Jo is the creator of hard-drinking, hard-working Oslo cop, Harry Hole, and has been as at the forefront of the Scandinavian crime boom ever since. Selling over 24 million copies of his book worldwide (only beaten by Stieg Larsson), he’s been translated into more than 40 languages. When Jo’s last book ‘Police’ came out I was lucky enough to attend a talk of his and there was one statement he made that completely endeared him to me and placed him above the writer norm. It was during the Q&A segment where a lady stood up and said:
“A traditional Scandinavian crime series lasts ten books, but with ‘Police’ being the tenth in this series, have you got any plans to write more as Harry? I can’t be the only person in this crowd hoping for more.”
Jo could have easily been forgiven for replying with the stock answer, “maybe if the voice comes to me” or something along those lines, but quick as a flash his response was:
“Listen, I just want everyone to know that I feel no obligation to any of you.”
There was a ripple of awkward laughter and the woman sat down looking a bit put out. I, on the other hand, was now hanging on his every word. He went on to say he writes only for himself and its luck that anyone has liked his books. As a man who has tried his hand at many a different career, from professional footballer to musician, if he isn’t enjoying himself he will move on. A statement I have infinite respect for.
The product of that ‘moving on’ is Jo’s latest book The Son and it was a book I struggled to put down.
SONNY’S ON THE RUN
Sonny is a model prisoner. He listens to the confessions of other inmates, and absolves them of their sins.
HE’S BEEN LIED TO HIS WHOLE LIFE
But then one prisoner’s confession changes everything. He knows something about Sonny’s disgraced father.
SONNY WANTS REVENGE
He needs to break out of prison and make those responsible pay for their crimes.
The Son opens in an Oslo prison with the son in question, Sonny. This prisoner is the son of an Oslo policeman who committed suicide after allegations of corruption when Sonny was a child. Many years later, he’s a heroin addict who keeps a steady stream of drugs flowing by confessing to crimes he didn’t commit to stay hooked up to the drug. Whilst taking confessions from his fellow inmates to absorb their sins, Sonny hears his dad’s case might not be as cut and dry as he thinks and sets out on a mission for revenge.
Inspector Simon Kefas is an aging but brilliant policeman and also the best friend of Sonny’s father. He was also devastated at the loss of his friend but as the bodies start to pile up he has to make a harrowing choice.
Just how far would someone go for the ones they loved? This book goes above and beyond a normal crime thriller. The lines between good and bad start burred and in time fade completely until all that’s left is a tense, gut reaction to the unfolding plot. There are similarities between Kefas and Hole, as there are for all good crime detectives. Their brilliant but flawed and loved but lonely, but what makes this book stand out is Sonny. He is a wonderfully fleshed out character with loving, warm traits at times and disturbingly brutal at others. Do you root for the police or The Son? It’s not as easy as you think.
Fans of Jo’s could be worried about the ‘Hole’ left by not including their favourite detective. But The Son doesn’t just fill it; it builds a deftly plotted novel full of love and redemption, on its foundations. If this is the standard that Jo will be reaching for with future projects then I guarantee that ten years from now at signings, audiences won’t be asking if Jo will ever produce a Harry Hole book again. They probably won’t remember who that is.
The Son is published by Harvill Secker (10 April 2014)