The Son by Jo Nesbø

son nesboThe Son by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett
Knopf, May 2014
Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.

The Son begins in a very grim place: Sonny Loftus has been in prison over 10 years, he’s a heroin addict, and he listens to the harrowing confession of a fellow inmate. Loftus is not a typical protagonist: he’s sort of a Buddha, he’s a mess with a backstory that is revealed as the story progresses, and somehow he beats his heroin addiction and succeeds in his mission to avenge his father’s death and uncovers a corrupt scheme within the police department and beyond.

I’ve complained on this blog before about vigilante stories, but somehow I liked this one. Nesbø is so good at keeping a plot moving, and The Son was no exception. Also, the tone of this book worked for me: there are some serious moments about crime and criminal justice policies and how they work in corrupt institutions.  Those elements elevate the story of Sonny Loftus killing people related to the murder of his father, a police officer. And there is some levity: there is a bit at the end that made me laugh, which is rare for the ending of a crime novel, and it made me reinterpret the story as a whole as not being such a heavy-handed vigilante story.

Reading the first chapter was a rough go, and the main antagonist owes an awful lot to a certain character in The Wire, a show that Nesbø name-checks in the book (along with quite a bit of music, which was all pretty spot-on), but those are my only complaints about the story.

16 thoughts on “The Son by Jo Nesbø

  1. I got persuaded into this one and haven’t had the courage to actually start it yet. However your review suggests it might not be quite as graphic as I fear, apart maybe from the first chapter?

  2. The first chapter was graphic, something I often complain about in crime novels, but the rest was not as bad. (You can always skim it….)

  3. Excellent review Rebecca! Look forward to reading this one. Nesbo can’t write a bad book. A friend of mine read this one and said the only weakness of the story was no Harry Hole.

    • Val McDermid gave it a bad review in the Guardian– she called the plot unbelievable. I’ve found some of hers to be unbelievable, so to each her own…

  4. Maybe I”ll read it, maybe read Police, then the one after. I’ve read two. Nemesis had a somewhat unbelievable plot, but what a thriller! One of the best ever. I felt like I was on a roller coaster, with some teasers and intellectual puzzles thrown in, a Roma imprisoned gangster playing chess with Harry Hole, for one.
    If no one bothered me for a few weeks during the summer, I’d read another Nesbo book.

    • I’ve read a few Harry Hole novels each summer the past two summers (I’m trying not to read them too quickly, I think), and I’m looking forward to the rest. I read them very quickly too!

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