Macbeth Macbeth

#1 New York Times bestselling author Jo Nesbø retells Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s darkest and most tragic plays.

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.


Shortlisted for the Public Book Awards (Best Translated Novel) Greece 2019
Shortlisted for the British Book Awards (Book of the Year, Crime & Thriller) UK 2019
Shortlisted for the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award (Best Translated Crime Novel) Sweden 2018
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  • “Inventive and deeply satisfying /…/ [Nesbo] offers a dark but ultimately hopeful Macbeth, one suited to our troubled times. /…/ Nesbo is the greatest contemporary writer of the thriller”

    James Shapiro, The New York Times Book Review, US

  • “[A] crack storyteller put[s] his noir stamp on one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies. /…/ 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.”

    Washington Post, US

  • “A clever reengineering of one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies”

    Publishers Weekly, US

  • “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 Review*, US

  • “You don’t have to be familiar with the original to enjoy this fast-paced rendition. Nesbø skillfully channels the classic Shakespearean themes of ambition, betrayal, and revenge while transplanting the players into the police force of a corrupt and impoverished 1970’s city /…/ Macbeth by Jo Nesbø provides plenty of action and bloodshed to keep fans of either author entertained”

    Bookmarks, US

  • “Nesbø did an excellent job of melding the theatre of Macbeth with the grittiness of a 70s drama – think Serpico on the Elizabethan stage /…/ this book is an engrossing page turner”

    The Oxford Exchange, US

  • “Nesbø has adhered to his contract, delivering a book that plays off of Shakespeare's work but succeeds as his own.”, US

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

    Associated Press, US

  • “The reigning king of Scandinavian noir updates the Scottish play /…/ Reimagining Shakespeare’s royal tragedy as just another chapter in the essentially unending struggle of working towns against the familiar tokens of criminal blight /…/ The main takeaway is how remarkably contemporary the most traditional of Shakespeare’s great tragedies remains”

    Kirkus Reviews, US

  • Macbeth perfectly pairs a modern master of crime fiction with Shakespeare’s bloody tragedy. While retaining most of the original character names from Macbeth, Nesbo masterfully crafts fully fleshed players from each original role to present a visceral, contemporary exploration of ambition and corruption.”

    Bookpage, US

  • “Nesbo makes excellent use of all the atmosphere of his genre, and the stakes at play are every bit as convincing as those in the original.”

    The Independent, UK

  • “Majestically satisfying /…/ a deliciously oppressive page-turner”

    The Guardian, UK

  • “[A] gripping tale of vaulting ambition and proof that “blood will have blood”.”

    Evening Standard, UK

  • “It is no easy task taking on the greatest English writer of all time and turning one of his best-loved plays into a thriller for the modern reader. Yet this is what Jo Nesbø attempts with Macbeth and the result is an immensely enjoyable and gloriously dark novel. /…/ a tremendously satisfying read. Nesbø's Macbeth stands comfortably as a thriller in its own right and would deservedly grace the bestsellers list with or without the Shakespeare connection. He has accomplished that toughest of literary feats: putting his own unmistakable mark on one of Shakespeare's most celebrated plays.”

    Daily Express, UK

  • “Nesbo has let his noirish imagination run riot /…/ more than matches Shakespeare for moment-to-moment thrills”

    Metro, UK

  • “Shakespeare's darkest tale – reimagined by the king of Nordic noir”

    Mail On Sunday, UK

  • “To speak of Jo Nesbø is to refer to one of the best things that have happened to the crime genre.”

    La Razón, Spain

  • “The undisputed king of crime novels.”

    El Mundo, Spain

  • “We don’t know what Shakespeare thinks, but we can definitely say that this prince of darkness is much enjoyed.”

    El País, Spain

  • “Nesbø rightly places Shakespeare’s drama in the world in the world of drugs and corruption at the end of the 20th century.”

    El Cultural, Spain

  • “When Shakespeare’s universe intersects with the violent criminal world of police detective Harry Hole, the result can only be one: the bloody story of Macbeth, King of Scotland, which, yes, in the hands of Jo Nesbø has become a dark thriller set in the seventies.”

    La Vanguardia, Spain

  • “There are layers upon layers of character development throughout, many strings interwoven and working together to tie up the end we all know is coming. So of course, while I knew the story of Macbeth, Jo Nesbø was still able to wow me at every turn of the page with his new telling”

    Oshawa Public Library, Loan Stars, Canada

  • “Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth is superb. /…/ I read the last 200 pages in one long, eye-blinding binge. Save this one for a long weekend with no interruptions. Outstanding… /…/ Characters so complex /…/ It moves like gangbusters. /…/ Nesbo's characters are so rich that they can carry it all to the end. As Duff teams with the insurgents to end Macbeth's reign, Lady begins her spiral downward and it's even better written by Nesbo than by Shakespeare, possibly because a mad madam may just make for better drama.”

    The Globe and Mail, Canada

  • “The Scottish Play meets Norwegian noir detective fiction. It’s a match made in… well, not heaven exactly, but you get the drift”

    Sharp Magazine, Canada

  • “A story of betrayal /…/ filled with many twists and turns, you’re not bored a single minute”

    CBC Radio, Canada

  • “A bracing blend of spaghetti Western, dystopian sci-fi and Elizabethan tragedy /…/ this is certainly an imaginative and powerful adaptation, and one that will likely please fans of the Harry Hole novels.”

    Irish Times, Ireland

  • “Nesbø manages to create the almost impossible: hardcore-hardboiled for the cultured.”

    Die Welt, Germany

  • “Nesbø’s best novel.”

    Frankfurter Allgemeine, Germany

  • “From the first until page 621, this thriller is a pitch-black tour de force of horrors – it’s adapting the atmosphere of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in an impressive way.”

    Frankfurter Rundschau, Germany

  • “This Macbeth is well worth reading. It is not simply a clever contrivance. It’s real strength lies in Nesbo’s ability to explore fundamental motives. In this Macbeth, they include sex, money, family, friendship, the importance of being remembered, and above all, power. All of this, much as in the original Macbeth, is overlaid with a ghostly mysticism. It’s a new form of crime fiction as well as a new Macbeth

    Sunday Star Times, New Zealand

  • “A beautifully portrayed gloomy world. Nesbø has with Macbeth written a beautiful, fast, hard, relentless, and blood-drenched story about power and love.”

    Het Parool, Netherlands

  • “[Macbeth] stays gripping for five hundred pages. Just like the grandmaster, he makes the locations and the natural elements just as dark and threatening as the soul of his main characters.”

    HUMO, Netherlands

  • “A strong thriller that certainly does not look out of place in Nesbø’s oeuvre.”

    Gazet van Antwerp, Netherlands

  • “Nesbø’s writing talent seems to get better with every novel, both in the action scenes and in those in which he ruthlessly rummages in the darkest recesses of human nature.”

    Het Laatste Nieuws, Netherlands

  • “Brilliant interpretation of Macbeth /…/ [A] shattering and gripping read, frighteningly well-constructed and outstandingly well-written.”


    Jyllands-Posten, Denmark

  • “First and foremost, the story is extremely suspenseful /…/ The descriptions of the characters, most of them burdened by past sins and trauma, are masterful and realistic. This novel, as well as Nesbø's other ones, cannot be recommended enough.”

    Litteratursiden, Denmark

  • “It is an elegant revision and interpretation of Shakespeare’s grand royal drama. Brutally suspenseful /…/ The book is nothing short of a tour de force and a terrifying journey into the darkest domains of humanity.”


    Nordjyske Stiftstidende, Denmark

  • “It’s thrilling, it’s eloquent, it’s superbly built around the various supporting characters who in Shakespeare’s version only receive a few lines. /…/ [A] beautiful, dark dirge about what humankind rules over.”

    Dagens Nyheter, Sweden

  • “[Nesbø’s] brutal version of Macbeth is brilliant and he cultivates the depths in the original drama”

    Sydsvenskan, Sweden

  • “This major-league Norwegian writer has a straightforwardness and (an apparent) simplicity in his language that I greatly appreciate. And most importantly – he knows how a thrilling story should be written, and how each piece of the puzzle needs to be tended to in order to create a well-functioning whole.”

    Mariestads-Tidningen, Sweden

  • “All the classic Nesbø ingredients are there in the form of suspense, violence and blood – and it leaves you curious, wanting to read Shakespeare just to compare.”

    Värmlands Folkblad, Sweden

  • “World-class writing. Jo Nesbø at his best. /…/ Nesbø has once again written a damn good book, a delicious crime novel!”


    Fædrelandsvennen, Norway

  • “Masterful Macbeth. Jo Nesbø delivers an apocalyptic Shakespearian drama, hot like a fever. /…/ The result is magnificent. /…/ Readers who have never heard of Shakespeare will read this novel as a pure, suspenseful crime novel. To the contemporary audience, Nesbø’s references may as well be from Frank Miller’s Sin City or one of the epic gangster operas by Martin Scorsese or Sergio Leone.”


    Dagbladet, Norway

  • “Tremendous! /…/ A crime writer in cahoots with the greatest playwright in the history of literature. Could that end well? Oh, yes!”


    Verdens Gang, Norway

  • “Another triumph for Nesbø. /…/ Macbeth appears as a fascinatingly complex character, and Nesbø manages to make the readers identify themselves with the protagonist, despite his unsympathetic and destructive tendencies. Nesbø succeeds, in an almost startling way, with Macbeth. On the one hand, it’s an effective, even humorous, thriller. On the other hand, it’s a bittersweet story about broken people bound together by a force stronger than life in an apocalyptic Hell-on-Earth setting.”


    Adresseavisen, Norway

  • “Nesbø expertly handles the task. Not only does the author succeed in making the four-hundred-year-old piece relevant to our time, but faithful readers of Nesbø will recognize the police milieu from the Harry Hole series in this novel as well. And just like those novels, Macbeth is about crimes that must stay hidden. /…/ Nesbø’s Macbeth hits the zeitgeist by transforming Shakespeare’s drama into a struggle between modern ideologies. The book also depicts how intrigue, madness, and fear are used as powerful tools by those who wish desperately to remain in power. Many aspects of Nesbø’s Macbeth calls to mind the current situation in the U.S., as well as the political debate in Norway. Shakespeare and Nesbø share a common theme: human worth.”


    Bergens Tidende, Norway

  • “Jo Nesbø has turned Macbeth into a hard-boiled and suspenseful story about a highly corrupt town where blood flows freely and the ever-falling raindrops from the black sky mix with the blood in the streets. /…/ The characters, the cities, the struggle for power, and the madness are portrayed with an apparent love for the original work and by the skilled hand of a professional. /…/ Jo Nesbø’s Macbeth is certainly a Nesbø novel, but within the framework of Shakespeare. Nesbø’s hardcore fans will love it, and I also believe that other readers will embrace it as a self-sufficient and solid novel from someone who does his job well, and has taken on the assignment with humility, respect, and a playful smile.”


    Bok 365, Norway

  • “Jo Nesbø + Shakespeare = pure dynamite. /…/ Sometimes, giants rise only to show how big they are. That is what Jo Nesbø has done with his mighty Macbeth, a pure tour de force from Norway’s by far most successful crime writer. /…/ As always, the story-telling is fast-paced. Nesbø writes better than most thriller writers, the language and the phrasing are exuberant and delivered with precision, the character portrayals (both raw and vulnerable) are established from the very first sentence, the flashbacks are interwoven with such skill that the reader never loses track of the story, and the plot is explosive from start to finish.”


    Stavanger Aftenblad, Norway

Photo: Stian Broch Jo Nesbø
  • Crime
Reading material

English edition

Norwegian edition

Rights sold

Albania, Onufri

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Buybook

Brazil, Record

Bulgaria, Emas

Canada, Penguin Random House

Catalonia, Proa

China, Penguin Group (Simplified Chinese)

Croatia, Fokus

Czech Republic, Prah

Denmark, Modtryk

Estonia, Varrak

Finland, Johnny Kniga

France, Gallimard

Germany, Random House

Greece, Metaixmio

Hungary, Kossuth

Israel, Babel

Italy, Rizzoli Libri

Korea, Hyundae Munhak

Latvia, Zvaigzne ABC

Lithuania, Baltos Lankos

Netherlands, Uitgeverij Nijgh & Van Ditmar

North Macedonia, TRI

Norway, Aschehoug

Poland, Dolnoslaskie

Portugal, Bertrand Editora

Romania, Humanitas

Russia, Eksmo

Serbia, Laguna

Slovakia, Prah

Slovenia, Didakta

Spain, Mondadori

Sweden, Wahlström & Widstrand

Taiwan, Solo Press (Complex Chinese)

Türkiye, Dogan Egmont

UK, Hogarth

Ukraine, Krajina Mriy

US, Hogarth

Film rights sold

US, 6th & Idaho / Sony

More From Jo Nesbø

Harry Hole

Short Story Collection

Doctor Proctor

Blood on Snow