Sunday, February 12, 2017

Review of "The Son" by Jo Nesbø


Norwegian Sonny Lofthus, a thirty-year-old heroin addict convicted of two murders, has been in Staten Prison for twelve years. Sonny was a promising athlete as as teen but lost his way after his police officer father, Ab Lofthus, committed suicide amid a corruption scandal involving a police mole. Sonny, in despair and needing heroin, has been an 'official scapegoat' for years, taking the blame for crimes committed by other people. Just recently Sonny was allowed out on day release just when a woman was murdered - and he's being coerced to take the blame. All this is engineered by a gang of ruthless criminals in cahoots with corrupt law enforcement officials.

Then one day a fellow criminal in Staten Prison - dying of cancer and seeking absolution - admits to Sonny that his dad did not commit suicide but was murdered and framed. This galvanizes Sonny, who goes cold turkey and engineers a prison break. Sonny then goes on a murderous rampage to get revenge against people who did wrong to his father and himself.

Sonny's crimes come to be investigated by Simon Kefas, an Oslo homicide cop who was close to Ab Lofthus. Simon, now partnered with an ambititous young female homicide detective, is reputed to be an honest cop who detests police corruption. Simon has problems though; he's a recovering gambling addict with a vision-impaired wife who needs expensive surgery in the U.S. - a situation that makes criminals think Simon might be open to bribes.

There are plenty of interesting characters in the story, including Markus - a nosy little boy (with a powerful set of binoculars) who lives across from Sonny's childhood home; Marta - a young woman who runs an addict hostel that takes Sonny in; Arild Franck, the creepy deputy governor of Staten prison; 'the twin' - a criminal mastermind; and many others on both sides of the law.

For me the biggest problem with the book was my skepticism that Sonny - an impaired addict who barely knew what a cell phone was upon his escape from prison - was able to engineer the extremely clever and complex (I'd say genius-level) acts of revenge described in the story. Nevertheless, the well-written, fast-moving book grabs and holds your attention from the first page to the last. I'd highly recommend it to fans of mystery thrillers.

Rating: 4 stars

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