Alice O’Keeffe, Books Editor at The Bookseller, said: “Our shortlists this year took the judges from Georgian London to the Second World War to contemporary New York. There are books from exciting fresh voices at the very start of their career, contrasted with books from with well-established brand authors at the top of their game. These are the books that sum up 2018 but which, we think, will be read for years to come.”
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... 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).
The Hogarth Shakespeare project invites modern novelists to reimagine some of his most celebrated plays. After such entries as Howard Jacobson’s take on The Merchant of Venice, Shylock Is My Name, and Dunbar, Edward St Aubyn’s King Lear, we now have a Macbeth by the king of Scandi-noir crime, Jo Nesbø. It turns out to be rather an inspired choice: the bloody tragedy of political ambition translates well to a corrupt police department in a lawless town, where the cops are just one more armed gang...This is in the end a deliciously oppressive page-turner that, like The Tragedy of Macbeth itself, seems to harbour something ineradicably evil at its core. The main effect, indeed, of all the differences between this book and a standard modern potboiler is to remind you how weirdly nightmarish the original play is: what Shakespeare brewed up is still almost too over-the-top for modern, ultraviolent mass entertainment.
On its own terms, this is a “fair and foul” crime novel with a vivid sense of place that will please Nesbø fans. But as an adaptation of Macbeth, it encourages us to hope that it might be something more special. In this, alas, it proves a slight disappointment... Ultimately, this will appeal to Nesbø’s substantial and loyal readership and admirers of the Hogarth series who want to see how this notoriously tricky play has been tackled. It may be full of sound and fury, but this isn’t a tale told by an idiot.