The Son

Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo launched a Nordic crime wave in the United States that has yet to break. When that novel appeared, readers learned what crime-fiction aficionados had known for years: Scandinavia is a hot-bed of the genre. Nesbø, a Norwegian trained as an economist who’s a rock musician by night, has himself sold more than 23 million books. He’s known especially for his 10 novels featuring the haunted detective Harry Hole. His latest, however, is a stand-alone that introduces a galaxy of new characters in an Oslo that is corrupt from top to bottom. The “son” of the title (the Christian imagery is purposeful) is Sonny Loftus, an oddly charismatic young heroin addict who is scapegoated into prison but after 12 years escapes. Sought by both the police and the criminal underworld, he deftly engineers one act of revenge after another on people who clearly deserve it, collecting allies as he goes. He’s a fascinating character, at once beatific and brutal, and it’s hard not to root for him despite the violence he generates. Some readers will find the story implausible, but if you can suspend your disbelief, you’ll have quite a ride.