This bloody action-packed Norwegian police procedural/thriller is as exciting and fast-paced in its telling as it is absurd in its plot. The “hero” is young Sonny Lofthus, a lifer and a drug addict who has spent the past 15 years behind bars copping to crimes committed by the crime syndicate that runs all manner of nasty operations in Oslo. In return, he is kept happily supplied with top quality heroin, to which the assistant warden is well paid to keep a blind eye. The broken prison chaplain, a blackmail victim of the syndicate, brings Sonny his drugs and a syndicate lawyer brings Sonny his prepared confessions. The shadowy syndicate boss known only as The Twin, has eyes and ears everywhere and appears as evil as he is unstoppable. A cardboard black hat if ever there was one.
The nearly mute Sonny has a Christ-like demeanor in prison – matted hair and beard and eyes that calm the savage breast—and the other prisoners all come to him for silent absolution as they would in a confessional. But one day, an old-timer tells Sonny that his dad, a cop who had killed himself while admitting that he was the syndicate’s mole in the police department, was actually preparing to expose the mole and was murdered for it. His father’s suicide had been the trigger for Sonny’s teen-aged descent into addiction and subsequent jailing, but with that trigger now removed, Sonny suddenly cleans up his act, ditches his addiction, escapes from the escape-proof jail and begins to exact vengeance on his former keepers. His acts of revenge are as creative as they are improbable, and in the process he wins the heart of a woman who is engaged to someone else, and who is as worldly as Sonny is not.
Meanwhile, our other “hero”—veteran cop Simon Kefas—is methodically hunting the escaped Sonny even as he is questioning authorship of the crimes for which Sonny has served as the scapegoat. Simon turns out to have been a best friend of Sonny’s father and feels a special debt to the damaged Sonny. While they operate in parallel throughout most of the book, Sonny and Simon are destined to cross paths sooner or later, and meanwhile the entire corrupt network of lawyers, cops, prison officials and criminals enters the fray in an attempt to stop Sonny. The reader ends up in the strange position of cheering for a guy who has no problem feeding the bad guys to killer dogs and locking others alive in a freezer. But author Nesbo seems more interested in how many bodies Sonny can drop before the climax (the last one is a doozy), and only when the book concludes does the exhausted reader realize that this self-standing novel sadly had none of the nuances of his Harry Hole series. The Son is a roller-coast of a ride, but one which I was only too glad to see end.