Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Painter to the King by Amy Sackville



"And somewhere the painter, still, observing"

Amy Sackville's novel Painter to the King fictionalises the life and career of Diego Velasquez the official and favourite court painter to Spain's Philip IV.

Through both biographical and art history elements Sackville brings to life the meteoric rise of the talented painter who moved from Seville to the court of Madrid in pursuit of artistic success. 

Enabled by the drama of the court and the audacity of the King, Velasquez has opportunity to paint quotidian scenes from the inner sanctum of the court as well as grand portraits of the King himself used to control the population and to raise funds for war. Sackville's portrayal of Velasquez is one of a confidante to a king with unlimited access to both the private and public life of the Monarch; "And somewhere the painter, still, observing".

Occasionally the narrative is interrupted by the voice of the author as she follows in Velasquez's footsteps through modern Madrid. This device is confusing at first but works in the context of a historical novel which never loses sight of its unique and distinct voice.

Less successful are the thumbnail black and white details from the paintings which are reductive and unnecessary given that even the simplest of searches will reveal the world of Velasquez on screen 4⭐️

Painter to the King by Amy Sackville published by Granta Books 336 pages

Thursday, 14 November 2019

The Cockroach by Ian McEwan



"A novella for our times"

'That morning, Jim Sams, clever but by no means profound, woke from uneasy dreams to find himself transformed into a gigantic creature'

The Cockroach takes Kafka's Metamorphosis as the starting point for a novel about a man who turns into cockroach, only in McEwan's world this man is the Prime Minister. With a country bitterly divided by an existential decision, in this case it's the economic theory of Reversalism, a dysfunctional government struggles to find any semblance of a solution.

If this all sounds familiar you'll enjoy McEwan's intelligent satire on Britain in 2019. For literary fans the Kafka adaptation is a bit of a misnomer as there is little beyond the opening scene. 

So contemporary is this novella that the publishers must have literally been stacking the shelves as the ink dried. 3⭐️

The Cockroach by Ian McEwan published by Vintage 112 pages

Sunday, 10 November 2019

The Wolf and the Watchman bu Niklas Natt Och Dag


"Dark Scandi-Noir through unique, and authentic, lens"

Niklas Natt Och Dag's debut novel was a huge hit when published at home in Sweden as 1793. The novel's success with readers is doubtless Natt Och Dag's blend of the darkest elements of Scandi crime thrillers with the best aspects of historical fiction. The result is a detective novel like no other on the bookshelves.

Natt och Dag is uniquely positioned to write a novel set in 18th Century Stockholm given that he can trace his own lineage to one of the oldest aristocratic families in Sweden. These are dark times for Stockholm, with Europe gripped by the aftermath of the French Revolution, the establishment is rocked and social unrest creates an atmosphere of fear.

The Stockholm presented in the novel is a filthy city of crime, filth and poverty brought to life credibly in settings such as 'The Perdition', a pub with a  mural on the wall barely visible through the soot  in which 'Peasants and burghers, noblemen and priests, join hands around a skeleton who is playing a fiddle as black as tar'.

The story is told from the perspectives of several characters whose truths overlap in the narrative. Amputee war veteran Mickel Cardell is first to discover a body in 'The Larder', a lake just South of the city walls. This macabre scene sets the tone for a story that is brutal, violent and horrific throughout. Mickel's investigative partner is brilliant young lawyer Cecil Winge who is so ill with consumption that this case could be the one and only chance for him to make a name for himself.

At times the story loses track at it wends and weaves through Anna Stina's story in the workhouse but stick with it as the plot neatly comes together when the identity of the body is revealed. A strong stomach is required for some of the most macabre scenes, make no mistake.

Dark Scandic-Noir with through a unique and authentic historical lens  4⭐️

The Wolf and The Watchman by Niklas Natt Och Dag published by John Murray 416 pages

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie



"I'm black and white in a full colour universe"

Salman Rushdie's Booker Prize nominated novel Quichottte (pronounced key-SHOT) is a contemporary road-trip novel inspired by Cervantes' Don Quixote (1605). In Rushdie's update a pharmaceutical salesman 'of Indian origin, advancing years and retreating mental powers' sets off, with his son Sancho, across America in search of his obsession, Bollywood actress turned TV star Salma R.

The road-trip itself takes in myriad towns across the US allowing Rushdie the perfect opportunity to use his literature to comment on Trumpism, celebrity culture, climate change, xenophobia and the opioid crisis. As a state of the nation piece this is insightful, intelligent and, at times, highly entertaining writing with  level of satire that Cervantes would doubtless applaud. Yet with Salman Rushdie there is typically more at play. 

The road-trip is framed as a story within a story about a second rate spy writer, with the pen name Sam DuChamp, who creates the character Quichotte and his son Sancho who is invisible to everyone but his father. This narrative flourish, with a nod to the Cervantes source text, proves essential as the story becomes increasingly fantastic - at one point a talking cricket appears to console Sancho in a tribute to Pinocchio, later the inhabitants of one town transform into mastodons, the mammoth like creatures whose fossilised remains turn up across North America, as their ideology becomes increasingly prehistoric. 

If there is a problem with Quichotte it is that Rushdie tries to do too much with the story. Though there are road trip elements the novel has more in common with the surrealist melancholy of Haruki Murakami or Franz Kafka; 'I'm black and white in a full colour universe' Sancho realises as he tries to understand his nature. 

There are times when Rushdie's own voice becomes over-bearing as the writer of the novel speaks about the spy thriller writer who has written a story about a salesman, its exhausting. Nontheless, overall Quichotte is an expertly told story that rides the zeitgeist like a modern day Don Quixote. 

Remarkable, challenging and thought provoking 4.5⭐️

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie published by Jonathan Cape 416 pages

Saturday, 26 October 2019

The Need by Helen Philips



"That's what fossils from dead lineages are.... messengers from alternate realities"

A desperately busy mother finds herlself stretched to the limits. Childcare and breast-feeding demands vie for attention with the strange fossils she is unearthing at work as a paleobotanist; an ancient coke bottle, toy soldiers with monkey tails, a bible with all devine pronouns changed to 'she'. 

When an intruder enters the family home we're left wondering ,is this the reality or the work of an over whelmed mind?

Disturbing, fascinating and utterly unique 4⭐️

The Need by Helen Philips published by Chatto and Windus 272 pages


Saturday, 19 October 2019

Lie With Me by Philipe Besson


"I am this young man there, in the winter of Barbezieux"

Philippe Besson's Lie With Me is a beautifully written love story told from the perspective of a writer who is transported back to school by a chance encounter in the bar of a hotel.

The flashback part of the story is set in a small town, Barbezieux, in France in 1984 where an awkward seventeen year old boy Philippe gazes at his school mate Thomas as he leans against a wall with his 'shaggy hair, the hint of a beard and a serious look'. Barbezieux is 'from a bygone era, a dying city, a past without glory' yet in this unlikely setting a passionate relationship develops between the boys. 

The structure of the novel is well conceived. A middle aged Philippe spots a young man who immediately transports him back to his first experience of love at school. The young man, Philippe discovers, is Thomas's son Lucas. 

That such events were to unfold in this unremarkable town to this unremarkable boy are told with innocence by Besson whose prose is never over the top. Both passion and shame are vividly portrayed with understated intimacy.

The fact that the novel is translated from the French by Eighties movie icon, and francophile, Molly Ringwald is a boon. 

A tender and innocent book you'll want to read in one sitting 4⭐️ 

Lie with Me by Philippe Besson published by Penguin 160 pages





Monday, 14 October 2019

Moby Dick by Herman Melville



A few short words about an epic read

Herman Melville's literary landmark novel, Moby Dick (1851), is a whale sized read. Not only are the 720 pages themselves daunting but a cursory flick through reveals just how dense Melville's writing is combing literary fiction with essay and encyclopaedia in a unique tome. So what is the experience of cracking the spines on a novel like Moby Dick today?

First up the novel is a classic adventure story with action, heroes and episodic thrills as novice seaman Ishmael joins an experienced whaling crew lead by Captain Ahab. From Nantucket to the South China Sea Captain Ahab obsessively leads his crew across the globe in search of the legendary great white whale Moby Dick.

The crew of The Pequod itself are a diverse group of men. Whalers from New England work alongside harpooners from the Pacific and sailors from Asia. For a novel set in the 1850's Melville's cast are drawn from especially distinct backgrounds but its the relationship between narrator Ishmael and crew mate Queequeg which is the most interesting. Early in the novel the pair agree to share a bunk and to essentially live together in a same sex marriage; "He pressed his forehead against mine, clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were married". Over 100 years before the US Enterprise, The Pequod was leading the way on diversity and inclusion.

Perhaps the most memorable element of the experience is losing yourself in a truly immersive book. Melville expertly allows the reader to see the world through the eyes of Ishmael whose naivety and youth permit the switch from prose fiction style chapters to the essays. In this way we learn about the World, about the 'taxonomy of cetecea' and the intricacies of whaling through the eyes of a young man who is literally a sponge.

Everything about Moby Dick is exceptional no less its legacy given that Melville himself died in obscurity in 1891 before the book was celebrated as a classic.  

Broad in ambition and rich in achievement 5⭐️ 

Moby Dick by Herman Melville published by Penguin Classics 720 pages






Saturday, 28 September 2019

Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson



"Prometheus turbo charged"

Hot on the heels of Ian McEwan's Machines Like Me Jeanette Winterson turns her hand to the theme of artificial intelligence and transhumanism in new title Frankissstein. Rather than set in an alternate version of Britain, Winterson weaves a contemporary story about medical science and ethics around a fictionalised account of Mary Shelley's time on Lake Geneva in 1816 where she original told her ghost story that would become Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus.

The flashbacks to the circumstances that led to Mary Shelley creating the most famous gothic horror story in history are expertly told through her relationship with husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and with their vacation buddy Lord Byron. Likewise Shelley's journey back to London and visits to the Bedlam Hospital are a great build on the Frankenstein myth but it is the contemporary story that really stands apart.

Ry Shelley is a young transgender doctor who falls in love with AI expert Victor Stein whilst investigating the medial ethics around Stein's work. In this adaptation Mary Shelley herself becomes the protaganist, in Ry, which enables Winterson to authentically weave together gender politics and transhumanism in a way that is characteristically thought provoking,

Like McEwan's Machines Like Me the story raises questions about the role of AI and the relations we form with them. In Frankissstein most research and development revolves around the Chinese sexbot industry which drives exponential growth in the development of AI like a turbo charged Prometheus. The unintended consequences are articulated with realistic danger in this cracking read.

The reinvention of a classic story brought right up to date 5⭐️ 

Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson published by Jonathan Cape 352 pages





Saturday, 21 September 2019

How to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid


"Step One, move to the city"

Though the paperback cover looks more like an advert for a Bollywood movie this novel is actually a well crafted work of literary fiction in the guise of a self-help book.

As the title suggests, Hamid parodies the step by step approach of countless business books in this tale about a boy born into poverty who moves to the city in search of fame and fortune. The story is packed with romance and humour which balances the sheer hard work required to 'get filthy rich'.

The narrative is told in the awkward second person which some readers will find off putting. The omnipresent narrator's use of 'you' keeps us as readers at some distance to the main character which ultimately risks any opportunity for empathy. Luckily Mohsin Hamid understands the risk and more than compensates with the self-help conceit.

Read right now for maximum impact 3.5⭐️ 

How to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid published by Penguin 240 pages






Friday, 13 September 2019

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa



"Read right now for maximum impact"

On a Japanese island, in a dystopian near future, the population are fiercely governed by The Memory Police who enforce social order in a world where things simply evaporate. Disappearances come suddenly and unannounced; flowers, birds, calendars, simply vanish without a trace along with the memories associated with them. 

Seen through the eyes of an unnamed novelist this is a story about the unreliability of memory. Though there is hope in the clues concealed within the sculptures created by her mother and love in the relationship she has with her editor there is an inevitability to life on the island; "After these relatively uneventful weeks, another disappearance occurred..... but this one was more complicated; this time novels disappeared. 

Stephen Snyder translates Ogawa's original mid-nineties prose and is able to maintain the crisp and minimal style that Ogawa is known for in works such as Revenge and Hotel Iris.

Whether as a cautionary tale about enjoying what you have before its gone or as a meditation on growing old and the cruelty of Alzheimer's, The Memory Police is hugely successful. The image of the Memory Police maintaining pervasive surveillance in a world that changes overnight seems as relevant and prescient as John Lanchester's The Wall

All that's missing is more world building; who governs the Memory Police and who decides what and when disappears? The lack of answers if frustrating but then again, when it comes to Yoko Ogawa, where's the fun in full resolution.

Read right now for maximum impact 4.5⭐️ 

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa published by Pantheon 288 pages







Monday, 2 September 2019

Brother by David Chariandy



"A story deeply influenced by the setting"

David Chariandy's new novel has already won a sack full of awards at home in Canada, including the Toronto Book Award, and is now available in the UK published by Bloomsbury. The novel is told by Michael who looks back on the series of events that led up to him losing his older Brother, Francis, when they were young men in the 1980s.

This is a story deeply influenced by the setting of Scarborough, a poor migrant neighbourhood in Toronto sometimes referred to by the monikers 'Scarlem' or 'Scardistan'. It is Scarborough that drives the extreme work ethic in the boys' Trinidadian mother who works double shifts to raise her children. It is Scarborough that taints the expectations of the boys who are acutely aware of the social order; 'Even as kids, we learned to be gentle with each other's hoped and dreams'. It is Scarborough that defines the response to a key incident that is described in the first quarter of the novel.

The novel pivots on the murder of a boy at a local convenience store. The neighbourhood becomes a scene of danger and fear which is described effortlessly; 'Even the ordinary clothes that people hung out to dry on laundry lines suddenly looked suspicious. Conspiracies in the open hanging of slacks and saris, in the headless baby jumpers'.

Chariandy's prose is elegant yet contemporary. His characters are believable and authentic yet there is something that gets in the way of the narrative being truly immersive. Mother is the best formed and most memorable character but Michael's childhood girlfriend, Aisha, is less fully fledged . Like Aisha, as a reader we feel slightly too removed from the world of Scarborough.

A thin novel that packs a bigger punch  3.5⭐️ 

Brother by David Chariandy published by Bloomsbury 249 pages


For a similar read try In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne






Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid



"We are all migrants through time"

Exit West is a story about the migrant experience, specifically that of the large scale displacement played out on TV news as countless families flee from countries such as Syria for a better life in Europe. But Mohsin Hamid does something remarkable in this novel which sets out to tell an intimate version of the story through speculative fiction rather than news reel.

Everything about Exit West challenges perceptions of the migrant narrative in the media. In Hamid's tale the couple at the centre of the story, Nadia and Saeed, meet at an evening class about 'corporate identity and product branding'. Nadia is an accountant and Saeed works for an ad agency. They smoke pot and listen to music as the city around them starts to rumble with violence and rebellion.

Their decision to flee comes from the fear of what's to come and when the opportunity of a 'door' to the west is opened to them they grab it with both hands. Initially they arrive in Mykonos, as a stepping stone to mainland Europe, and ultimately London. Nadia and Saeed pass from country to country as if by magic. 

The trauma of the journey itself is retained in the imagination with space on the page devoted to the experience of being displaced amongst an, at time, hostile community. The tension between 'native' and 'migrant' is played out brilliantly. 

At times Hamid includes vignettes of other characters across the globe dealing with their own specific dilemmas. These parallel encounters serve to support the assertion that 'we are all migrants through time'.

Exit West is profoundly memorable, exquisitely written and truly provocative. 5⭐️

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid published by Penguin 240 pages





Thursday, 22 August 2019

The Ten Loves of Mr Nishino by Hiromi Kawakami


"Kawakami packs a punch with this new story that fans of Strange Weather in Tokyo will especially enjoy"


With Strange Weather in Tokyo (2013) and The Nakano Thrift Shop (2016) Hiromi Kawakami has established herself as a highly idiosyncratic writer. Early on in The Ten Loves of My Nishino you realise we are on similar ground.

Kawakami's narrative presents various aspects of the titular Mr Nishino from the perspectives of different women with whom he has had relationships throughout his life. Each chapter is told, in the first person, by a different women. This is a slightly tricky approach though, when combined with the non-linear timeline, adds to Kawakami's quirky style.

Mr Nishino himself is an unremarkable, and typically Kawakami-esque, salary man with an incredible knack for having women fall in love with him. At times he is charming but at others borders on the creepy. 

Nevertheless, there are hints at the motivation behind Mr Nishino's inability to fully give himself to any women. Flashbacks reveal the death of his sister when he was a young man but Kawakami devotes more time to the women in his life making this story more about the '10 loves' than Mr Nishino himself.

For a short novel Kawakami packs a punch with this new story that fans of Strange Weather in Tokyo will especially enjoy.  3.5⭐️

The Ten Loves of Mr Nishino by Hiromi Kawakami and translated by Allison Markin Powell published by Granta 208 pages

Friday, 16 August 2019

Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson



"Humour like marmite"


Howard Jacobson was a natural choice to retell the story of The Merchant of Venice as part of Hogarth's Shakespeare Reimagined series.Jacobson's renowned comedic observations are packed into every page and there is literally nobody better qualified to build a new world around one of Shakespeare's most famous creations, Shylock.

Relocating most of the action to Cheshire immediately indicates that this is no simple adaptation. Instead Jacobson creates a character study, a profile of a modern Shylock existing in a middle-class 'golden triangle' of art dealers and football derived wealth.

The problem with this novel is simply one of taste. Jacobson's humour is like marmite and his erudition a little alienating. Could leave you wondering if you really understood the point.

There are better novels in Hogarth's series 2⭐️

Shylock is My Name (The Merchant of Venice Retold) by Howard Jacobson, published by Vintage 288 pages



Monday, 12 August 2019

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong



"A Landmark First Novel"


In Ocean Vuong's collection of poems Night Sky with Exit Wounds (2018) we experienced a new voice unafraid of the truth in his own story. In his first novel On Earth we are Briefly Gorgeous (2019) we are served a work equal in bravery and in control of the power of prose to strike the most profound emotion in the reader.

The first person narrative helps embed authenticity to the voice of Little Dog, a Vietnamese immigrant to the US writing a letter to his mother, a letter she would be unable to read being illiterate.

Little Dog speaks of his experience growing up in rural and suburban America as an outsider. Though he recalls the lessons from this mother and dying grandmother, Lan, there is little they can do to prepare Little Dog for what lays ahead.

The moment Little Dog meets Trevor, the son of a tobacco factory manager, Vuong creates a tension that plays out through most of the book. If Little Dog represents the immigrant experience Trevor, with his prescription drug addiction, violent father and ambiguous sexuality represents a toxic form of American masculinity.

Ocean Vuong the poet remains on hand with short prose sections that intersperse the main narrative with reflections on everything from Tiger Woods to ££ such is Vuong's mind busting with fresh ideas. This is groundbreaking and genre defying stuff which blends memoir with poetry to create a unique work.

A landmark first novel 5⭐️

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, published by Jonathon Cape 256 pages



Sunday, 4 August 2019

The Wall by John Lanchester



"Startlingly believable"


The near future dystopia John Lanchester creates in The Wall is startlingly believable. A vast coastal wall surrounds the UK to defend against attack following the breakdown of society as we know it from a collossal event referred to only as 'The Change'. With themes of mass migration, climate change and Trumpism Lanchester's premise is the stuff of real and tangible anxiety.

The story itself concerns Kavanagh one of the latest 'Defenders', conscripts who guard the wall from attack by 'The Others'. In the first part of the book we experience the quotidian routine of shift work on the Wall. Life is exceptionally hard; "Back at the Wall, everything was the same ....... Concretewaterwindsky". Though the routine is slow the pace of the narrative is far from plodding. 

The only hope for Kavanagh comes in the form of day dreaming, about the Elite who are exempt from guard duties, about the comradeship with his local garrison and the opportunity to 'breed' with fellow conscripts. Like Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) there is a love story at the heart of the novel.

The problem with The Wall is that the narrative runs out of steam leaving the reader wanting more.  Whilst the story is utterly compelling the plot is left longing for answers and further explanations. What was the nature of 'the Change', how freely can people travel within the UK, what are 'the Others' fleeing from? 

The result is haunting but perhaps, there is a much richer story somewhere in Lanchester's head that is yet to be written. Could this be the start of a series of books, please? 4⭐️

The Wall by John Lanchester, published by Faber and Faber 288 pages




Burning, a film by Lee Chang-Dong



"A highly successful Murakami adaptation"


Lee Chang-dong's film Burning is adapted from the short story Barn Burning by Haruki Murakami which features in his collection The Elephant Vanishes (2003). Murakami stories are notoriously difficult to adapt to the screen, it takes real skill to draft a screenplay out of the source material, but in this case Lee Chang-dong delivers.

The film adapts not only the source material (the pantomime student, the Miles Davies soundtrack and the admission of arson) but layers additional tropes from the Murakami canon to great effect. The Jay Gatsby references are reminiscent of Killing Commendatore (2018) and the errant cat could be straight out of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1997). The girl who goes to ground and the motif of the well are also familiar themes in the Murakami canon. 

Lee Chang-dong's decision to relocate the action to Seoul and to switch the main character to a farm boy living near the 38th Parallel makes the film stand on its own as a highly successful adaptation. The tension created between the rustic farm and the affluent Gangnam apartment is brilliantly played out in the final shocking scenes that demonstrate the toxicity of male envy.

Burning is an enigmatic and sensuous menage a trois that builds on the source material to create a film that perfectly captures the paradox at the heart of masculinity in 2019.









Sunday, 28 July 2019

So Much Longing in so Little Space by Karl Ove Knausgaard


"One of the finest art history biographies on the book shelves"


Knausgaard's latest work explores the art of fellow Norwegian icon Edvard Munch but don't expect this to be straight forward art history, with Knausgaard you get more bang for your buck.

Part celebration of a genius painter, part biography and part analysis of the myth around the man behind paintings such as 'The Scream', Knausgaard's book explores Munch from a social and cultural aspect that goes far beyond the paintings themselves.

The starting point is that every Norwegian is familiar with Munch's work from their childhood such is his position at the heart of Norwegian National identity. Like Hans Christian Andersen to the Danes and Abba to the Swedish, Edvard Munch is popular cultural hero personified. But what does it mean that a man prone to loneliness, melancholy and tragedy has come to represent a Nation?

It is Knausgaard's personal reflections as he prepares to curate his own exhibition for the Munch Museet that delivers the greatest insight. His own Munchian anxiety, self-doubt and rumination comes from the same place as the My Struggle series that made Knausgaard shorthand for an original form of autobiographical fiction.

One of the finest art history biographies on the book shelves and the perfect accompaniment to the Munch Museet's current show Exit. 5⭐️

So Much Longing in so Little Space: The Art of Edvard Munch by Karl Ove Knausgaard and translated by Ingvild Burkey, published by Harvill Secker 256 pages





Friday, 26 July 2019

Macbeth by Jo Nesbo



"All the twists and turns of the Scottish play"


A number of the leading novelists of our time, from Margaret Atwood to Anne Tyler and Howard Jacobson, have reworked Shakespeare's plays as part of Hogarth's recent project. This time its Scandi-Noir big hitter Jo Nesbo who turns his hand to a new version of The Tragedy of Macbeth (1623).

Nesbo's story is set in a location typical of the genre, the Kingdom of Fife, which seems to be somewhere between Scotland and Norway. The weather is brutal, the streets are mean and shady characters deal hard drugs, in this case 'brew', against a backdrop of gang murder.

Lording over the city is swat team head Macbeth who lives with his girl, the aptly named 'Lady', who manages the most prestigious casino in town. In the course of an drug operation Macbeth receives a prophesy from a trio of street girls; the Police Department Chief job will be his so long as he agrees not to interfere with the production and supply of brew in the town.

This effectively bleak backdrop is a convincing adaptation of the Highlands in Shakespeare's play but Nesbo piles on a cinematic flourish to further increase the tension. "I love you above everything else on this earth and in the sky above", Macbeth tells Lady in a line straight from a cinema trailer.  

Even by Jo Nesbo's standards this is a dark story of murder, double crossing, drug addiction and serious crime. At its best it effectively adapts Macbeth for a modern readership desensitised to all but the the most aggressive brutality thanks to the huge canon of Nordic Noir that now exists.

If there is a problem with Jo Nesbo's Macbeth its one of scale; somehow Shakespeare's shortest play has become Nesbo's longest novel.

All the twists and turns of the Scottish Play through a typically blood stained Nesbo lens
3.5⭐️

Macbeth by Jo Nesbo, translated by Don Bartlet, published by Hogarth 512 pages