On the whole...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 ... Nesbo has repaid what may have been a wild hunch on the part of his publisher.
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 ... placing Shakespeare’s story in a late-20th-century 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 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 power-hungry 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.
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 ... Although there’s nothing wrong with Nesbø rewriting the Scottish play as a police procedural not a million miles away from his Nesbø’s Harry Hole novels, it neither offers a contemporary response to its source nor entirely succeeds as a beat-for-beat update ... Yet there are compensations. When Nesbø has the courage to move away from his source, the narrative and characters feel liberated ... Ultimately, this will appeal to Nesbø’s substantial and loyal readership and admirers of the Hogarth series ... It may be full of sound and fury, but this isn’t a tale told by an idiot.