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


3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,548 ratings  ·  64 reviews
It all starts when Lilah Kemp - librarian, spiritualist, schizophrenic - inadvertantly lets Kurtz out of page 92 of Heart of Darkness and is unable to get him back in.While Kurtz is stalking the streets of Toronto, Lilah frantically begins her search for Marlow to help her deal with the literary villain

Meanwhile, the city is becoming increasingly chaotic and terrifying. Th
Paperback, 440 pages
Published 1994 by Crown Publishers (first published 1993)
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

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,548 ratings  ·  64 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Headhunter
Megan Baxter
Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement.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)
Oct 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: maple-flavoured
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 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
so so behind on my goodreads argh ---- this book made me feel like i used to feel when i read. twisted, complex, rich, engaging, and i loved loved seeing all the familiar streets of my city.
Aug 17, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Ian Carpenter
Jul 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
Couldn't get past the premise of this which drove me crazy. ...more
Heather Dawn Stowell
Jun 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
“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
Jan 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 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) ...more
Dec 09, 2007 rated it liked it
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! ...more
Janet Adams
Nov 16, 2008 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Aug 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 27, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5-4 stars.
What did I just read?
For years, in high school I was told this was a classic to read for its symbolism and because it’s a Canadian author living in Toronto, the story based in Toronto etc. and now 20 years after high school I’ve finally read it.
Wow. There is a lot of disgusting parts, with pedophilia and abuse of many kinds, but not in overt detail thank god. With that said, the whole story is based on shocking the reader. Power over anything else is the basis of this story. At lea
Daniel Kukwa
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: canadian-lit
I wanted to like this so much. Timothy Findley's writing style is dreamy and flows like water...and the core story of Lilah Kemp had me fascinated. Were her powers real, or were they an manifestation of her mental illness? A concise story about her travails would have hit the spot. Unfortunately, this novel surrounds that core story with what feels like a cast of thousands, and a bloated attempt to create an intricate spider web of connections that simply implodes upon itself, resulting in my ey ...more
Grazyna Nawrocka
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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! ...more
Pj Mensel
Jun 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
another bizarre read from Findley about the power of evil and psychiatry. Not for the faint hearted, in fact one of the toughest books to get through due to subject matter and I dont say this lightly.
Robert Armstrong
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
And now I have to re-read Heart of Darkness. You need to dig in a bit, but worth it.
Shawn Bell
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thought it was an original and clever story idea. Even though it is dated to the 90's the ideas and themes still seem relevant today. Great read from a smart Canadian author. ...more
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Layered, insightful, disturbing, and surprisingly effective take on a classic story of good vs. evil.
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
A book of many layers. Infinitely better for those with broad literary knowledge. A good grasp of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is a prerequisite. ...more
Tahina  Ray
It's not the first time I am reading a book where the character of a story comes out of the book, but hey, it's still happening in the book. So, headhunter really hunted my head. It's written very well. I thought it was highly different kind of dystopia, that didn't feel like most other typical dystopia. ...more
Feb 27, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Sep 14, 2010 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
Marilyn Matheny
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
'Nathan Burgoine
Mar 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 23, 2012 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alexander Weber
Sep 07, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Nov 03, 2009 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.
Barbara McEwen
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
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. ...more
« previous 1 3 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
happy ending? 1 8 Aug 08, 2011 09:49AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • In the Skin of a Lion
  • The High Mountains of Portugal
  • Fifth Business (The Deptford Trilogy, #1)
  • The Magician's Diary (Glass and Steele, #4)
  • Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson
  • The Beauty and the Beast
  • Bellman & Black
  • Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries
  • The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts
  • A Spot of Bother
  • No Great Mischief
  • The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age
  • The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere, #1)
  • The Tale of the Body Thief (The Vampire Chronicles, #4)
  • The Elfstones of Shannara  (The Original Shannara Trilogy, #2)
  • Ayoade on Top
  • Beatrice and Virgil
  • Arch of Triumph: A Novel of a Man Without a Country
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

If you ask us, it's always the perfect time to lose yourself in a page-turning mystery. To help you sleuth out a new read, we asked the...
93 likes · 85 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »