Published in hardback & trade paperback March 2003. Buy at Amazon UK
THE IDEA :
‘~headhunter ~ a person who identifies and recruits personnel to fill business positions, esp. at senior levels and from other firms ~ a member of a people that collects the decapitated heads of defeated enemies.’
THE DUST JACKET :
Europe languishes in the
harsh grip of winter and a serial killer is on the loose. A German
banker dies in a Dusseldorf garden; an American IT consultant in a
Dublin park. Death comes instantly at the point of a silver blade.
THE CHARACTERS :
Adam Lewis is 23, single, works as a junior spot foreign exchange trader at Kapitalbank but not for long, earns £50,000 pa plus a modest bonus, lives with college pals in love Brian and Cheryl in a North West London flatshare, commutes by tube to his London Wall office, drives a five year old Vauxhall Astra, drinks Molson and Beck’s bottled beer, eats from his microwave, wears smart casual gear to work at the bank, reads the Daily Mail and the Standard, listens to Travis and Pulp, votes Labour, visits his parents near Canterbury of a weekend, and is sick of learning how to be a star trader.
Henry Simpson is 38, married to public relations freelancer Amanda, works as a recruitment consultant in his own private firm, earns whatever he decides to pay himself annually, lives without any kids in his £600,000 Islington terraced home, commutes to his Covent Garden third floor office, drives a year old Saab 93 convertible, drinks Evian, San Pellegrino, Ramlosa and Volvic still mineral water, eats Tesco Metro Pasta Carbonara in preference to his wife’s reheated meals, wears conservative dark suits to client meetings, reads the FT jobs pages on a Wednesday and a Thursday, votes Conservative, listens to Vivaldi, visits investment banking clients all over Europe, and is sick of those who waste his time.
Samantha Perry is 24, single, works a position keeper at the global foreign exchange desk of Mitchell Leonberg & Co Inc London, earns £38,000 pa plus a bonus hopefully, lives with her best friend nurse Kerys in an Elephant & Castle 2 bedroom basement flat, commutes to the twenty first floor in Canary Wharf, doesn’t drive a car in crazy London, drinks dry white wine in Corney & Barrow, eats home cooked fried breakfasts in winter, wears black and only black, reads Hello and OK! magazines, listens to Dido and Enrique, votes Labour, visits her divorced mother in Cornwall, and is sick of the constant eyeball attention she gets from the testosterone-ridden primate males on the trading floor.
Bruce Villiers is 39, single, divorced, separated and dating all in one, works as head of the global foreign exchange desk at Mitchell Leonberg & Co. Inc. London, earns six figures sterling pa plus stock options and restricted stock, lives in Notting Hill in his own bachelor pad bought for cash post the divorce, commutes to the twenty first floor in Canary Wharf, drives a varied selection of fast red German cars, drinks snipes of complimentary Moet Champagne on frequent Club Europe flights, eats annually in Michelin 2 starred restaurants in the West End, wears smart casual gear as determined by the firms policy, reads the FT and the IFR, listens to Capital Gold, votes Conservative, visits European capitals on Euromoney conference junkets and is sick of worrying about being discovered.
Diane Rubin is 36, single and always will be, works as head of the exotic FX options desk at Mitchell Leonberg & Co. Inc. New York, earns six figures dollars per annum but then again everyone left on Wall Street does so it's no big deal, lives on the Upper East Side in blissful solitude, commutes downtown by subway to the World Financial Centre, drives only when she has to, drinks iced lemon Gatorade after daily workouts at the gym, eats takeaways and orders in, wears severe dark suits and gloves to match her image, reads the Wall Street Journal, listens to VH1 classics in the background, votes Republican every four years, visits London on business only as a last resort and is sick of waiting for promotion at the firm.
PROLOGUE EXTRACT : (Copyright 2003)
"He follows the target along the wide avenue. A few lost souls stroll in the opposite direction towards the bustling streets outside. The public park closes in fifteen minutes. His timing is perfect.
Notes from a post-mortem examination of a thirty nine-year-old white male. The body was recovered from the lake approximately twelve hours after death. There are multiple stab wounds to the upper torso.
The four-hundred-acre Retiro is at its best in springtime as Madrilenos come to enjoy the free concerts, carriage rides, rose gardens, blooming tulips, horse chestnuts, puppet shows, fortune tellers, red squirrels, open-air cafes, and other impromptu entertainments. White stone figures of the kings and queens of Spain peep out from the park’s lofty trees and thick bushes. This former royal preserve with its palaces and elegant formal gardens is an oasis for the three million inhabitants of this cosmopolitan metropolis.
On the right side of the chest, immediately inferior to the nipple is a deep laceration. This wound is oval in shape and measures 30 x 12 mm, and both ends are pointed. There is a small notch at the mid-point of both edges of the wound. Immediately below this and 5 mm distant from it is a blue/grey bruise with green margins which measures 30 x 20 mm.
Today the park is chill and barren, its branches stripped bare, almost devoid of human life. Its hidden secret paths are shaded and deserted. Darkness pervades. The target draws nearer to El Estanque, a broad lagoon where locals hire paddleboats and canoes in season. Nearby a giant statue of Alfonso XII on horseback stands proudly. No king ever did less to deserve such a grandiose memorial.
Another stab wound entered the right chest cavity, completely penetrating the bone of the sixth rib, perforated the lung and the main pulmonary artery, and terminated in soft tissue to the right of that artery. The wound was accompanied by about 350 millilitres of blood in the chest cavity and about 100 millilitres of blood in the pericardial sac cavity.
The target stands at the edge of the lake. He takes out a paper bag and starts throwing lumps of crusty bread into the stagnant water. There are no ducks. It seems odd. Suddenly masses of fish surge in the putrid water and devour the sodden morsels. They are primarily carp, huge orange aggressors, but also black bass, goldfish and sweet water turtles. There are fifty or more thrashing about in the water, churning it white with surf. The carp are ravenous and bloated to the gills, their teeth sharp and white.
Another stab wound track is 10 cm deep and passes in the interspace between the fourth and fifth ribs to penetrate the right ventricle of the heart. There is a 10 x 2 mm wound to the anterior wall of the left ventricle near its apex and a corresponding 8 x 2 mm wound to the posterior wall. The left chest cavity contains 1,500 millilitres of fresh blood and clot.The two men are alone. He steps towards the target with one specific purpose.
The penetrating wounds of the chest caused comminuted fractures of ribs, with bone fragments driven into the lung substance. The trauma to the visceral and parietal pleura disrupted normal negative intrapleural pressure resulting in pneumothorax. The penetrating wounds caused both direct and indirect injury to structures encountered by the weapon.
The target crumples to the ground without protest, instantly expiring in visible gasps of breath.
The wounds were produced by a weapon with a double-edged blade at least 30 mm wide at a point 10 cm from the tip. The resultant wounds to the heart are inevitably fatal as a consequence of haemorrhage and are expected to produce immediate incapacitation.
He firmly pushes the body with his right foot. The target rolls into the murky water and sinks.
The injuries from these stab wounds are such that death was likely to have been relatively rapid; that is, within several minutes of the infliction of the injuries. The infliction of such wounds required significant force since the weapon was thrust into the chest to a depth of 10 cm and because it involved the penetration of bone.
The fish are confused. They surge about in the water, biting in vain at loose splaying limbs and layers of wet clothing. Their gills sift and strain the red liquid that spurts and spreads into the water.
The mode of death is likely to have involved a combination of breathing impairment from the collapse of the right lung and the inhalation of blood into the right lung, blood loss from both the internal and external haemorrhage and interference with the pumping action of the heart.
He strides to the exit gate on Plaza de la Independencia. An aged park warden padlocks the heavy iron gates to the city behind him. The rain begins.
In my opinion death was the result of a haemorrhage due to multiple homicidal stabs wound to the chest."
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY :
'Kilduff's latest page-turner The Headhunter is a nail-biter not to be missed.' - Sunday Independent
'Kilduff is the master of thrillers set in the world of banking and high finance; The Dealer and Square Mile combined immense verisimilitude with nicely honed storytelling skills, and this latest novel The Headhunter is just as good. Bankers and financiers are dying at the hands of a mysterious serial murderer. The result, inevitably, is great danger for all around. The grafting on of the serial killer theme to the financial thriller ensures that this latest outing for Kilduff is his most exhilarating yet, with the banking milieu convincingly realized and some vivid characters as well as a well-structured plot.' - The Good Book Guide
'I read The Headhunter with great interest and thought it was fantastic.' - Nick Leeson
'Right from chapter one the tension level is set on high, and Kilduff sustains that throughout with the combination of a racing plot and intriguing characters, set against the intoxicatingly glamorous background of international trading. An intelligent, compelling thriller from a writer with great potential.' - Scottish Daily Record
'The Headhunter more than holds the attention.' - Dublin Evening Herald
'The Headhunter is an exciting new read with everything you need to keep you turning the pages. The seedy side of the financial world is exposed with corruption, deception and murder being the main order of the day. It's everything you would expect from the brilliant author who penned The Dealer and The Frontrunner.' - theirishworld.com
'Celebrity authors of the male variety have been somewhat thin on the ground lately but I have recently discovered a real literary star. Paul Kilduff, a former City of London type himself, whose death in the City books Square Mile, The Dealer and his latest, The Headhunter, are quite the best written and most riveting thrillers I have come across in a long while. I even turned off the Oscars on TV recently in favour of The Headhunter and that's really a test!' - Sally Farmiloe, www.hotgossip.co.uk