Never Coming Back: A Novel

Never Coming Back: A Novel

by Hans Koppel


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A harrowing and unforgettable thriller that has taken Sweden and Britain by storm—a twisted plot of revenge and tragedy by a writer whose edgy and gritty style evokes Henning Mankell and Hakan Nesser

Mike Zetterberg lives with his wife Ylva and their daughter in a house just outside Helsingborg in Sweden. One evening, Ylva doesn't come home as expected. Mike passes it off as a drink with a work friend, but when she's still missing the next day, he starts to worry. As Mike battles suspicion from the police and his own despair, he is unaware that Ylva is still alive, just a stone's throw from his own home: Ylva has been drawn into a twisted plot of revenge that leads back into her and her abductors' shared past.

Given the sudden and mysterious circumstances of her disappearance, Mike becomes the chief suspect. But what no one knows is that she's being held hostage in the cellar of the house across the street. A secret camera has been set up in her own home so that Ylva can only watch her family on the screen. They cannot see her—and they most certainly cannot hear her scream.

This superbly-told tale of horrific tragedy and brutal revenge now makes its American debut in paperback.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781605985268
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 03/06/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Hans Koppelis a pseudonym for an established Swedish author, Petter Lidbeck, who was born in 1964 and lives in Stockholm.

Read an Excerpt

Never Coming Back

By Hans Koppel, Kari Dickson

Pegasus Books LLC

Copyright © 2011 Hans Koppel
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-7154-4


She'd written that she liked walks in the forest and cosy nights in and was looking for a man with a twinkle in his eye. It was almost a joke, like a parody of the blandest person in the world. She'd also sprinkled her post with smileys. Not a row without a yellow face.

They'd spoken on the phone the night before and agreed to meet at Gondolen.

Anders thought she sounded older than thirty-two. He made a joke about it, said she'd maybe posted a photo that had been taken a few years ago, when she was a few kilos lighter. That was when she sent the most recent one, taken just before going to bed, holding her mobile at arm's length.

Anders looked at it and thought to himself that she could be a hundred and thick as a plank, he couldn't care less.

A drink was best. It usually took about half a minute to decide whether it was worth the effort or not. Dinner was digging your own grave. Sitting there suffering for hours, with a fixed smile. No, anyone with any experience met for a drink. If things went well, you could always go on.

It was half past six on the dot and Anders looked out through the dark to the lights on Skeppsholmen and Djurgården.

What was the flaw, he wondered. It couldn't be the dumb blonde act. Not with that body. Maybe a hideous laugh that pierced your eardrums. Breath like an old dog. Was she frigid?

No, no, keep calm, he persuaded himself.

His mobile started to vibrate. He answered it.

'Hi,' she said. 'It's me. Sorry that I didn't call earlier. I've been sitting in A&E all afternoon.'

'A&E? Are you okay?'

Anders Egerbladh was impressed by his own apparent concern. Now that's what he called being on the ball. A natural enough question to ask, but it would also let him know if whatever had happened would affect his chances of getting into her knickers.

'Fell down the stairs and sprained my foot. I thought I'd broken it, as I could hardly stand on it.'

'Oh, you poor thing ...'

Anders took a sneaky sip of beer and swallowed it silently so he wouldn't come across as disinterested.

'It's not that bad, really,' she said. 'I've got crutches and a support bandage. But it might be a bit difficult to hobble down to Gondolen, so I thought maybe you could come to my place instead? I've got a bottle of white in the fridge.'

'Sounds perfect,' Anders said. 'I'd love to. If it's not too much trouble, that is ... We could always meet another time, if you don't feel up to it.'

Jesus, what a genius he was.

'It's no trouble at all,' she assured him. 'I could do with a bit of cheering up after five hours in A&E.'

'Have you had anything to eat?' Anders asked. 'I can pick something up on the way.'

Albert bloody Einstein.

'That's sweet of you, but there's no need. My fridge is full.'

She gave him the address and a few quick directions. Anders memorised them and decided to pop down and buy some flowers from the stall. He didn't understand why, but it always worked. Flowers and bubbles.

The rest could wait until next time.

He bought something colourful with long stems and a box of children's plasters from a newsagent. A bit of fun. He thought it would be a smart trick.

With a light step, he headed up to Katarinavägen, turned into Fjällgatan, just like she'd said, walked down the street on the right-hand side until he got to Sista Styverns Trapp, a flight of wooden steps that linked Fjällgatan with Stigbergsgatan above.

Probably named after some drunken docker, Anders mused, who'd spent all his wages before going home to his toothless wife and their fourteen kids who were pulling at her skirt. He didn't pay any attention to the car that was parked by the pavement. He wasn't to know that the woman behind the wheel was the same woman he'd just spoken to on the phone and she was now phoning her husband to say that it was time.

Anders started up the steps between the reverentially renovated old buildings. He imagined himself examining the woman's swollen foot with sensitive hands, his head cocked in sympathy, how he would massage her tight shoulders, be understanding, agree and nod. Had she really had to wait for five hours? The Swedish healthcare system was truly appalling.

Anders didn't know that the photographs he'd seen had been copied from the Internet and were in fact of a single mother from Holland who kept a blog. Nor was he to know that the man he met on the steps had a hammer stuffed up the sleeve of his coat.

They reached the step by the park bench at the same time, each from a different direction. The man stopped.

'Anders?' he said.

Anders looked at him.

'Don't you recognise me?' the man asked. 'Annika's dad. You remember Annika, don't you?'

Suddenly, Anders had a very dry throat. His face, which had been relaxed and full of expectation only moments before, was now wary and stiff.

'After all, it wasn't yesterday,' the man continued, smoothly.

Anders pointed up the steps with his empty hand.

'I'm in a bit of a hurry.'

The man smiled as if he understood and indicated the flowers.

'Meeting someone special?'

Anders nodded.

'And I'm late,' he said, trying to make it sound natural. 'Otherwise I'd love to stop and chat.'

'I understand,' the man said.

He smiled, but made no sign of moving. Anders turned, uncertain, and put his foot on the next step.

'I spoke to Morgan,' the man said as he let the hammer slip down into his glove.

Anders stopped on the step with his back to the man. He didn't move.

'Or rather, it was him who talked to me,' said the man. 'He had a lot to say that he wanted to get off his chest. In the eleventh hour, but still. He was just skin and bones when I saw him. It must have been the morphine that made him get so hung up on the details. He just wouldn't stop talking.'

Anders turned slowly around. On the periphery of his vision he saw something hurtling towards him, but it was too late to duck or raise his arms in defence. The hammer struck his head and broke his skull just above the temple. He was unconscious before he hit the ground.

The man stood over Anders and raised the hammer again. The second and third blows were probably what killed him, but the man continued hitting him to be sure. As if he wanted to erase any impressions and experiences that were stored in Anders' brain, to flatten his entire existence. The man didn't stop until the hammer got caught in the skull bone.

He left it there, glanced hastily around and then walked away from the steps and jumped into the waiting car. The woman pulled out from the pavement.

'Was it difficult?' she asked.

'Not at all,' the man said.


Good morning, my name is Gösta Lundin and I'm a professor emeritus of psychiatry and the author of The Victim and the Perpetrator, which I presume some of you have read.

No need to put up your hands. But thank you, thank you. I appreciate it.

Before I start, how many of you are policemen? Now you can raise your hands.

Okay, and social workers?

About fifty-fifty. Good, I just like to get an idea. The question is actually irrelevant, as I don't tailor the content of my talks to whichever professional group I'm addressing. I guess I'm just curious. Maybe I would stand with my feet further apart if there were only policemen, sceptical policemen with their arms folded. It's possible, I don't know.

But what does it matter anyway? The theme for today is: How is it possible?

It's a question we often ask ourselves. How is it possible? Why don't they react? Why don't they run away?

Very similar to the questions children ask when they first hear about the Holocaust. How was it possible? Why didn't anyone do anything? Why didn't they escape?

So let's start there. With Adolf Hitler.

As you all know, the moustachioed Austrian is no longer simply a historical figure, he has also taken on mythical proportions. Today Hitler is a yardstick, he is the very symbol of pure evil.

I was just following orders is a stock phrase, and a reminder that we constantly need to question authority and act on our convictions.

Adolf Hitler's polar opposite in this country goes by the name of Astrid Lindgren.

Astrid Lindgren symbolises all that is good in life. The wise and moderate humanist who cultivates and believes in the good in people.

A whole host of edifying stories and phrases have been attributed to Astrid Lindgren. One of the most famous quotes being that sometimes we have to do things even if they are dangerous. Because otherwise we're not human beings, just pieces of dirt.

Adolf and Astrid, black and white, evil and good.

This naive approach to right and wrong is seductive and appeals to us. We want to be one of the good guys, to do the right thing.

Having spent years interviewing both victims and perpetrators – who are also victims, something we often like to forget – I know that the majority here in this room, myself included, could be persuaded one way or the other.

We all have an Adolf and an Astrid inside. It would be foolish to claim otherwise.

But enough philosophising. I'm here to talk about how it works in practice.

The methods used by perpetrators to subjugate their victims are the same the world over and as old as the hills. Bosses use the same techniques as dictators, for the simple reason that there are only two ways of ruling, the carrot or the stick. There might be more of one and less of the other, but all methods are variants of these two.

Unfortunately, I'm not paid to stand here and talk about difficult things in simple language. I'm an academic, after all, and as such have considerable experience in arguing my point and making myself look intelligent and profound.

Which is precisely why PowerPoint presentations were invented.

1. Removal, social isolation

2. Breaking-in violence

3. Starvation

4. Violence / threat of violence

5. Deprecation

6. Debt

7. Friendliness, privileges

8. Denial of the self

9. Future with no hope

Can everyone see? Good. So let's start with the first point ...


Jörgen Petersson waited while the shop assistant rang up a poster of Homer Simpson, a present for his youngest son, whose birthday was coming up soon. Jörgen looked around the shop and a picture by Lasse Åberg caught his eye. For once the motif wasn't Mickey Mouse. The picture was of an old class photo, where half the faces had started to blur and fade. Only a few were still intact. A bit too clear perhaps, but the simplicity of it appealed to Jörgen. He hadn't thought of wasting his days at auctions at Bukowskis in search of suitable work by some overrated ABC artist.

He really didn't understand rich people's fascination with art. What was it, other than a futile attempt to buy themselves free? A way of distancing themselves from those who had neither the money nor the opportunity.

Jörgen could easily fill the walls of his house with the three masters. Anders Zorn was bearable, but Bruno Liljefors' wildlife paintings and Carl Larsson's happy homes he could do without, thank you very much.

And he already had a Zorn. A poster from the museum in Mora adorned the outside toilet at his cabin. Jörgen looked at it while he was having a shit. Pragmatism and pleasure in gracious harmony. Neither his wife nor his children understood the charm; they would never dream of using the privy when they could sit comfortably indoors with underfloor heating. Jörgen's wife had even suggested they should pull the old thunderbox down.

Jörgen had piped up then, though he normally didn't interfere with decisions made in or about the home. But there were limits. A three-acre property, nearly four hundred metres of beach and he wasn't allowed to have a dump in peace on his own lavvy? In the forgiving company of a half-solved crossword in some bleached old magazine.

It had been a good move on Jörgen's part, to put his foot down. His wife respected him more as a result and it had consolidated the image of him as eccentric and obstinate, not bad qualities for a rich man.

He studied the Åberg picture for a while and wondered what his own class photos would look like.

Who had he forgotten? Who could he remember?

And who could remember him?

It was possible that they'd read about him. Quite a bit had been written in the financial press and obviously there was a lot of chat about money and progress, but not to the extent that people reacted when he got on the metro.

Jörgen's life was a bit like a successful game of Monopoly. Suddenly there he was with all the hotels and property and the money kept pouring in without any effort. His coffers were overflowing.

He'd made his first million with an Internet company, which, behind all the big words about the future and opportunities, in fact provided run-of-the-mill web design. But that was back in the day when only the initiated understood the concept of IT and the company still had to send its employees on courses to learn how to use the most basic word-processing programmes.

Jörgen had avoided the limelight for the simple reason that his two colleagues, whom he'd founded the company with, were lens-loving boys.

The company had never run at a profit, but the stock market value nevertheless climbed to over two billion following its flotation. Jörgen had shaken his head at this madness, which annoyed his two ambitious colleagues who let the success go to their heads. They were frequently quoted on the business pages and obviously believed wholeheartedly in their visions of the future. They eventually offered to buy Jörgen out for half the value of his shares and had a good laugh when he accepted their offer, one hundred million kronor in his pocket, thank you very much.

The headline in the paper had read: Dumbest Deal of the Year? The greater part of the article was identical to a press release that Jörgen's colleagues had slickly allowed to be sent out.

One year later, Jörgen's former colleagues were in debt, the company had been restructured and was practically worthless.

Then suddenly Jörgen was the one all the papers wanted to talk to. He'd given a firm but friendly no to all requests and sent a silent thanks to his closest friend, Calle Collin, a freelance journalist for the weeklies, who repeated his words of wisdom about living in the public eye whenever he got drunk.

'There's nothing positive about being visible, absolutely nothing. No matter what you do, never show your face. If you're not Simon Spies, keep out the way.'

Calle Collin was one of the few who hadn't been erased from Jörgen's imagined class photo. Who else could he remember? A couple of the pretty girls who had been out of his league. Jörgen wondered where they were today. Wrong, he didn't wonder where they were at all, he wondered what they looked like. He had googled them but hadn't found any pictures, not even on Facebook. Which couldn't just be a coincidence.

He imagined their faces ravaged by cheap wine, consoled himself with the thought that their bodies were in decline. Their tits that had once defied gravity and been the stuff of his wanking fantasies now sagged and spilled out of heavily padded, wired bras.

Ouch, he was sounding bitter. Jörgen was a better person than that.

Or was he?


Removal, social isolation

The woman is removed from her familiar surroundings and placed in a new and unknown environment for several reasons. The woman then loses contact with her family and friends, becomes disoriented, geographically confused and dependent on the only person she knows, the perpetrator. This confusion of time and place is amplified by locking the woman up for sustained periods. If her isolation is sufficiently prolonged, the victim is eventually grateful for any form of human contact, even if it is invasive.

'Are you sure? Just one. You'll still be home in time to watch some rubbish on TV.'

'Yes, go on, you don't need to stay long.'

Ylva laughed, grateful for their nagging.

'No,' she said. 'I'm going to be good.'

'You?' Nour scoffed. 'Why start now?'

'Why not? Variety is the spice of life, isn't it?'

'One glass?'


'You sure?'

Ylva nodded.

'I'm sure,' she said.

'Okay, okay, it's not like you, but okay.'

'See you Monday.'

'Yep. Say hi to the family.'

Ylva stopped and turned round.

'You make it sound like something bad,' she said, and put her hand on her heart with mock innocence.

Nour shook her head.

'No, we're just jealous.'

Ylva took out her iPod and wandered off down the hill. The wires had got tangled and she had to stop to unravel them before popping the earpieces in and selecting the playlist. Music in her ears, eyes straight ahead – the only way to avoid talk about the weather. There was always some chatterbox who was dying for attention and gossip. The dilemma of small-town living.


Excerpted from Never Coming Back by Hans Koppel, Kari Dickson. Copyright © 2011 Hans Koppel. Excerpted by permission of Pegasus Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Never Coming Back: A Novel 2.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
arlenadean More than 1 year ago
By: Hans Koppel Published By: Pegasus Books Age Recommended: Adult Reviewed By: Arlena Dean Rating: 4 Book Blog For: GMTA Review: "Never Coming Back" by Hans Koppel was some novel and even though well written mystery, even though I did find this read a bit disturbing. Be aware that is a sexually graphic so this may not be for the faint hearted. I found "Never Coming Back" of a woman that had been kidnapped...'how her family will cope and her captors behave.' To get the depth of this story you must pick up "Never Coming Back" to see how this author will bring this tale out to the readers. You will find this novel is suspenseful and somewhat unbelievable but in some ways it does seem real. This read does start out slow but does pick up its intense as you read on. If you like mysteries that send you on a roller coaster ride and leaving you entertained or maybe not. then you will have to check this out "Never Coming Back" for yourself to see if this would be a good read for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't have anything good to say about this book!!!! If it wasn't for the pitiful sex scenes and some violence thrown in here and there a fourth grader could read this.