Koppel, Hans - 'She's Never Coming Back' (translated by Kari Dickson)
Ylva is walking home from work in the small town of Hittarp, near Helsinborg when a car turns up with two familiar faces inside. A couple she's not seen for years and who tell her that they are now her neighbours. Ylva accepts a lift home and that is the last anyone else sees of her. When her husband Mike reports her missing, the police take little action. When they find out that Ylva had been unfaithful in the past they put her disappearance down as an unproven murder, by her husband. What the reader knows is that the new neighbours have Ylva imprisoned in their soundproofed cellar with a camera pointed on her home so she can watch what she's missing: her husband and young daughter.
Meanwhile, slowly, a couple of Ylva's old classmates begin to notice that some of the bullies at their school – a so called gang of four which included Ylva - are dying and finally they get round to thinking about Ylva. Their interest acts as a catalyst to both Mike and the kidnappers.
Less than a year after Jussi Adler-Olsen's MERCY was published in English, along comes another Scandinavian book about a woman imprisoned and tortured over a period of months. Unfortunately SHE'S NEVER COMING BACK, for me at least, has little of the appeal of MERCY.
Whereas MERCY had a sympathetic victim, and a competent pair of detectives this has neither. For me, in terms of detection and suspense, it was an empty book as despite its almost 400 page length, there is little investigation. What it does contain is a character arc for the husband Mike and how the disappearance impacts on him and his daughter. There are several, but blessedly short, scenes of rape told in a blunt fashion as Ylva is systematically subjugated by her captors. I did want to find out what happened at the end, but it's not a book that I enjoyed reading. The easy to read style and the dialogue heavy content at least make for a quick read.
SHE'S NEVER COMING BACK is not part of the more traditional socially-aware Scandi fiction we've become used to in the UK: there are some comments about big city dwellers (Stockholmers) and those who live in the country, a joke made at Norway's expense and reflections on wealth but these could be transplanted to any westernised country. The surprisingly uncredited translation is by the award-winning Kari Dickson.
Karen Meek, England
More crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.