Review: Jo Nesbo – The Son

Nesbo is an interesting writer. He’s hugely popular around the world it’s not difficult to see why. His books are always immenseson-jo-nesboly readable and he is able to create larger than life characters that jump off the page. His novels are substantial reads. The Son runs to 496 pages but, once you are into the narrative, it’s virtually impossible to put down. Although not part of the series featuring detective Harry Hole, after the disappointment of Nesbo’s previous standalone, HeadhuntersThe Son is a return to form. Assuming, as always, you can stomach the violence.

Sonny Lofthus is the son of a policeman who killed himself when he was revealed as the mole in the Oslo police department who was passing secrets to a criminal known as The Twin. Sonny is a drug addict incarcerated in prison who has become famous for his confessor-like status amongst inmates. During one confession, he discovers something that brings into question his father’s guilt. Escaping from jail, he wreaks justice on those he holds responsible for the destruction of his family. Simon Kefas, a colleague and friend of Sonny’s father, pursues the fugitive convinced that he can also unpick the truth about the identity of the real mole.

Nesbo is one the main proponents of Norweigian crime fiction and, in his earlier books, brought to life the city of Oslo for those of us who have never been. The Son is unusual in that, at times, I forgot it was set in Scandinavia. The narrative world is insular, focusing mainly on life inside a hostel for drug addicts and then the wider criminal community. As in previous Nesbo books, there’s a shocking reveal as part of the plot which I only guessed in the preceding few pages.

The most successful part was the depiction of the life of Sonny Lofhus. In many ways he’s not a particularly innovative creation and yet Nesbo always manages to make me sympathise with his criminals. In particular the tension in his relationship with hostel worker, Martha, was well depicted however improbable the scenario.

Nesbo will continue to divide readers, I’m sure. I’ve read a few reviews of this book and some of them have been brutal. But I started reading crime fiction as a teenager because I loved the fact that, once started, I couldn’t put the books down. Nesbo, for me, carries on this tradition.

Thanks to Karen at Eurocrime for my copy. The translation was by Charlotte Baslund.

15 thoughts on “Review: Jo Nesbo – The Son

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – Good to hear that this standalone worked for you better than Headhunters did. It sounds like an absorbing read. It’s on my list now for one of those times when I can handle the level of violence…


  2. tracybham

    I am behind on this author (like all the other Scandinavian authors), and one of the reasons is the length of his books. I have several. The “immensely readable” part is important when the books are so long. I did love Redbreast, so do intend to continue. I am sure I will try The Son someday too.


  3. Antonella

    Love Jo Nesbo and his work. Met him twice and he’s ever so nice! Liked you review, Sarah and thanks for naming his current translator too. Have you read The Snowman? It’s not the first Harry Hole’s novel but it’s my favourite…


  4. Kathy D.

    I haven’t been able to read much lately, but I have read Nesbo’s Devil Star and Nemesis. Thought Nemesis one of the best thrillers I’ve ever read, unputdownable.
    I don’t know if I’ll get to this one, but I know I have several of Nesbo’s books ahead of me whenever I have time to read (sigh).


  5. Pingback: The Son by Jo Nesbø tr. Charlotte Barslund | Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog

  6. Pingback: Review: Jo Nesbo – Blood on Snow | crimepieces

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