The Son, by Jo Nesbo, is a stand alone thriller from the writer of the popular Harry Hole series, set in Oslo, Norway.
In a nutshell this book tells the tale of Sonny, whose father was murdered when he was young, and his quest to avenge those responsible for the many wrongs in his life. Out of that nutshell this book has SO much going on! I’ll try and get through a lot of it here. When there are spoilers I will let you know before you get to them! 🙂
If you’re not familiar with Nesbo’s work, then you are in for a treat if you decide to start with this one. We jump right in from the start, at a prison where young Sonny is serving time for some murders that he confessed to. We learn early on that he didn’t commit these murders and confessed to them in order to keep receiving drugs in prison.
After a daring escape, Sonny then begins his mission to avenge his father’s death and also mete out some justice for those he took the fall for.
Nesbo’s writing is face paced and detailed. We meet a lot of characters throughout the book, and at times I had to go back and refresh my memory as to how they fitted in to the story. Eventually everything clicks into place though and it isn’t too much of a challenge to keep on top of the characters.
It wouldn’t be a Nesbo book without a rumpled detective there to compliment the ‘bad guy’. Simon Kefas is our detective with a dark side. He is an ex gambler, ex smoker, married to the love of his life, Else, who is going blind. Throughout the book we follow Simon’s attempts at procuring the money needed for Else’s eye operation alongside the main storyline.
Simon has a new partner in the form of a prim and proper newbie called Kari. Simon doesn’t have a lot of time for her, and keeps her at arms length throughout the investigation to find Sonny.
A further main character is Martha. She is the love interest for Sonny and works at a drug hostel that Sonny stays at once he’s left prison.
She turned on the stairs. Smiled. Per thought that a young man might fall deeply in love with that smile.
And he was right, Sonny is instantly smitten.
I love how Nesbo explores innocence and guilt throughout this book, and how the line is sometimes blurred between the two. During a book discussion this week, we decided that the only really innocent person in this book is Markus. Markus is a young boy who lives opposite Sonny and whom he befriends in a fatherly way. However, can the ignorance of youth be compared to innocence?
She thought of how innocence walks hand in hand with ignorance.
Martha seems to think so in Sonny’s case.
From the very beginning of this book there are shades of grey in almost every area. The prison population, the prison authority, the police force, the hostel, in Simon’s life, Martha’s life. Nowhere is there a black and white – but this is reflective of life, surely?
Love fuels this narrative, in every way. Sonny’s love for Martha, Sonny’s love for his father, Simon’s love for Else. Without love there is no need for revenge, so in a way love is the evil here.
OK so possibly some spoilers below, my thoughts on certain threads of the story. Stop reading if you don’t want spoilers! Thanks for reading so far 🙂
Right, Depeche Mode, I thought of this as soon as I read about Sonny playing them in his Discman. Personal Jesus anyone? Sonny is very much, in my eyes, his own Personal Jesus. He gives redemption to those in prison for their sins and then dishes out the punishment he sees fit once on the outside.
Something I thought was a massive red herring was Pontius Parr. Firstly the name? Pontius in the bible was the guy who sent Jesus to his death and oversaw his ‘trial’. I think we are led to believe he is the mole throughout the book and to discover he wasn’t at the end was a relief – not everyone can be bad surely!!!
The last thing I pondered on, was the issue of Sonny’s paternity. Who is his dad? Ab or Simon? We are given so many hints toward the end of the book that Simon may be the father, but this is never confirmed. Did any one else think this?
I used to tease him and say he must have an illegitimate child somewhere and that was why he was scared.
Did Else also have her suspicions about Sonny?
Anyway, I have so many other thoughts but I’ll leave it there. Well done for reading this far, if you did.
Go buy this book, it is amazing.