|A scene from Headhunters (2011), based on Jo Nesbo's novel|
Authors of a substantial corpus of popular police procedurals or featuring a homicide detective must relish the opportunity to leave the dictates of the genre and experiment with freestanding fiction. The internationally best-selling Norwegian crime writer, Jo Nesbo, who has churned out nine Harry Hole (pronounced Hurler) thrillers, has drawn upon some of his familiar trademarks – gruesome scenes, black humour, fast pacing and intricate plotting – to produce a pared down caper story Headhunters (2008, translated into English 2011, Vintage Canada). The British Canadian writer, Peter Robinson, best known for his successful nineteen novels about Chief Inspector Alan Banks of the Yorkshire police force, has recently released his third standalone, Before the Poison (McClelland & Stewart, 2011), a worthy winner of the 2013 Pilys Award for best mystery. Despite the vast differences in structure, style and narrative, what is similar about these novels is the function that ghosts play in propelling the narrative.