Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Headhunter” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  1,317 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
It doesn't take long to discover the literary classic at the heart of Timothy Findley's dystopian novel Headhunter. Lilah Kemp, schizophrenic and one of a triumvirate of main characters, announces in the opening scene that she may have released the character of Kurtz from the pages of Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness. Add to this fantastic formula a couple of psychi ...more
Hardcover, 440 pages
Published 1993 by Harper Collins
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Headhunter, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Headhunter

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Megan Baxter
Mar 04, 2012 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Headhunter is not a book to read if you want the word "settled" to enter your vocabulary any time in the near future. It is perhaps as unsettling a book as I am willing to read, and yet, I've read it three or four times now. It keeps drawing me back, for all its horror.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Jennifer (aka EM)
This book hurt my head and my heart and turned my stomach - I guess that`s an appropriate response to a tale of the evil that lurks in the heart of men (and women, but here mostly men).

Headhunter is an inventive and possibly even brilliant re-telling of Heart of Darkness, set in Toronto at the Parkin Institute -- a thinly-veiled Clarke Institute of Psychiatry -- with Kurtz (yes, really) re-cast as the Parkin`s head psychiatrist, who has gone wayyyyyy up the river and over the edge into madness
Wendy Baxter
Mar 12, 2008 Wendy Baxter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Definitely not recommended to my students. But my favourite of his books. Is that a terrible thing to say? It's kind of a terrible book. I mean, given its topic. But it is so well written that I couldn't help admiring it. For which I feel guilty. How does he get into the heads of those kinds of people?? And he makes the reader go there too!! yoikes! But yet you want to. Clearly, a master writer.
Aug 17, 2011 Shadallark rated it it was ok
Recommended to Shadallark by: Lesley
Shelves: canadiana
This was a rather disturbing, somewhat incongruous, at times hard to follow journey through the lives of many people. The book was okay, the material covered was reasonably portrayed but rather disturbing, but all in all it did not engage me or keep me on the edge of my seat. I had been recommended this book by someone who said that Timothy Findley is a similar author to Robertson Davies... I failed to feel the connection. Perhaps if I were to read some other books by Findley I might see the sim ...more
“Headhunter,” is placed somewhere in the near future. Too close for comfort, I would say as this social dystopian novel looks at two elements; 1. species extinction as hallmarks for environmental collapse almost as closely as it examines the background behind 2. child pornography. (It asks the questions we find hard to ask as a community – what is the difference between deliberate apathy and obedience by likening the turning of a blind eye towards the bird pandemic and when society ignored the ...more
Findlay is brilliant, but this wasn't one of my faves of his. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it. The parallels between this book and Heart of Darkness were fascinating. The discussion of 'madness' was interesting as well. The part I struggled with was the extremely disturbing sexual behaviours of some of the characters. I realize that to explore a theme of 'sex as power' these character's behaviours were necessary to the book, but it was just too edgy for me in some places.I found the ending to be a bit ...more
Mar 19, 2007 Claire rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, so it's wierd and pretty graphic...I still loved it! Set at CAMH in Toronto, future where the birds are all killed to save us from disease, following a new pair of Marlow and Kurtz facing off as they always do (ref: Heart of Darkness)
Janet Adams
Of the three Findlay books I read, this was the least interesting to me. I didn't find that the narrator held together, nor were any of the characters developed enough for me to care. Certainly not the way I did with Not Wanted on the Voyage or even Famous Last Words.
A good book but most disturbing and depressive. Don't read it in winter when it is too dark if you live far from the tropics! and also don't read it in Vancouver or anywhere close to the wet west coast!
Aug 06, 2007 Lux rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: timothyfindley
Headhunter is fantastic. It is a story that takes you deep into our heart of darkness. This is a must-read for any fan of the author.
Aug 18, 2013 Matthec rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a reread for me. I have been reading a lot of short fiction lately and want to sink into a long novel written by a Canadian.
Grazyna Nawrocka
Was it more of an etude or variation? I still don't know. You see, I have not read yet "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad. It's next on my list to read. From the beginning I have enjoyed the idea of taking characters from different literary works and mixing them together in different times and environment, but putting it all in the environment of mental health institution made the whole concept irresistible to me. It was a pure joy to read this book!
Sep 14, 2010 Blair rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a gripping story about a group of high-class elite in a dystopian-set Toronto. Wealth and power minus souls or empathy for the human race. The protagonist and antagonist in this book share the famous names of former fictional characters: Kurtz and Marlow a la Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness". Their relationship is much the same as the originals. A bird-flu disease, psychiatric hospitals and patients, halluncinated fictional literary characters and The Club of Men. Findley's prose is ...more
Feb 27, 2009 Catherine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian, fiction
I came to this book for Lilah Kemp, billed as the protagonist who unwittingly releases fictional characters from literary classics. She does not figure as prominently as expected. The book explores some interesting territory, particularly if you're able to recognize the literary references (not sure if I got them all). However, the book also explores some very horrible material, of a disturbing and sexual nature (abuse of power, sexual violence, pedophilia, etc.). I'm not sure that the interesti ...more
Oct 23, 2012 Claire rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alexander Weber
Closer to 3.5 stars.
Really good read, and surprisingly fast for its size.
There isn't really a main character, but Lilah Kemp is sort of a main protagonist, who lets out Kurtz from Heart of Darkness, and needs to find her Marlow. The book follows many characters, including Kurtz and Marlow, both of whom are psychiatrists in Toronto. Marlow's quest down the 'amazon' into darkness reveals the horrors of a Club of Men doing terrible things to children and somehow Kurtz is all behind it. Super fun re
Nathan Burgoine
Mar 20, 2012 Nathan Burgoine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Liliah Kemp, librarian, spiritualist, schizophrenic, inadvertently lets Kurtz out of page 92 of "Heart of Darkness" and onto the streets of a slightly future-set Toronto streets.

The counterpoint of "Is she just insane or not?" comes into focus when the city suddenly starts falling apart, with flocks of disease-carrying birds, the rich are becoming even more depraved, and Lilah tries to hunt down a Marlow... And is Kurtz the new head of the psychiatric hospital?

Awesome reading experience.
Marilyn Matheny
Jul 15, 2008 Marilyn Matheny rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Heart of Darkness readers, psychologists, psychiatrists
Shelves: i-own-this
I loved this book. I found it in a second hand bookstore and after a few seconds of browsing in it, I was captured. In the first paragraph: "Lilah Kemp inadvertently set Kurtz free from page 92 of Heart of Darkness. Horror-stricken she tried to force him back between the covers." I had to find out how that came out. I was glad it did.

It has become one of my current top three favorite books. The others are: Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley and The Instance of the Fingerpost by Ian Pears. They are all
Barbara McEwen
Aug 03, 2011 Barbara McEwen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, forget Conrad, I want to read more Findley. His writing is impressive and I love the characters, especially Lilah Kemp. I have a real soft-spot for Lilah. I can't help appreciating that Findley chose not to portray schizophrenics as the violent psychopaths they are often portrayed as in the media.
Jul 24, 2014 Patriciafoltz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have loved this author for a long time. Unfortunately it is difficult to find his books. This one was amazing. About the blurred line between sanity and insanity, the misuse of power and how we destroy ourselves and our earth. Fabulous book. Off to search for the rest of his books thru secondary sellers via Amazon. Library doesn't have them
Nov 03, 2009 Guy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was actually disappointed when I read this book. I suspect that it is actually very good, but coming after Famous Last Words and especially Not Wanted on the Voyage I had wanted it to be different that what it is -- which is unfair to the book and my reading it. So, it is on a very back burner of my to be re-read shelf.
Nov 03, 2016 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a long time to like this book. As much as I love books set in Toronto - and I loved that about this book I found that it took a long time to pull together to a point where I was enjoying the story. I really enjoyed the last 100pages or so - It was more the ideas and questions raised in the book that I found the most compelling rather than the story or the characters.
Heart of Darkness (and The Great Gatsby) for an ageing civilisation that hasn't learned from history. Eerie and effective, but scattered a little more than need be for the desired effect and ultimately will leave you primarily with the longing to re-read Conrad who says it all better.
Mar 19, 2007 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
great book... particularly interesting because I can picture many of the places that are described since it's set in Toronto. always interesting to read books where the main character is a little crazy...
Elyse T.
Jan 27, 2015 Elyse T. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Headhunter was a great dive into a myth-like Toronto inhabited by the ghosts of our favorite reading material. At once a tribute to the great characters that have all guided our lives, and a dark but necessary look at the inherent madness we ourselves impose on our society.
Jan 13, 2013 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this novel. I enjoyed the literary allusions... or rather intrusions... that cropped up through. I enjoyed the near portents of the future. I just found it an amazing read with compelling characters.
Jan 21, 2009 Dbraico rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book was pretty trippy. really confusing to me. is the guy in the book in real life or is the woman just going crazy kind of confusing. read it when i was younger. may need to read it again if i can find it.
Jan 08, 2012 Dana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disturbingly beautiful.

Even if you cannot condone the dark matter within the pages, Findley's ability to weave an intricate an compelling tale is undeniable.

One of my favorite authors. I was delighted to make his acquaintance after he read from this novel at the University of Calgary.
Jan 19, 2011 Lorna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read it three times. It's that good.
Loretta Lee
May 16, 2013 Loretta Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this might be my new favorite book! What a tale - what style! This is my first Findley book, but sure not to be my last!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
happy ending? 1 7 Aug 08, 2011 09:49AM  
  • A Bird in the House
  • Joshua Then and Now
  • As for Me and My House
  • Leaven of Malice (Salterton Trilogy, #2)
  • George And Rue
  • The Rules of Engagement
  • Lives of the Saints
  • Who Has Seen the Wind
  • Two Solitudes
  • The Last Crossing
  • Norman Bray, In the Performance of His Life
  • Cabbagetown
  • The Underpainter
  • Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature
Timothy Irving Frederick Findley was a Canadian novelist and playwright. He was also informally known by the nickname Tiff or Tiffy, an acronym of his initials.

One of three sons, Findley was born in Toronto, Ontario, to Allan Gilmour Findley, a stockbroker, and his wife, the former Margaret Maude Bull. His paternal grandfather was president of Massey-Harris, the farm-machinery company. He was rais
More about Timothy Findley...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »