Review | Retellings: Macbeth

This isn’t the first time I read a book by Jo Nesbo, and to me I consider his writings exceptionally premium when we look into the crime thriller genre. He kind of reminds me of Agatha Christie in the way he writes out his detective novels but also he mixes in a bit of the gore and grime that Bret Ellis displays in American Psycho. If dark crime noir was a genre, Nesbo would have been the prime expert in it.

I think I’m one of the small number of people who have never read Macbeth 🙂 , and before reading this I practically searched SparkNotes and read the summary plot just so I could know what the original is about. (I am pretty sure there are some of you are horrified at this instance…don’t worry I’m not planning on reading Shakespeare anytime soon 😂)

Description Summary: A dark compelling retelling of the Shakespeare classic set in the 1970s where instead of castles and swords, you’ve got drug lords, casinos, and machine guns. Think Narcos x the grandeur of James Bond’s Casino Royale.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

In this retelling, Macbeth is inspector Macbeth, Head of S.W.A.T and close ally to father figure Banquo; a veteran police with a long experience in the force. The industrial town that the two work in is plagued with corruption, unemployment, crime, and a drug epidemic sucking out the lives of the citizens within it. 

This brings us to Hecate, the most powerful figure in the town also known as “The Invisible Hand”, together with his three loyal employees “the sisters”, they create and manufacture what the town calls “Brew”. An addictive drug that even Macbeth in the past has had a substance abuse issue with. 

Duncan is the newly appointed chief commissioner who is seen as moral and idealistic, albeit too idealistic to some. And he has announced war on Hecate and the other drug lords in town. Enraged, Hecate sets out to destroy Duncan and regain the upper hand. Enter Macbeth.

By manipulation and trickery, Hecate pulls the puppet strings on various characters that include Macbeth’s beloved and wife Lady, Macbeth’s former best friend Duff, even the town’s mayor Tourtell. All so he can have a corrupt chief commissioner that’s locked in his pocket.

Seduced by power and ambition and guided by his innate desires, Macbeth is seen at crossroads; How much more power does he need before things get deadly? When did he turn from town hero to a murderer and monster?




This has to be one of the most original retellings out there, one that clearly maintains the main themes of the original but is very distinctive to the author’s own writing and genre. Nesbo transports you to the atmospheric setting he has set. You can see the fog and grey colors that cover the town, can smell the stench of fumes and sweat between the narrow abandoned allies, and can even envision the slick wet pavement of the street.

The main themes of desire and selfishness is basically the bread and butter of the book. Nesbo heavily establishes these traits in his characters, as such how they act and what they decide to do is influenced by these two variables. I think it invokes us readers to expose the murkier sides of us making Nesbo’s novel a conflicting yet trivial one.


That being said, this is the type of book that you’ll either hate or really get into. If the writing style just doesn’t compel you to get into the book then you’ll have a really hard time enjoying this or even finishing it. 

The book is heavy not gonna lie, It’s not something that you can finish in a day and requires directed attention to grasp everything that is going on within the scene or between the characters. I remember not getting into it at the beginning but once the “dice has been rolled” I couldn’t put the book down.


The characters are my favorite element of the book. What I like about Nesbo, is that his characters are all flawed and are in no way heroes. Despite the many mistakes they’ve made they’re only verified as “better people” when they commit that one heroic act or make that one change that just maybe redeems some of their past. The characters that just stood out to me are:


Lady is a viper and a clever fox, she was prey but then she became the hunter. She’s not a morally “right” person and was driven by greed to the point of insanity. But her prowess in making something out of nothing is quite impressive honestly.


Macbeth is highly intriguing in so many ways, you follow through him towards his doom and in a twisted way the reader involuntarily might justify some things here and there but I do believe that Nesbo allows the reader to determine when did Macbeth cross that road and into the point of no return. Simply because he wasn’t “good” to begin with, so when did he go “bad”?


Jack ohhhh boy (If you read the book you’ll get that last word 👀). I am so sickened by the fact I actually thought this guy was slick at the beginning of the book but oh god when we neared the end and I discovered THAT thing about him. Trigging for sure.


I loved that Nesbo reversed the gender when he wrote Hecate. He isn’t the most mysterious character out there, but you kept waiting on HOW is he going to get away with it. I guess I loved the “swavy” persona and style about him. He’s like a toned down Tony from Scarface.

Do I recommend? Yes if you are into the dark crime thriller genre and don’t mind atmospheric writing.


Published by jawahirthebookworm

Hello I’m Jawahir the bookworm, a lost twenty-something year old bookish blogger who enjoys her books with a cup of strong coffee; milk no sugar no cream.

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