Frightful Friday: Never Coming Back by Hans Koppel

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week. The featured title this week is Never Coming Back by Hans Koppel:

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus (November 14, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1605983918
  • Source: Publisher

Mike Zetterberg, his wife Ylva, and their daughter live a comfortable life outside Helsingborg in Sweden. One night, Ylva fails to return home. At first, Mike isn’t concerned; Ylva mentioned she might go out for drinks with coworkers that night. Perhaps she crashed on a friend’s couch, too intoxicated to make it home. Yet when the hours pass and Ylva still isn’t home, Mike begins to get concerned. First, he’s angry. Ylva had an affair in the past and while she’s promised things have ended, Mike still questions her fidelity. As the hours turn into days, however, Mike becomes tremendously concerned. There is no way Ylva would have left for that long a period of time without contacting Mike. Ylva, despite her faults as a wife has always been an incredible mother.

When the police finally get involved, Mike is obviously their first suspect for he fits the jealous husband role to a “t.”¬† But when the days turn into weeks and then months, the police close the case. No evidence has ever been found indicated Ylva was injured in any way, so they assumed she just ran off with her lover. Little do they know, but Ylva has been right across the street all along, kept prisoner in their neighbors basement, the object of revenge for an event that took place decades before. A camera has been set up on her home so she can see her families daily activities…how after time they seem to get by without her. They cannot see her or hear her desperate cries for help.

Koppel doesn’t hold back when he details the tremendous amount of torture and abuse Ylva is forced to endure during her imprisonment. Her captors, parents of a girl Ylva and her friends tormented in school, abuse her both physically and sexually. The violence is graphic but in this case I think it is necessary to truly understand the torment Ylva is under.

Never Coming Back is quite the intense read, one that I read in one sitting for I could not bear to put it down. The intensity really doesn’t waver throughout the entirety of the novel, keeping the pacing high and continuous throughout. My only complaint were the characters, specifically Ylva herself. I honestly didn’t feel a lot for her, wasn’t really rooting for her character because I liked her but more because a human being should have to endure what she did. I actually despised her a bit, hearing about her past and her lack of respect for her marriage. Conversely, while I did feel more sympathy and respect for Mike, that sort of waned and wavered throughout the book. All this said, the storyline more than makes up for my feelings about the lead characters.

Bottom line: Koppel’s latest proves that there is no cease to the intensity and popularity of Swedish crime fiction. Highly recommended.

Warning: graphic violence of a sexual nature.