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Houdini Heart

Houdini Heart [Kindle Edition]

Ki Longfellow
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

HOUDINI HEART harkens back to the masters of suspenseful supernatural horror: Poe, Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, but speaks with a wholly fresh voice. Once caught in its pages, there's no escaping Longfellow's terrible tale. Weeks ago, she was one of Hollywood's biggest writers, wed to one of its greatest stars. The doting mother of their golden child. But now? She's alone, tortured by a horrifying secret no woman could bear. Pursued by those she can't outrun, anguished by a guilt she can't endure, and driven close to madness, she flees to the one place she's ever called home: a small town in Vermont where River House still stands. To a child, the splendid hotel was mysterious and magical and all its glamorous guests knew delicious secrets. Cocooned in its walls, she will write one last book. Her atonement? Or her suicide note? But life is never as you dream it, and River House isn't what she'd always imagined it was. Intense, literary, and harrowing, Houdini Heart is a tale of bone-chilling horror, emotional torment, and psychological terror. Gripped by River House, trapped in an aging hotel of mirrors only Houdini could escape, how much can haunt a mind before it too is only a thing once imagined? "A haunting and disturbing journey through the psyche."—Erika Mailman, Author of "The Witch's Trinity"

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 755 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0975925512
  • Publisher: Eio Books (24 May 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0052NAOY2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #363,098 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

For the author's personal site see

For "The Secret Magdalene" see

For "Flow Down Like Silver" see

For "Houdini Heart" see

For "China Blues" see

From the age of four, Ki Longfellow knew what she wanted to be...a writer. Or a painter. Writing won. Born on Staten Island, New York, to a French-Irish mother and an Iroquois father, she grew up in Hawaii and Marin County, California, but ended up living in France and England for many years. She is the widow of a British national treasure, the complete artist Vivian Stanshall, who dreamed her name was Ki. Ki created and sailed the Thekla, a 180 foot Baltic Trader, to Bristol, England where it became the Old Profanity Showboat. It remains there today as a Bristol landmark. On it, she and Vivian wrote and staged a magical and surreal musical: "Stinkfoot, a Comic Opera." The musical garnered a host of delighted, if slightly puzzled, national reviews. Her first book, "China Blues," was the subject of a bidding war. "China Blues," and her second novel, "Chasing Women," introduced Longfellow to Hollywood...a long hard but ultimately fascinating trip.

When Vivian died, Ki stopped writing. Time may not heal, but it tempers, and when Ki began writing again, she chose the figure of Mary Magdalene to speak of the the Divine Feminine in her novel "The Secret Magdalene." Nancy Savoca, a brilliant independent film maker (winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize with her first film, "True Love") holds the option on the book as her next film. "The Secret Magdalene" is currently in pre-production.

Ki's second book in her Divine Feminine series is "Flow Down Like Silver," a novel about the numinous and gifted Hypatia of Alexandria, a tragically ignored woman of towering intellect who searched through intellect for what Mary Magdalene knew in her heart. On June 23, 2011, "Flow Down Like Silver" was presented at a conference in Genoa, Italy, one of only two novels in a gathering of serious scholars. (The other being that written by Charles Kingsley, author of "The Water Babies.")

She is now at work on the third and last book in this series: "The Time of the Bee."

Meanwhile, in 2011, Longfellow's first book of psychological horror was published: "Houdini Heart." A stunning departure from her usual work, it's been favorably compared to Shirley Jackson and was considered for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel.

Her first book, "China Blues," has just been reissued by Eio Books.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars What a crock! 22 April 2013
By Peachy
Format:Kindle Edition
The folk that gave this book five stars must be of the same ilk as those that look at a blank canvas abstract and prattle on about how wonderful it is.Sorry,but I thought it was absolute tosh.
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I discovered Ki Longfellow's writings through being a llifelong admirer of her late husband, Vivian Stanshall. This novel takes Longfellow down a new path and shows what a versatile and original writer she is. The story is told by one "voice" - a woman whose name the reader does not learn, yet one who becomes an instantly tangible character, as does the strange house which fascinated her as a child and which she has now run back to. There are references to the likes of Alfred Hitchcock within, and there's no doubt in my mind that Houdini Heart would make a fine film, but surely a classic scary tale like this will always work best when the scenes are played out in the mind of the reader. I have no reservation in giving this book five stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Follow the (Long)fellow..I am now. 4 Aug 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
I came across this book in a random way and downloaded the sample to my kindle. Was enthralled enough by what I read that I just had to know more.
Wasn't disappointed at all. The 'taster' delivered. Instead of being just a teasing sample, it followed through and held me in a deliciously gripping vice. Hauntingly beautifully written.
I hadn't known of Ki Longfellow before this......Shall certainly follow her now!

Houdini Heart
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Format:Kindle Edition
Ki Longfellow, best known for historical fiction, switches to murder and mystery in a contemporary psychological tailspin that will leave you breathless. Is this a haunted hotel, or the deranged mind of a woman on the run? Equal parts past and present, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic in the making, mark my words 8 May 2011
By Ellis Creez - Published on
As in love as I am with Longfellow's extraordinary historical and mystical novels The Secret Magdalene: A Novel and Flow Down Like Silver (Hypatia of Alexandria), I was surprised to find she has written a horror story. Since I happen to like horror, and because this is Longfellow, I read the book. How do I feel? In a word, haunted. I think I mean in the way one is haunted by the works of Shirley Jackson. Houdini Heart is truly one of a kind, even if compared to Jackson. In it, Longfellow's lead character is helpless, funny, resourceful, perhaps mad, perhaps not, and deadly, a thrilling combination. A writer lost in her own creations, or a woman lost in the "real" world? I never knew for sure. All I know now is that within a few pages I was as lost in the witty, literate, eerie and terrifying world Longfellow made of the Vermont town of Little Sokoki (where River House "still stands") as the woman whose story this is. I'm also deeply impressed that Longfellow can switch writing styles with such seeming ease. This is written in a voice totally unlike her historical work. It's deceptively light until it grows deceptively darker and darker...and darker. I suspect Longfellow is haunted, or was. Perhaps this book has exorcised some of those demons. Perhaps not. But I have little doubt that once discovered, Houdini Heart, a masterful blend of elegant literary fiction and deeply creepy genre fiction, will become a classic.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterful and Chilling Rabbit Hole of Madness. 7 Jun 2011
By William Kates - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of those books that takes you very gently down a seductive path that gradually entangles you in brambles of increasing identifiableness and madness, then won't let you go. Ki Longfellow Stanshall's first person narrator weaves you into a world that may seem perfectly ordinary at first, but as her skewed universe is fleshed out, the things that are wrong slowly snowball into a full blown inner view of psychosis. This lady is driving the car, but you can't get out.

I don't know any other book with a story vector quite so perfectly paced. It's rather like swimming in a clear, serene pond, floating languidly, amidst a mastery of language and descriptors delicious, rich and funny as Tom Robins, Thomas Pynchon, or even sometimes Joyce, and almost lazily sensual. But as one floats, the sense of a current slowly and subtly increases, until before you know it, it's as though you're swirling in a mad blender with blades swirling beneath the surface that are sure to chop you up. You want to scream for it to stop, but it's so beautifully and masterfully done that you need to see what happens next.

Flashing between the glamor of Hollywood and a small, bucolic town in Vermont, this book's protagonist invites empathy even as she leads you into her full blown insanity. She's a monster you've never met, yet somehow you know. By the time she's done with you, you've gone through her three dimensional circus of dementia right along with her.

If you like Steven King, Lovecraft, Alfred Hitchcock movies, and even a touch of Jaqueline Suzanne, this is a dark, lovely, wonderful and harrowing tale full of movie stars, sardonic humor and good old fashioned horror. It shakes you up, and then spits you out more than a little changed. Devilish fun. Highly recommended.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly a Heart of Darkness 23 May 2011
By Wyatt at Pan Historia - Published on
'Houdini Heart' is a sinister trip through corridors of illusion. A woman, running away from her past, moves into a haunted building. From the first page this journey into the heart of darkness draws you in, and even when you MUST take a break from reading, dwells within you, so that you have to return to the book, and find out what is waiting in the River House. It never disappoints.

Exploring the rooms and hallways of River House with our 'heroine' is either a trip into madness, or a literary haunting, or both. In the end it is up to you to decide, but this story will leave you tingling. Even days after putting it down 'Houdini Heart' still haunts me.

I have read Ms. Longfellow's other books, and this one is certainly a departure from her most recent historical novels. Those books are full of the search for inner knowledge and enlightenment, gnosis even. But in 'Houdini Heart' this writer steps into the darkness of the human psyche, but with no less of sure step and deep inner knowing of the vagaries of the human mind and heart. It makes sense that someone so familiar with the light inside us should also be able to reveal the dark with such a deft and chilling touch.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I like this writer, but this book has some serious flaws 17 Oct 2013
By td Whittle - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a fun piece of fiction + meta fiction, and stories-within-stories, but overall, it did not thrill me. Also, unlike many of the works which the narrator discusses, and which the author evokes within the book, it did not scare me. I think it was trying too hard. I could see every nail as the author hammered it into the board, and much of it felt contrived and over-worked. I felt outside the story, consistently, never immersed ... Except: yes, when the narrator spoke of her family and her life before her recent tenancy at River House.

The main story is about a novelist and screenwriter whose name we never learn, who returns to the town of her childhood and takes up residence in the once-grand-now-dilapidated River House, to live out what we are told from the start will be her final days. The book is told in first person, and we are never allowed out of the narrator's head, which can become tedious and claustrophobic at times. We enter the narrator's life at a crisis point, as she is immersed in a tragedy and is not out of danger. Also, we learn pretty quickly, she herself has the potential to be dangerous: she is on the run, hiding from the public, drinking heavily, experiencing time-loss and black-outs, rapidly losing her sense of reality, and has nothing left to lose (or, so she believes). Her experiences in River House are either a result of encroaching madness, or they are really happening. Reality is a slippery concept in this book.

All of this presents, initially, an intriguing set-up. I expected to enjoy the ride much more than I did. Come to think of it, a carnival ride through a tunnel of horror is a rather apt metaphor for this book -- darkness; speed-and-stillness-and-speed; things lurking around corners, so that we brush up against them as we pass. Unfortunately, I think that the author over-played her hand in regard to the allusions to (and illusions of) characters, scenes, and dialogue from classic works of literature and film by Alfred Hitchcock, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Roman Polanski, et al. I believe that it is a mistake to borrow so heavily from writers and artists whose talent is so formidable, as it can only evoke a comparison to the writer who does so. In this case, I began to feel as if I were reading fan fiction -- and I really loathe fan fiction, and the sort of books which inspire it. (My only exception to this, so far, is if one considers Jean Rhys's "Wide Sargasso Sea" fan fiction; which, in a way, it is.)

Also, it takes considerable skill and sophistication to invoke the spirits of real people from the past and breath life into them. Some writers are masterful at this (for instance: Colm Toibin's "The Master", Peter Ackroyd's "Poe: A Life Cut Short", and Pearl Buck's "Imperial Woman"). I felt that Longfellow was not up to the task. Her invocations of Louise Brooks, Harry Houdini, et al. are awkward and flat, and seem phony even within the constantly-shifting, uncertain reality of the narrative.

Okay now, having said all of that ... Longfellow has moments of great beauty in her writing, and she has tried to accomplish something very complex here with her nested-box narrative. I respect her for that. Also, while I found her major narrative concept unwieldy -- and I cannot speak in any depth about that without spoiling the plot -- I found her use of folklore and fairy tale very powerful. She wrote a gorgeous fairy tale that is one of the stories-within-the-story, which she tells us is part of her book The Windigo's Daughter. It would make a wonderful inclusion in a book of modern fairy tales or folklore, and she uses it to great effect. In this way, she invites comparisons to Angela Carter, most especially Carter's "The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories", in that her female is a strong, bloody-minded, self-possessed, and rather unstoppable life force.

The second-best story-within-the-story is the unfolding revelation of the narrator's recent and distant past, bringing us tensely ever-closer to her present predicament. This part is well written and emotionally enthralling. Longfellow builds the dramatic tension with flair, and even though I knew what was coming, it did not lessen the impact of its arrival. With this part of the story, I got the denouement I expected. After all, the narrator had warned me time and again ... But the how still had an impact. The devil is always in the details, right?

Of the three narrative strands (1. the narrator's present life at River House, 2. her recent and distant past, and 3. her tale of the Windigo's Daughter), the weakest of these is also the most crucial: the macabre and distorted un-reality of existence at River House. Even her over-arching metaphor, the Houdini Heart of the title, does not work. As applied to the main character, the only thing Houdini-like is how the author contorts herself to make the idea fit. Comparing a person, or her heart, to Houdini, is a hackneyed cliché, implying that the Houdini-like individual is able to escape any situation, however difficult, and that she can fool others whilst carrying out the deed.

Even as a cliché, it never does fit. Our narrator may be a cunning and shrewd survivor, who is at times able to fool others just long enough to carry out her aims; but by the time we enter her life, she is also a mess of a human being who can barely hold herself together long enough to carry on a conversation that doesn't seem edged with crazy. In fact, she worries constantly about the crazy seeping through, because others noticing how unhinged she is could disrupt her plans. There is no amazing escapist trickery going on here, only someone living moment-to-moment, willing to do whatever it takes to be the master of her final destiny, rather than its victim. The Houdini metaphor fits her like some gawky, shapeless set of garments borrowed from someone else's closet. As a writing problem, this is similar to the one I mentioned before about Longfellow's awkward use of borrowed characters and dialogue from artists whose work she admires, and to whom she is intending to pay tribute.

I will read something else of Ki Longfellow's though. I liked many things about her writing. She uses dark humour to good effect, and she interests me as a writer, the way her mind works. I very much enjoyed her meta-fictional perspective on writing and writers, and her bleak, funny, and apt reflections about artists who suicide. This is experimental fiction, and likely to fall flat in places. I expected that, once I began reading. I thought the book too flawed in its execution to be worth more than three stars (which, for me, means I liked it well enough to read it to the end, but that's all).

Strangely, I kept expecting to like it more, so I broke my own 100-page rule (which is that, if a book hasn't fully captivated my by page 100, it goes into the rubbish bin or off to the Salvation Army). Reflecting on this, I believe my continuing faith in it was solely due to the strength of the stories that were not focused on River House or Little Sokoki (the town). In the end, though -- and let's not talk about the end -- I felt that it did not hold together as a structurally integrated work, but stumbled up the down staircase like some wild, galumphing monster from Sendak.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed the hell out of it 8 Feb 2012
By Lee Thompson - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
4.5 stars. Loved the symbolism, metaphors, vivid imagery and Ki has a very easy-to-read style. The sub-text in certain passages rattled me. And I enjoyed the mystery of it all--I think too many writers spell things out too soon or too easily and this story doesn't. Definitely quiet horror, which I find much more chilling than the over-the-top, in-your-face variety. Don't want to give away any spoilers, which would be easy to do since everything is connected. I suggest you just go purchase it.
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