The characters pour forth in a Dickensian torrent. And as you’d expect from the Norwegian crime author of the moment — perhaps the crime author of the moment, period — Nesbø presents Oslo as a dwindling star that disappoints its Oslovians. The city reflects their private miseries … In a novel of elaborate, shifting father-son relationships — real and assumed — Nesbø’s most complicated characters seek redemption by spanning their private Vaterland Bridge between old and new Oslo, and their old and new selves.
Once Sonny learns that his father was in fact murdered to save his family, all Christ-like comparisons must end. He quits a 12-year heroin habit cold turkey, then plots and executes a daring escape from prison. From there, he methodically avenges those responsible for the death of his father, and by extension his mother, who, broken by grief, followed his father into the afterlife. As this is a Nesbø story, nobody dies a quick or merciful death … The pace of the novel is fast, the characters (especially Inspector Kefas) complex and well drawn, and the plot smart and tricky. Mr. Nesbø, unlike most of the Scandinavian authors whose works are being imported in mass quantities, has the ability to draw attention to social issues without dropping the plot ball.
The Son...pulses with aggressive energy and splattering ultra-violence … Like any long work of sugary entertainment, it lags in spots and performs most poorly when depth is expected. The plot is fun and often complex, but the novel is flashier than it is meaningful. Nesbø addresses good and evil, sin and redemption, and even allows for a fair amount of moral ambiguity, but his treatment of these themes often feels almost incidental … People get drugged, shot and occasionally eaten by dogs; the twists and turns are bold and surprising. Nesbø delivers a revved-up, entertaining red harvest, another guaranteed hit from a forceful thriller machine.
It displays both narrative flair and compelling forward motion – which explains why Hollywood is already developing it for the big screen – but I struggled to accept either the set-up or the characters who carry it to its all-too-predictable conclusion … The story unfolds via a string of improbable twists that failed to shock or surprise, mostly because I struggled to engage with any of the characters. Their behaviour seems to come from the convoluted needs of the plot rather than from any understanding of what motivates people, and often seems unlikely to the point of perversity. Too many of them are also stock characters who are almost cartoonish in their qualities.
Nesbø doesn’t just exceed the expectations that he always creates with the publication of his books; in the words of the immortal George Clinton, he tears the roof off the sucker. Once you read The Son, you’ll never get it out of your head … The setup works well for all, particularly an enigmatic, frightening crime lord known as the Twin, who is the stuff of legend. However, it all gets shot to hell when Lofthus learns that his father was murdered … Nesbø has the ability to tell a dark story in a voice that is unflinching yet roughly poetic, resulting in novels that transcend any genre to which one might be inclined to assign them.
This excellent standalone from Nesbø...centers on Sonny Lofthus (aka the Son), who’s serving a sentence at Oslo’s Staten Maximum Security Prison for two murders to which he confessed but which he did not commit … When another inmate, Johannes Halden, who’s dying of cancer, begs for Sonny’s forgiveness after admitting a role in framing Ab and making his murder look like suicide, Sonny stops taking drugs and later escapes from prison with Johannes’s help … Nesbø takes the reader on a chilling ride with many unexpected twists.
Sonny Lofthus, the son of the title, is introduced as a prisoner with ‘healing hands,’ one who was ‘prepared to take your sins upon himself and didn’t want anything in return.’ Like Christ, he suffers for the sins of others and offers redemption. He is also a hopeless junkie. His back story suggests that Sonny was a boy of considerable promise, a champion wrestler and model student, proud son of a police officer. Then, when he was 18, he was devastated by the suicide of his father, who left a note confessing his corruption as the mole within the department … It’s a novel in which one character muses on ‘how innocence walks hand-in-hand with ignorance. How insight never clarifies, only complicates.’ One of Nesbø’s best, deepest and richest novels.