light for pedestrians had changed from a green man to red. A human body covered with blood from head to toe. Macbeth shuddered.”

Descriptions are without a match when we first meet “her.”

“Macbeth walked into the light by the entrance to the casino, from which a tall woman with flowing flame-red hair in a long red dress emerged and hugged him, as though a phantom had warned her that her beloved was on his way. Lady.”

I received a copy of “Macbeth” from Jo Nesbó, Crown Publishing, and NetGalley. It is certainly more gritty and bloody than the original, but even without the classic connection, it is a psychological thriller full of power-hungry madness. Every page is packed with action, conflict, guilt, betrayal, and loyalty.