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.

Review: The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris

the silence of the lambs book cover

Hannibal Lecter #2

FBI trainee Clarice Starling is working hard to prove herself and make something of herself at the Bureau. Head of the Behavioural Unit is Jack Crawford, who calls Clarice in to set her on an assignment. The assignment? To talk to convicted serial killer, psychiatrist and cannibal, Dr Hannibal Lecter. Just a routine interview for their databases, nothing more. Clarice is unsure as to why she would be requested to do this considering that Lecter has not spoken to anyone in years. Regardless, she goes to meet Lecter, who surprisingly meets with her and talks to her. He sends her on a mission which ultimately culminates in her discovering a severed head and a whole lot of new questions.

Crawford, meanwhile, is hunting Buffalo Bill, a serial killer that is skinning women and dumping their bodies in rivers. He needs to find him. Lecter wishes to help with the Buffalo Bill case, but Clarice knows nothing of it and is not there for that. After her meeting with Lecter, Crawford takes her with to a crime scene of a victim of Buffalo Bill, a young girl, and Clarice is asked to fingerprint the deceased and inspect the body. Lodged in the girl’s throat she finds a moth, which opens up a new avenue for them to explore. Crawford, meanwhile, dismisses anything and everything that Clarice tells him Lecter told her in connection with the Buffalo Bill case, not wanting any help from the madman he despises.

Catherine Baker Martin, the daughter of a powerful senator, goes missing, and it is soon established that Buffalo Bill is the man who took her. Crawford relents and decides that they are going to have to work the angle of using Hannibal Lecter, as he may provide answers or leads for them, but they keep Senator Ruth Martin out of it, knowing that playing with her will thrill Lecter more than helping them find her daughter. Frederick Chilton, head of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, gets a little too involved with trying to get back at Starling for rejecting him and Hannibal embarrassing him all those years ago, and instead tells the senator that Lecter could possibly help and that Crawford is keeping her out of the loop. It is arranged that Lecter will be taken to speak directly with Senator Martin and discuss who has her daughter.

Does Hannibal Lecter really know who has Catherine Baker Martin? Will Buffalo Bill kill Catherine just to get rid of her because the police are taking this one that much more seriously? Will Clarice finish up her training at the FBI and go on to become an agent? What will happen now that Lecter is being moved away from Chilton and into a place he would prefer more?

GRADE 8This book was very entertaining. I was hooked and I enjoyed the writing style and characters, although not many of them advance. I know that Clarice Starling may have the more popular movies, and that she is the one that Harris eventually fixated on, and she is a very compelling character and all that, I am just that much more taken with Will Graham. But let’s move away from that. Harris is a talented writer with a knack for bringing the disturbing to the page. I found it enjoyable how he brought in some of the technology and techniques of the day it was written in, as well as the procedures, making it feel a lot more authentic. As for Dr Hannibal Lecter? He thrilled me, again. Not that I expected anything else, but wow. I have to give the movie credit for remaining pretty damn loyal to the book, and being one of the best page to screen adaptions I have ever seen. Naturally I am recommending this. The plot was solid, the dialogue entertaining and interesting, keeping you at the edge of your seat, Starling’s history was laid out and had quite a bit going for it, and her relationship with Hannibal was an odd one, though interesting.

Sporadic Scene: The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Hannibal Meets Senator Martin

This scene… goosebumps each and every single time. Just the way that Anthony Hopkins continued the disturbing conversation and flashes his eyes by the end of it is truly just disconcerting on so many levels.

If you have a scene that you would like featured, drop me a mail at with a picture/gif/video of the scene and an explanation as to why (should you want to include it).

Review: Red Dragon – Thomas Harris

red dragon cover

Hannibal Lecter #1

Will Graham is retired, out of the psychopath game and living with his wife, Molly, and her son, Willy. Dr Hannibal Lecter almost killed him when they came face to face years ago when Graham was searching for a specific killer. His life now is serene and perfect, which is quickly disrupted when FBI agent Jack Crawford turns up on his door, pleading with him for help. There is a serial killer butchering whole families at random during full moons. Graham is not interested, but Crawford pushes. Graham has a deeper understanding into the mind of a psychopath. Graham himself is a little different. After much debate and rancour, Graham agrees to go see the houses where the families were killed.

The cops are calling the killer the Tooth Fairy, though Graham is not comfortable with it. Going through the evidence of both murders and the homes of the Leeds family in Atlanta, Georgia, Graham is reconstructing the family for himself as well as the events. He is having a hard time zeroing in on everything, though, and feels that the only way he will be able to fully slot back into the role of profiler, of hunter, is to come face to face with the evil that drove him from the industry – Dr Hannibal Lecter. He thinks that Lecter could possibly help him find the Tooth Fairy killer, or offer an insight that the rest of the team has missed. Will doesn’t really get much from the meeting, though Lecter is thrilled to have his “plaything” back, as it seems. Dr Alan Bloom is consulting on the case, but is having issues with Crawford, who wants a psychiatric analysis of Graham that Bloom is unwilling to provide.

As though the police did not have enough issues as it is, slimy reporter Freddy Lounds is on a mission to make waves, and paints Graham in a terrible light. There is no love lost between the men, and they have a sour history. On the other hand, Francis Dolarhyde is the Red Dragon, and despises the name of the Tooth Fairy. He is a production chief at a St Louis film processing firm, and on the hunt for a new family, which he finds through the film that he processes. Graham is hunting an unknown man, yet Dolarhyde has a clear view of who is after him. Dolarhyde has some serious family issues, and an unnatural obsession with William Blake’s painting “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun”. Dolarhyde has terrible vicious sexual urges that he cannot control, and that is when the Red Dragon assumes control.

Soon the Red Dragon makes contact with Lecter, and the FBI needs to find a way to trap him. All the promises that Crawford made Graham are thrown out of the window when Lecter manages to find out where he lives. Graham’s relationship with Molly becomes very strained, and he is angry. Another family somewhere is being hunted, and the FBI has no insight on how they are being chosen and what makes them unique. Freddy Lounds proves to be a massive problem when he interferes heavily in a sting that they FBI was rushing to set up to capture the Red Dragon. Graham needs to find a way to capture the Red Dragon, even if it means laying aside his pride to work with a snake like Lounds. In the meantime, however, the Red Dragon grows restless, and Francis Dolarhyde falls in love with a blind co-worker named Reba McClane. Though his life is taking on a new direction, Graham is still determined to find and catch the Red Dragon, who is still intent on continuing to follow his dark urges.

Will Graham be able to find out who the Red Dragon is? Will he be able to stop the man? How much of himself is Graham going to lose while hunting down another psychopath? What will Lecter do with the knowledge now that he knows where Graham is staying? Will Graham’s family be safe of any and all fallout that comes from this deadly case that he is working on?

GRADE 8.5I was duly impressed with this novel. I am a huge Hannibal Lecter fan, though I have never gotten around to reading the books. I thought it was high time to change that, especially seeing as the series turned out to be so impressive. Let me tell you, I cannot believe that it took me so long to get to this. The book was well written, the story was nice and streamlined, put together well. There were instances where the writing style annoyed me a little bit, but overall I really liked this book, and as much as I feel I should have read it earlier, I am glad that I had something fresh and good still. Good authors with good books are pretty rare. Will Graham is a psychologically in depth character, and his relationship with Hannibal is so damn odd. I found Will to be a very compelling character, too, who has quickly become a favourite of mine. Jack Crawford is a brash and no-nonsense kind of man, though he does feel some sort of affiliation for Will Graham. The story paced at a decent speed, and the book flowed nicely. It was a nice thriller with plenty to make you think. Definitely something that I would read again, and something I could tell you to check out.