Review: Hannibal – Thomas Harris

thomas harris hannibal cover

Hannibal Lecter #3

SYNOPSIS: Years after his escape, posing as scholarly Dr. Fell, curator of a grand family’s palazzo, Hannibal lives the good life in Florence, playing lovely tunes by serial killer/composer Henry VIII and killing hardly anyone himself. Clarice is unluckier: in the novel’s action-film-like opening scene, she survives an FBI shootout gone wrong, and her nemesis, Paul Krendler, makes her the fall guy. Clarice is suspended, so, unfortunately, the first cop who stumbles on Hannibal is an Italian named Pazzi, who takes after his ancestors, greedy betrayers depicted in Dante’s Inferno. Pazzi is on the take from a character as scary as Hannibal: Mason Verger. When Verger was a young man busted for raping children, his vast wealth saved him from jail. All he needed was psychotherapy–with Dr. Lecter. Thanks to the treatment, Verger is now on a respirator, paralyzed except for one crablike hand, watching his enormous, brutal moray eel swim figure eights and devour fish. His obsession is to feed Lecter to some other brutal pets. – via Goodreads

GRADE 6You all know I absolutely loved the first two Hannibal novels. The Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon were both absolutely brilliant, beautiful, well-structured and very well written. Hannibal Lecter was creepy, freaky, the stories were intense, Will Graham and Clarice Starling were in fine form, the books were, simply, smart and chilling. I have been waiting years to get to this novel (I know, I really need to work on how I prioritise what I read) and I finally got to it. I have praised how loyal the previous movies were to their books, which is amazing. I know that Scott’s Hannibal does not get so much love, and I wondered if that was due to a bad book adaptation or what. Harris is a great writer, and I honestly thought this book would be so much more than it was, but let me tell you, it’s quite the disappointment. It starts strongly, it really does. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the initial setup, there was so much potential. But then the story took on this weird, not-suited life of its own and it went downhill from there. Steeply. It was unbelievable, and not in the grand, oh wow kind of way, either. The writing that had started so crisp and rich dwindled, the story setup and the characters that were so fascinating were quickly thrown aside, Hannibal was brought front and centre and then there was this horrible sense of disappointment because the Hannibal of this novel is so intensely different from the Hannibal that has been set up before. Lecter and Clarice no longer chill and thrill, and that conclusion? People complain about the movie conclusion and then there is this one… the whole thing simply becomes a caricature of what it was, which is a real pity. I feel bad about scoring it what I did, but I cannot possibly score it any higher. It starts with a bang and just loses steam and becomes jilted and silly. I mean Hannibal takes on this whole supernatural power, and then there is the drugging and hypnosis and he cannot be caught (I could deal with it – but it got messy). A large chunk of this novel was simply not credible. I couldn’t buy into it like I could the other two, not to mention that the book itself just wasn’t as engrossing or thrilling as it could have been. What a waste.

14 thoughts on “Review: Hannibal – Thomas Harris

  1. Spot on. I liked it well enough, especially the details of Hannibal’s memory palace and his time in the woods with his sister, and the whole Florence section was very well done, I thought (somewhere on the Internet there is a serious analysis of the Dante/Beatrice relationship in the book). But then it gets … weird. Someone pointed out that Hannibal is really only interesting when he’s behind bars, and I do agree – he says to Starling that ‘i am not a set of influences. nothing made me.’ But ‘Hannibal’ seems to dispute that, giving him a past and a serious case of guilt over his sister, as well as a sexual longing for Starling that wasn’t there before (at least, not at that level). All I can say is, if you didn’t like ‘Hannibal’ avoid – and I mean AVOID – ‘Hannibal Rising’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, I am so glad to see that I am not alone. As you say, there were sections that were great – and then next thing it was sexual, a desperation for Starling and to bring Mischa back, and he would be perfectly fine outside the cell (this book had its moments, but they were all pissed away eventually), but Harris wasted this, COMPLETELY, and made it a case of having Hannibal behind bars at all time would likely be best.

      Oh dear, and I have been so touch and go about whether or not I feel like spending time on that novel – as it is, I don’t even view the film as part of the series… I might have to skip Hannibal Rising then :/

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      1. Hannibal Rising is drivel. The film is also terrible. Instead of a reliance upon Florence and Art and the Renaissance, it’s filled with a lot of Orientalist garbage about Japanese flower-arranging and the beauty of haiku. There is a good book yet to be written about the goings on along the Russian Front at the end of the war, but Hannibal Rising isn’t it.

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  2. Hmm. Well, I don’t like this series as movies at all so I doubt I’d read the books but, yeah – judging by the Hannibal movie it sounds like the book isn’t much better anyway. Great review, Zoe! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh f**king shitknockers, why did they have to go and give Hannibal supernatural powers? That just sounds ridiculous reading about that! My condolences to you for having to read this (although maybe a 6 isn’t so bad but still . . .)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL not necessarily that he HAS them, it just comes across like that, and it freaking blows!

      A 6 is me being far too gracious almost, and because the first half of the book really was good 😦

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