Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95, 402 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-35137-9
There’s only two types of crime fiction and hard-boiled detective story readers . . . those who are Jo Nesbo fans . . . and those who will be Jo Nesbo fans as soon as they read one of his kick-ass novels. Nesbo is the international best-selling author from Norway who first blazed onto the scene with his dramatic, action-filled series about a troubled, drug-addicted Oslo detective named Harry Hole. But, detective series aren’t all that this gifted author does. He’s also a musician, songwriter and an economist, as well as the creator of the Doctor Proctor children’s books and a number of stand-alone novels.
The Son, by Jo Nesbo is his latest book to be translated into English. It’s an inspired stand-alone that will leave the reader scrambling to find and read the rest of his works.
The Son begins in prison. That’s where we’re introduced to a character named Sonny Loftus. He’s the heroin addicted father-confessor to everyone who’s incarcerated there, because he’s got an ability to soothe and comfort the penitents, leaving them feeling absolved of their crimes. Absolution, and the fact that he doesn’t talk, keeps everyone coming back to the thirty year-olds cell to tell all. Sonny, who’s been in prison for twelve years, is serving time for a murder he didn’t commit, but which he confessed to, in return for an uninterrupted, unending supply of dope. His heroin addiction, which began when his father took his life rather than be exposed as a corrupt policeman, is all that Sonny cares about. As long as the heroin keeps flowing he’ll keep confessing to other people’s crimes . . . which he does regularly. He’s surrounded by an “infrastructure of corruption,” including police, prison staff, lawyers and even a priest who are all beholden to an Oslo crime lord known only as the Twin. Sonny’s content with the arrangement until a prisoner named Johannes Halden, who has only weeks to live before his metastasizing lung cancer kills him, makes his last confession and reveals a terrible, long-hidden secret about his father that’s an epiphany which causes Sonny to get straight and execute an ingenious prison break from the high-security penitentiary. Then the mayhem begins in one of the most diabolic and exciting pieces of crime fiction that you’ll ever read.