Nesbo, Jo. The Son.

NY: Knopf, 2014.

Even though I kind of have a thing for Scandinavian detective fiction, Nesbo has been a recent discovery for me, and then mostly through his independent novels rather than the “Harry Hole” series. This one shows off the author’s mature noir style and it’s sure to hit the big screen shortly.

Sonny Lofthus entered Oslo’s Staten Maximum Security Prison twelve years ago at age eighteen and he’s the only one in the place with no enemies. This is because of his perceived ability to forgive other prisoners of their sins, and because he’s the least threatening soul there. He’s also a hardcore addict who is kept supplied with drugs in return for having pled guilty to a number of capital crimes on behalf of various major criminals. And what got him onto drugs in the first place was the suicide note left behind by his police detective father, confessing to being the long-sought mole supplying local organized crime with a stream of inside information. Sonny himself has never committed a violent crime — but that’s all about to change.

Simon Kefas, who was a close friend of the elder Lofthus, is now a reformed gambling addict and a Chief Inspector in Homicide. What saved him (partly, anyway) was falling in love with Else, his much younger wife, who is now gradually going blind. Simon has a whole platoon of demons keeping him company. And now he also has the gorgeous young Kari Adels, “the archetypal Scandinavian female as imagined by foreigners.” After some time in the Drug Squad, she’s transferred to Homicide on the fast track and Simon knows she won’t hang around long, but he’s been assigned as her mentor, so he’ll do his best to teach her a few things. Whether she wants to learn them or not.

The third major player remains in the deep shadows until nearly the end of the book: The Twin, a very large, very scary kingpin of the Oslo underworld. Ultimately, he’s the force that drives the plot and brings all the characters together. And that starts happening when one of the confessing prisoners tells Sonny his father’s suicide was staged, note or no note. He was murdered, and now Sonny knows why. And he also knows immediately what he’s going to do about it. There are some major debts to be paid — but first he has to get himself out of the prison, and off the drugs.

It’s a terrific and fast-paced plot with a fair amount of often explicit violence — but these are violent people. The style is straightforward, though Nesbo has some points to make, too. The best Nesbo book yet.

Published in: on 21 February 2015 at 8:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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