The Son – Jo Nesbo

The son

This book was presented to me for review courtesy of Penguin Random House India

In a faraway small country’s state-of-the-art prison sits a not-so-young man, Sonny Lofthus, son of a corrupt cop who eventually committed suicide to escape justice, in a drug-induced haze, accused of murder and revered by the other inmates for his Buddha-like demeanor and the perceived power to grant absolution for the sins of others. A chance confession by another inmate shocks Sonny out of his stupor and makes his execute a brilliant escape, sending him on a long-delayed journey for revenge.

I thought the premise of the introduction was as brilliant as it was disquietening, leaving one with an uncomfortable realization that in every part of the world men and women commit themselves to unspeakable horrors for the sake of a pinch of powder or the stab of a needle as a matter of course and lose the battle for survival very quickly, even as we sip our cups of coffee and read about the fictional one who got away. After all, the human heart worships at the altar of hope and the mind is a genius in blocking out uncomfortable truths. As for our hero, Sonny’s behaviour after his escape was such a complete about-turn from his prior-to-escape persona that it actually takes some time getting used to it. In fact, for a good 100 pages I was still hoping that there was a third party going around murdering the most unlikely and defenceless of targets, framing the poor man.  Sonny was never really explored in-depth, we meet him and follow him around for a while, even know the reasons for his actions, but never understand him completely. He comes across as one of those quiet people who never preach but practice what they believe with a single-mindedness that is sometimes disconcerting. Sonny’s love interest was alright, following the tried-and-tested ‘follow your heart’ theme, which I found especially endearing while I was reading it and feel was terribly stupid in hindsight. The most likable character for me was, of course,  the underdog, Simon Kefas, the honest cop who was the friend of Sonny’s father, married to a woman who is going blind and willing to give his friend’s son a break. I was not very convinced by the presence of the crime overlord, ‘The Twin’ in the narrative. He seemed unnecessary and sort of like a poor afterthought, with no proper malevolence (yes, a villain must be properly disgusting and not backed-up by one or two silly stories).

I thought the book was interesting and enjoyed reading it, although, in hindsight, there are a few areas that were a bit too unrealistic (yes, unrealistic in a work of fiction), for example, the last action sequence, if it may be so called, seemed straight out of the Godfather with the added incentive of a tank full of flesh-eating fish (try saying the last three words fast ten times)!

However, it must be agreed that, once again, Jo Nesbo presents a brilliant thriller to keep you glued to the pages of his book. His greatest strength is no doubt his fast-paced and edgy writing style. A narrative that never succumbs to too-long reminiscent turns nor does it devolve into bursts of unappetizing staccato sentences. The translations of his works are especially well done, and having read quite a few translated works I can truly appreciate the expertise. Every book by this author has lived up to expectations and “The Son” continues in the same tradition. The violence is brutal and unapologetic but seems very much a part of the story. His characters are not unreasonable people, apart from those who demand to be nothing but unreasonable.

So yes, I was really happy with my latest Jo Nesbo. I just hope he sticks to his theme of quirky titles in his next book, this one was just too ordinary.

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