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The Son    by Jo Nesbo order for
by Jo Nesbo
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's something very different from Jo Nesbo, author of the superb Harry Hole mysteries. The Son, a standalone thriller set in Oslo, is a mix of Count of Monte Cristo, the drug trade, police corruption, and vigilante justice. And, as always, Nesbo gives his readers quite a ride!

Sonny Lofthus is a charismatic heroin addict, jailed for a dozen years since he was a teenager. He gave up on life after his policeman father confessed to working with drug dealers and committed suicide. Other prisoners believe Sonny has healing hands and come to him for absolution. And his jailers come to him for confessions to new crimes, in return for which they keep him steadily supplied with his drug of choice, heroin. They do this through the prison chaplain, Per Vollan - when Per wants out, he's executed.

Sonny's outlook on life changes dramatically after an old inmate comes to him with his story. Johannes was his father's confidential informant and betrayed him to those who threatened Sonny and his mother, and so forced Ab Lofthus to write the suicide note confessing to being a police mole. For once, Sonny does not give absolution. He escapes from jail and heads to the Ila Center, a hostel for drug addicts where Per Vollan had been staying temporarily after being thrown out by his wife

Chief Inspector Simon Kefas (once a gambling addict) is desperate to help his beloved wife Else who is losing her sight and needs a very expensive operation. He's mentoring a new female partner, Kari Adel. Kefas is sure Vollan's death is not the suicide it's been ruled. Their investigation takes them to the Ila Centre. Martha, who works there, tells them she believes Vollan was afraid. When Sonny shows up there, he intrigues Martha and an attraction grows between them, despite her awareness that he had been, and perhaps still was, an addict.

As Sonny takes on a a personal vendetta and systematically goes after all those he holds responsible for his family's dissolution, the papers turn him into a celebrity, dubbing him Buddha with the Sword. And as this evolves, we learn that three police officers started out as close friends, a troika - Ab Lofthus, Simon Kefas, and the current Commissioner, Pontius Parr. Was one of them the real mole, and if so, which one? And who is the Mr. Big of crime, nicknamed The Twin?

The Son is an extraordinary and convoluted tale of corruption, addiction, revenge and redemption. It's filled with surprises and absolutely not to be missed!

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