Jo Nesbo has been writing murder mysteries since 1997 but was unheard of outside the sphere of European writers until the publication of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, when America finally realized that Norway had quite a few excellent writers. Nesbo’s Harry Hole series began being published in English in 2006, shortly after the publication of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
The Son is a break from the series, but follows a very Norwegian theme of corruption at the highest level of government. Sonny is an inmate in a high security prison who has, over time, become an almost cult figure to his fellow inmates. His charisma, gentle ways, and almost uncanny understanding have made him a figure frequently visited by other prisoners, who leave feeling relieved and strangely absolved.
All this changes when he receives a visit from another prisoner, who knows some hidden details about Sonny’s father’s death. Details no one knew, that changed Sonny’s world view so completely that he breaks out of jail in a brilliant escape, and sets about restoring his father’s name and exposing those who profited, and continue to profit, from his death.
Tightly plotted, the book follows the perspectives of a cop, a child, a social worker, and the forces of evil as Sonny goes through the process of gathering information and settling scores, while hewing close to his gentle ways and exhibiting brilliant planning skills to reach his goal. The story unfolds as Sonny’s understanding of the forces around his father’s death are shared with the reader until its stunning surprise ending.