Overlong and overwrought, yet compelling and powerful, Findley's ambitious chronicle of a society gone amok with greed, depravity and moral emptiness is sometimes maddeningly diffuse but always intriguing. The setting is a slightly futuristic Toronto, a city in the grip of an epidemic called sturnusemia, purportedly carried by starlings, who are being exterminated by death squads using a lethal spray. AIDS has run rampant; art, music and literature have become decadent. In this surreal landscape, Lilah Kemp, a former librarian suffering from schizophrenia, has ``inadvertently set Kurtz free from page 92 of Heart of Darkness. '' Rupert Kurtz, the latter-day incarnation of Conrad's epitome of evil, runs the city's leading psychiatric hospital. Brilliant but demented, Kurtz is secretly conducting drug experiments at his clinic, and he is also a member of the Club of Men, pornographers who do unspeakable things to children. Since his clients and co-conspirators all come from the wealthy and powerful segment of Toronto society (which Findley portrays with acidulous satire), Kurtz seems to be indestructible. But then, as he must, Marlow arrives: psychiatrist Charlie Marlow comes to the institute and finally vanquishes Kurtz once again. An hallucinatory, menacing tone permeates this complex tale. Some passages are brilliant, glittering with insights, while others bear the marks of haste and melodramatic excess. There are a stupefying number of characters and subplots. On the other hand, Findley ( Famous Last Words ) creates witty literary allusions: one character is a contemporary Emma Bovary; another is named Jay Gatz. His subtext is the power of literature: ``We write each other's lives--by means of fictions . . . This way we point the way to darkness--saying: come with me into the light.'' Despite its many faults, the novel (a bestseller in Canada) is empowered by anger; it is a stirring indictment of the amorality that Findley sees as the plague that will usher out the 20th century. (Apr.)
An Edgar Award winner for The Telling of Tales (Delacorte, 1988), Findley here conjures up a spiritualist who manages to release Kurtz from the pages of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness --but can't get him back in.
Award-winning Canadian author Findley has written a powerful, brilliantly conceived, spellbinding story that will mesmerize readers from first page to last. Lilah Kemp, self-proclaimed psychic and sometime mental patient, accidentally lets the evil Kurtz escape from Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" and is compelled to find a Marlow to capture Kurtz and return him to the pages where he belongs. In Lilah's real life, Kurtz takes the form of Chief Psychiatrist at Toronto's Parkin Institute of Psychiatric Research, and the Marlow she needs to conquer Kurtz is a staff member there. Kurtz is a diabolical man, playing with the minds of some of Toronto's richest and most powerful men and women--three beautiful and ethereal sisters, a renowned society photographer, a wealthy recluse, a secret pederast. And while Kurtz preys on victims in his consulting rooms, outside in Toronto strange things are happening: A terrible killer disease called sturnesemia is rampant, the D-Squads bring their tanks of destruction through the streets, and the city's adolescents are rendered mute by a mysterious affliction. At once dazzling, mind-blowing, and unrelentingly grim, "Headhunter" is a wonderfully dark satire, a horrifying tale of decadence and evil, and a savagely witty commentary on human society. Watch for this one at or near the top of next year's best-book lists.