Macbeth

William Shakespeare's Macbeth Retold: A Novel
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NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2018

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.

Praise

Praise for Macbeth:

“Inventive and deeply satisfying...[Nesbo] offers a dark but ultimately hopeful Macbeth, one suited to our troubled times.” 
—James Shapiro, New York Times Book Review (cover)

“Nesbo manages the balancing act of being true to the original play without slighting his own interests as a writer: bleak settings, loyalty (or the lack thereof) among crooks, clever escapes from tight spots, the affinities between policemen and the criminals they chase.”
The Washington Post

"Nesbø has adhered to his contract, delivering a book that plays off of Shakespeare's work but succeeds as his own."
—NPR.org

“The legions of readers who adore the dark Scandinavian noir of Jo Nesbø will also love Macbeth, his adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous play.”
USA Today

Macbeth is a modern-day drug-war, power-struggle, double-cross, lawmen-versus-gangsters recast of Shakespeare’s Scottish play.”
Associated Press
 
“Nesbø infuses the mythic elements of the tragedy with bold strokes of horrific, Don Winslow–like drug-war realism. The result displays in a strikingly original way both the timelessness of Shakespeare’s art and the suppleness of noir to range well beyond the strictures of formula.”
Booklist (starred)
 

Praise for Jo Nesbø:
 
"Jo Nesbø is my new favorite thriller writer."
—Michael Connelly
 
"Nesbø's much-heralded gifts are on display--using his talent for conjuring the chilly Munch-like atmospherics of Oslo in the winter and his eye for grisly, alarming details that slam home the horror of the evil that men do."
New York Times Book Review
 
"The world is dark and frozen, according to Nordic noir, and so is the human heart. But it's the magic Nesbø works with the genre's tropes that matters. . . . [He] might be my favorite of the lot."
Chicago Tribune
 
“Nesbø writes like an angel. As in Lucifer.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer
 
“Nesbø explores the darkest criminal minds with grim delight and puts his killers where you least expect to find them. . . . His novels are maddeningly addictive.”
Vanity Fair
 
“In the crowded field of Scandinavian crime fiction, Nesbø’s books stand out. . . . Nesbø likes to rip plots up . . . to play with the conventions of his genre.”
The New Yorker
 
“[Nesbø is] the writer most likely to take the ice-cold crown in the critically acclaimed—and now bestselling—category of Nordic noir.”
Los Angeles Times
 
“I am the world’s greatest living crime writer. [Jo Nesbø] is a man who is snapping at my heels like a rabid pitbull poised to take over my mantle when I dramatically pre-decease him.”
—James Ellroy
 
“The next Munch or Ibsen could be Jo Nesbø”
—CNN

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.

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