|Initially Published In||1984|
|Publisher||W H Allen & Co.|
|Formats Available||Paperback, Hardcover|
Headhunter is a murder mystery, a psychological thriller, a whodunit and a horror story with plenty of details of police investigation procedures and methods. The novel is based in Vancouver, Canada in the 1980s and revolves around a set of grisly murders of young women, whose bodies are found headless. While the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is investigating, more victims are discovered. Graphic violence, traumatized bodies, and perverted sex are all depicted with powerful imagery in this extremely well-written book.
I have read Headhunter three times, and each time I am gripped by the narrative and held spellbound even though I knew the ending.
“This is, beyond all doubt, a real chiller!”
— Robert Bloch, author of Psycho
In the winter of 1982, two highly mutilated bodies of young women are discovered in Vancouver city, in rapid succession. A special ‘Headhunter Squad’ is formed within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), with their best investigators. The Headhunter Squad is led by Robert DeClercq, a retired RCMP detective with a great reputation and the history of a personal tragedy.
Various mini-teams of the Headhunter Squad work on possible threads of investigation leading them to drug gangs, voodoo rituals, and so on. While the investigation is ongoing, the murderer adds more victims. This brings on a pall of fear in the city and the Headhunter Squad is under political pressure to deliver.
The readers are also given periodic glimpses into the working of the murderer, without the identity being revealed. Some part of the murderer’s family tree is also explored. In addition to violence, there seems to be a family history of depraved sexual behavior.
The most interesting part of Headhunter that distinguishes it from similar books is the the ending. The tautness never slacks as the climax builds up. Once the identity of the murderer is revealed, the reader is tempted to scramble back to the earlier pages of the novel to see “how did I miss the clues?” And then realize that there is no inconsistency.
Headhunter is definitely worth a read.
About the author
Michael Slade is the pen name used by a group of authors, with the Canadian novelist Jay Clarke being the main writer under this pen name. Jay Clarke is a lawyer who specializes in criminal insanity. Some of the other authors (writing under the same pen name) are John Banks, Rebecca Clarke, and Richard Covell.
Michael Slade has published a series called ‘Special X’ revolving around a fictional group of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. These novels describe the investigators’ methods of working while they track down fugitives, typically mentally deranged murderers.
Slade’s novel Ghoul is another book that is highly recommended.
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