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She's Never Coming Back
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Book Synopsis

When Ylva, a loving mother and wife, fails to come home from work, her husband is not initially suspicious.  But as time passes he becomes frantic with worry.  And by the time he finally contacts the police, he is almost hysterical.  Given the mysterious circumstances of her disappearance, he becomes the number one suspect.

But what no one knows is that she's being held hostage in the cellar of the house opposite her own.

A camera is rigged against her house and Ylva can only watch her family on the screen.  They cannot see her - and they most certainly cannot hear her scream ...

Book Review

It didn't really come as much of a surprise that somebody has taken up the "girl in the cellar" storyline, although in SHE'S NEVER COMING BACK the victim is an adult woman, kidnapped on her way home from work, held in the cellar of the house opposite her own home.

Talking about this book is going to be a balancing act, as without giving away too much, there was just so much about it that simply did not work, that actually worried me.  Worried me to the point where I got my partner to sit down and read it as well, so that we were then able to discuss the concerns that, in the end, we both shared.

I don't think it's giving too much away to suggest there's something profoundly "film script" about this book.  From the initial kidnapping, the perfect family and picturesque location that Ylva lives in, through to the use of a camera to allow her to see snippets of her family life, the book is clearly telegraphing the look, and the feel of a film.  Whilst that's not necessarily always a bad thing, in this case there were a number of elements of the plot that just seemed too strongly geared towards the "film", with so many things left unexplained when there was plenty of space for explanation.

The characterisation of the victim was, not to put too fine a point on it, decidedly dodgy.  An adult woman, known to have been unfaithful to her husband in the past, there was some subtle undercurrent throughout the book that seemed to be drawing the reader's attention constantly to her sexual past, veering dangerously close to victim blaming.  Having said that, there were a lot of extremely disconcerting female characterisations going on.  The women in this book all seemed to be either morally ambiguous, sainted angels or barking mad.  Not that many of the male characters fared a lot better - they were sooks, ineffectual, complicit (and in one very notable case, complicit in the face of professional expertise that should have had him running for the straight-jackets, the hills or both).  

Nothing in the motivation for the kidnapping, or in the manipulation and cruelty once Ylva was captive made much sense.  The motivation was unconvincing, the supposed execution of the plan for her fate flew in the face of the "blueprint" being followed, and there were simply too many daft or missed opportunities, over the top or flat out unbelievable actions and way too many convenient lapses to allow even a smidgen of willing suspension of disbelief.  Instead, there were so many glaring holes in the plot and inconsistencies in the characterisations that these readers became increasingly incredulous and profoundly frustrated and annoyed.  Annoyed to the point where the evening after finishing the book we found ourselves carefully working through the "blueprint" and how you would go about addressing the requirements properly.  Thankfully we don't have any neighbours to freak out and there's no chance we'd ever be able to dig a cellar through the quartz layer around these parts, as I doubt it would have been an easy conversation or stack of notes to explain to the local constabulary.

Perhaps it's more a book for somebody looking for a film-styled thriller, with some carefully choreographed graphic cruelty and sexual violence, a blatantly manipulative happy ever after ending, built around a very current day scenario.  It was a undoubtedly a very quick read.  But for this reader (actually these readers) there were so many aspects of the plot and characterisations that were simply too far a stretch to be believable, plausible, justifiable or palatable.

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