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Macbeth
2018
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Author Notes
Jo Nesbø was born on March 29, 1960 in Molde, Norway. He graduated from the Norwegian School of Economics with a degree in economics and business administration. He worked as a freelance journalist and a stockbroker before he began his writing career. He is the author of The Harry Hole series and The Doctor Proctor series. The 2011 film Headhunters is based on his novel Hodejegerne (The Headhunters). In 2017 he made The New York Times Best Seller List with his title, The Thirst. He is also the main vocalist and songwriter for the Norwegian rock band Di Derre. <p> (Bowker Author Biography)
First Chapter or 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.   Sweno.   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.   Sweno.   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 Jo Nesbø All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
Fiction/Biography Profile
Characters
Duncan (Male), Police chief, Idealist,
Hecate (Male), Drug dealer, Manipulative,
Macbeth (Male), Police inspector, Head of SWAT; susceptible to violent and paranoid tendencies
Genre
Fiction
Crime
Noir
Psychological
Thriller
Topics
Police
Drug lords
Manipulation
Violence
Politics
Greed
Industrialists
Time Period
1970s -- 20th century
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Trade Reviews

  New York Times Review

IN 1937, The New Yorker published James Thurber's "The Macbeth Murder Mystery," about an avid reader of Agatha Christie who picks up a paperback copy of " Macbeth," mistakenly assuming it's a detective story. She soon discovers it's a Shakespeare play but is already hooked and reads it as a whodunit, ft takes her a while to identify who killed Duncan, after initially refusing to believe the Macbeths were responsible: "You suspect them the most, of course, but those are the ones that are never guilty - or shouldn't be, anyway." Her prime suspect had been Banquo, but "then, of course, he was the second person killed. That was good right in there, that part. The person you suspect of the first murder should always be the second victim." It's a very funny story and an insightful one, for Thurber shows how closely Shakespeare's tragedy follows the contours of detective fiction. Thurber wasn't the first to draw such connections; over a century earlier, in a brilliant essay about the play - " On the Knocking at the Gate in 'Macbeth' " - Thomas De Quincey had reflected on how deeply Shakespeare understood the interplay of murder and suspense. If the many al- lusions to "Macbeth" in the works of Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, P. D. James and other crime writers are any indication, Shakespeare's play may be seen as one of the great progenitors of the genre, making Jo Nesbo, the celebrated Norwegian writer of thrillers, an ideal choice to update the play for Hogarth Shakespeare, a series in which best-selling novelists turn Shakespeare's works into contemporary fiction. Nesbo has spoken of finding himself on familiar terrain here, arguing that "Macbeth" is essentially a "thriller about the struggle for power" that takes place "in a gloomy, stormy crime noir-like setting and in a dark, paranoid human mind." True enough, yet many features of this 400year-old tragedy don't easily fit the demands of a modern, realistic thriller. One of the pleasures of reading this book is watching Nesbo meet the formidable challenge of assimilating elements of the play unsuited to realistic crime fiction, especially the supernatural: the witches, prophecies, visions, and the mysterious figure of Hecate. Nesbo's most consequential decision was when and where to set his story. While he follows Shakespeare in locating it in Scotland, rather than taking us back to the 11th century he places it in the early 1970s. He doesn't name the city, though there are many hints that it's Glasgow. This choice signals Nesbo's ambitions for his novel, giving it a sharp social edge as well as a timely political resonance. The Glasgow of that era was a desperately grim place, not unlike those parts of America now ravaged by the opioid crisis: ft was staggered by alcoholism, environmental hazards, high suicide rates, corruption, gang warfare, the loss of industrial jobs and a significant rise in drug abuse. Things were so bad that historians speak of the "Glasgow effect" to account for why Glaswegians died younger and suffered more than those who lived in comparable places. It's tougher than it looks to create a world that is faithful to Shakespeare's original while also feeling modern and real. Placing Shakespeare's story in a late-20thcentury world of drugs, gangs and corrupt civic leaders goes a long way toward solving this problem. "Brew" - the term used for the drug to which so many are addicted - is at the heart of Nesbo's novel and neatly straddles the murky world of Shakespeare's witches, with their caldron, and that of modern drug labs. By making addiction so central to his plot, Nesbo also makes Macbeth's paranoia and hallucinatory visions, so crucial to Shakespeare's play, not just believable but meaningful in a contemporary way. Gang warfare also informs Nesbo's retelling and is well suited to the extreme violence of Shakespeare's original, in which the fighting that is described and staged is ferocious. In this dangerous world of evershifting loyalties and ill-gotten gains, it's easy to become morally compromised. Such is the fate of Nesbo's Macbeth, who at the outset is a good cop, but soon enough hungers for promotion and power - which prove more addictive than the drugs and alcohol that trap so many in the world of this novel. In "Macbeth," Shakespeare was unusually stingy when it came to sharing his characters' back stories and motivations. Did Lady Macbeth have a child that died? Was the idea of killing Duncan planted in Macbeth's mind by the witches or by Lady Macbeth, or had it been there, dormant, all along? Why does Macduff abandon his family? What Shakespeare withholds, Nesbo delves into deeply, taking one of Shakespeare's shortest and most enigmatic plays and expanding on what brought his characters to this point in their lives. So, for example, we think of Macbeth a lot differently once we imagine that he spent part of his childhood in an orphanage. And Duff (Macduff) becomes more sympathetic when we see him torn between personal loyalties and the demands of the heart. The price paid by developing these intertwining back stories is that it takes Nesbo almost 450 pages to connect them, though the pace rarely lags. He is gifted at using casual details to define character: ft makes perfect sense that Banquo drives an old Volvo, while Malcolm prefers a muscle car, a secondhand Chevelle. Minor characters like the demonic Seyton and Caithness (here a woman, and in love with Duff) have more significance and are brought to life. Surprisingly, although both Macbeth and his wife, Lady, are vividly drawn, Nesbo doesn't give the couple much of a history together - they've only known each other for a few years - which may explain why their relationship feels far less intense and electric than it does in Shakespeare's original. Nesbo also makes much of one advantage he has over Shakespeare, who during the reign of the Scottish King James, recently targeted for assassination, could not show a Scottish monarch being killed onstage. The murder could only be described - so that early in the play Duncan is killed offstage and in the final act Macbeth, who succeeds him as king of Scotland, meets a similar fate, again offstage. Nesbo works under no such constraints, and these violent scenes are among the most memorable in the novel. The result is inventive and deeply satisfying, especially to readers already familiar with the plot (and in America that means pretty much everyone who didn't sleep through 10th-grade English). While there are echoes here and there of Shakespeare's language (which Don Bartlett, who translated the novel from the Norwegian, has handled well), Nesbo is less interested in the original's verbal texture than he is in adapting its plot and delving into the moral choices confronting its characters. In the end, he offers a dark but ultimately hopeful "Macbeth," one suited to our own troubled times, in which "the slowness of democracy" is no match for powerhungry strongmen who demand unstinting loyalty from ethically compromised followers, and where the brave must band together to defeat the darker forces that threaten to destroy the social fabric. Nesbo's 'Macbeth' is a thriller about the struggle for power that takes place in a noir-like setting. JAMES Shapiro teaches Shakespeare at Columbia. His next book is about Shakespeare in a divided America.

  Publishers Weekly Review

In this ambitious entry in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, bestseller Nesbo (The Thirst and 10 other Harry Hole novels) transmutes Macbeth into a crime novel set in 1970s Scotland. Macbeth heads the SWAT team in a dreary city called Capitol, determined to take down criminal gangs and to clean up the corrupt local government, a goal shared by Duncan, Capitol's upstanding police chief. But local drug kingpin Hecate wants to be rid of Duncan and schemes to put Macbeth, something of an outsider and an addict to a drug called "brew," in charge. Hecate sends Macbeth three sisters (the witches in Shakespeare's original), who foretell his future: that he will be head of the Organised Crime Unit and then chief commissioner. Macbeth is promoted to the first post by Duncan, and "Lady," Macbeth's consort and a local casino magnate, has the manipulative wiles to ensure Macbeth does whatever it takes to eliminate Duncan and rule the city. The themes will resonate well with contemporary readers, but, at nearly 500 pages, the story feels bloated. It's a clever reengineering of one of Shakespeare's great tragedies, but may disappoint Nesbo's fan base. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
A HEART-POUNDING NEW THRILLER FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE SNOWMAN AND THE THIRST <br> <br> 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. <br> <br> 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.
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