While lacking the depth and complex character building of Stieg Larsson, along with the intricacy of the plot, it does nothing to detract from the suspense and the need to rush to the end. The blurb describes it as ‘the story that has obsessed readers across Scandinavia for the past year.’ Despite the simplicity of the narrative it is not too taxing to guess why.
It is a straightforward story and unlike Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy does not start out as a slow burner, preferring to tap into high octane from the get go. A young mother waiting for a bus never makes it home. She gets into a car but her family is hardly going to know that. After some jealousy ridden angst the husband reports it to the police. They tell him it happens in Sweden all the time sans crime being committed. Essentially indolent desk bound creatures they fail to look beyond the end of their suspicious noses which sniff out not the best but the easiest suspect, the husband. The body can’t be found so no murder rap can be pinned on him. Smug in their belief that the husband was their man, they allowed the case to go as cold as the body they presumed to have been buried in some secret and for now inaccessible grave. Move along, nothing to be done here. The perp won’t fess up and without a corpse the lead goes only to a dead end. Better to wait than to investigate. There is a motive which the reader is allowed to share in but to which the cops remain oblivious.
Many different lives are viewed through this work. The ennui of their normal daily routines is no protection against the drama they all factor into. The psychiatrist, the schoolyard bullies known as the Gang of Four, incompetent cops, faithless wives, mega rich business men, grieving husbands, sexual sadists, small town reporters. The plot comes together much too neatly at the end but that is the licence that comes with fiction. It barely impacts on the climatic denouement.
I picked this book up in the library, having spotted it there purely by chance while leaving back my daughter’s books, grudgingly forking out the overdue fine that she invariably incurs. Having just finished watching the ten part Scandinavian series The Bridge, I knew She’s Never Coming Back was a must read for this house that has Nesbo, Larrson and Menkel stocking the bookshelves and where The Killing is regarded as the best television crime series ever.
It is a novel that relies on violence but not in the all consuming manner that Cormac McCarthy uses it in Blood Meridian. There it was the story; here it is integral to the story without eating up the narrative. The psychiatrist angle invites some comparison with David Lindsey's great psychological thriller, Mercy. This is fast reading. Although almost 400 pages in length, it could be read in one sitting. It doesn’t let up, never gets tedious, and refuses to get bogged down in a density of detail. The reader is most definitely coming back.
Hans Koppel: She’s Never Coming Back. London: Sphere. ISBN 978-07515-4782-5