A gritty up­date

Au­thor Nesbo gives Mac­beth a mod­ern feel

Kingston Whig-Standard - - BOOKS - JONATHAN ELDERFIELD

Mac­beth is a mod­ern-day drug­war, power-strug­gle, dou­ble-cross, law­men-ver­sus-gang­sters re­cast of Shake­speare’s Scot­tish play, Mac­beth.

Set in an un­named and dreary in­dus­trial town pop­u­lated by ad­dicts and drug gangs, po­lice and politi­cians, the story matches much of the bard’s story with a power-mad cou­ple, In­spec­tor Mac­beth, who leads the SWAT team, and his Lady, the owner of a high-end casino seek­ing to seize con­trol of the law-and-or­der es­tab­lish­ment and thus dom­i­na­tion of the en­tire town.

Af­ter a long-stand­ing po­lice chief dies and one of the town’s drug gangs is all but erad­i­cated in a raid, Mac­beth re­ceives a prophecy fore­telling that he will be­come chief of po­lice. Once the mes­sage is re­ceived, Lady and Mac­beth con­nive to bring the pre­dic­tion to fruition. What fol­lows is a se­ries of blood­baths, dou­ble crosses, at­tempted coverups, in­tim­i­da­tions and threats. Char­ac­ters suc­cumb to fear and para­noia, with po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tion and blood lust ram­pant.

The re­la­tion­ship of love and loy­alty be­tween Mac­beth and Lady is the most en­gross­ing as­pect of the story. Mac­beth loves Lady, and she ma­nip­u­lates him, forc­ing him to ac­tion when he ex­presses doubt. As the story pro­gresses, the power dy­namic changes and he be­comes more assertive, while she loses her grip on re­al­ity.

The open­ing vi­gnette, a rain­drop mak­ing a long in­evitable fall to earth, may be the ob­vi­ous metaphor for Nesbo’s tale: the fall of man is as in­evitable as a rain­drop com­ing to the ground. We know that the am­bi­tious Mac­beth will fall, but with Lady at his side and urg­ing him for­ward most of the way, we’re still ea­ger to see how far the pro­tag­o­nist climbs be­fore he comes crash­ing down.


In his lat­est thriller, Jo Nesbo moves the ac­tion of Mac­beth closer to his own fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory.

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