Eine Mordgeschichte erfordert mehr schöpferische Fantasie, mehr Gespür für Komposition und den sparsamen Umgang mit Effekten als jede andere literarische Gattung. Der Kriminalschriststeller muss stimmig sein; er muss ein Gefühl für die Mathematik der Details haben, denn alles muss in eine streng begrenzte Einheit passen und auf eine einzige, vorbestimmte Auflösung hinzielen.
(My own rough translation: A murder story requires more creative imagination, more sense of composition and the sparing use of effects than any other literary genre. The crime fiction writer must be consistent; he must have a sense of the mathematics of the details, because everything has to adhere to a strictly and coherent unit and aim at a single predetermined resolution.)
In Der Nachtmensch, 1950 by André Bjerke (aka Bernhard Borge).
I can wholeheartedly apply this to Jo Nesbo. He's the mathematician of Crime Fiction. His plots are all worked out down to the smallest detail.
Back in the day, I'd never considered myself as a crime fiction reader. I loved SF, psychological thrillers or gothic mysteries – but Crime Fiction? I wasn’t really into it. And then I discovered Nesbo’s books (iniatially in German, because there weren't translated books of him in English much less in Portuguese) and I was introduced to a completely different world from the one I’d imagined: a world of snowy Oslo streets and a charismatic, damaged detective with plots that were so full of twists and turns that I couldn’t put them down because I just had to know what happened next.
The misnomer unputdownable is often used to classify Nesbo's novels. When Nesbo was still relatively unknown in Portugal, it felt like there were a select group of us who knew the secret of these ridiculously addictive books.
Is Harry Hole gone for good? In the last novels Nesbo tried to destroy him in order to make his return impossible. Has Nesbo already reached this point? In the book that came after The Snowman, which was called The Leopard he tried to kill off Harry three times, and the increasingly ludicrous violence makes the plot seem like something made for a Soap Opera...
Maybe The Son is his first departure novel from Hole.
In this novel all of Nesbo's main qualities as a writer are also present. What I've always loved about Nesbo’s books is that they aren’t just about the pace of the plot, they might be a breathless read, but they’re also a complex one. I love the fact that through them I’ve discovered what “The Right Movement” in Norway is as well as Norway’s involvement in the Second World War was. Nesbo’s characters feel real to me and their individual stories are just as involving as the hunt to find a killer.
I think the reason for the inventiveness and ingenuity is Nesbo himself. In this particular novel we've got the "usual" cast of unsavoury and untrustworthy characters and layer upon layer of deceit. Nevertheless, Nesbo was able to turn our perceptions of good and bad completely upside down, as the lines between justice and law and right and wrong became increasingly blurred.
The book's central is one of vengeance, retribution and justice. People can never truly seem to escape the sins of their past, and I started questioning whether they should. And if they deserve to be punished, what should we think of the person doing the punishing? In fact, there’s a general sense throughout the book that sometimes, crimes can be both justified and inevitable:
‘You saved him, didn’t you?’
‘He called me his angel. But it wasn’t my love for him that saved him. Completely the opposite of what so-called wise men say, I’ll argue that being loved never saved anyone. It was his love of me that did it. He saved himself.’
‘By loving you back.’
On the other hand, what comes as the law in Norway is presented as increasingly untrustworthy, with prison governors and police officers under the pay of hoodlums. A corrupt police force isn’t anything new in Crime Fiction, but in this novel I was left questioning the motives of every single character that crossed the page.
When I'm asked when did the Nirvana of the Norwegian Crime Fiction Literature take place, I always answer: Now!