An English writer's Scottish crime story
Macbeth, a thane or "capo" in medieval Scotland, plots a route to power like Rico "Little Caesar" Bandello's, only more ruthless and more direct. Rather than eliminating rivals one by one, he goes right for the top, killing the king and planting forensic evidence on his guards, whom Lady Macbeth has got drunk in the meantime. The next day, feigning grief and anger at the murder, Macbeth kills the guards, neatly eliminating two possible witnesses.
Like Little Caesar, Shakespeare's story turns "away from the ... focus on detectives and victims of crime, and onto the life and development of the gangster himself." That focus takes a noirish turn almost from the start. Though noble and highly placed, Macbeth is a weak man and thus a cousin to the losers of classic roman and film noir. Plagued by visions and hallucinations, swinging wildly between depression and desperate optimism, Macbeth begins killing off possible threats to his new crown.
When Lady Macbeth, whose plot for Macbeth to take over the throne found fertile soil in her husband's susceptible mind, commits suicide, Macbeth is plunged into a hopelessness as affecting as any in Jim Thompson or David Goodis, the famous "tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" speech. Many of the key scenes take place at night, thus lending the story a noirish feel to match its tragic protagonists' descent into hopelessness and death.
With its Scottish setting, Macbeth is sure to please fans of Ian Rankin.
© Peter Rozovsky 2007