Thomas Harris's "The Silence of the Lambs," a bone-chilling thriller, was an immediate hit upon its 1988 publication. Now, more than twenty years later, most of us inevitably approach, or reapproach, it knowing something about it; with the famous movie based on it firmly in mind. Yet, I, at least, had to fight off the temptation to stay up all night to finish it, although I surely knew where it was going.
Harris, to be sure, writes a great, tense story of suspense. He'd already published Black Sunday, and Red Dragon, where we were first introduced to Dr. Hannibal Lector. LAMBS' story, we know, concerns the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigations to catch a serial killer nicknamed Buffalo Bill. The agency sends trainee Clarice Starling to interview Dr. Hannibal Lector, former psychiatrist, imprisoned in a Baltimore insane asylum, after having been found guilty of nine sadistic, cannibalistic murders. Lector has unusual tastes, and intense curiosity about the darker side of the mind. The formerly eminent medical man's understanding of himself, Starling, and the killer forms the core of the book.
LAMBS benefits from a complex, multi-layered plot. As it proceeds, we realize that Lector knew all along where it had to lead. The author's timing is impeccable: he hits his high notes, then gives us a moment to unwind. We hardly dare breathe during the Lector/Starling Tennessee scenes -- we're waiting with dread for what we know will come; when it does, it's overwhelming. The plot's also titillating, let's be honest about it, sex change operations and all. Furthermore, serial killers were new to us then; the genre is still remarkably popular, judging by the countless rip-offs of it since. Finally, a lot of the story deals with gruesome material, but the forensics are still fresh, and it's always leavened by the author's black humor.
Harris created two of the most memorable characters in modern fiction in Lector and Starling. The author has an acute ear for dialogue: who doesn't believe the Lector/Starling duets? At another point, Harris has Barney, sole knowledgeable orderly in the mental hospital where Lector has been held, say to Starling," Listen, when you get Buffalo Bill -- don't bring him to me just because I got a vacancy, all right?"
The writer's eye and ear serve him well. He describes a character's car as "a black Buick with a De Paul University sticker on the back window. His weight gave the Buick a slight list to the left." He describes Clarice's thoughts: "Sometimes Crawford's (her boss's) tone reminded Starling of the know-it-all caterpillar in Lewis Carroll." Early in the book, he has Starling driving back to FBI headquarters at Quantico, "back to Behavioral Sciences, with its homey brown-checked curtains and its gray files full of hell. She sat there into the evening, after the last secretary had left, cranking through the Lector microfilm. The contrary old viewer glowed like a jack-o'-lantern in the darkened room...." Sorry, but ya just gotta read the book to get this stuff.
on 5 August 2001
I read this book just after finishing The Silence Of The Lambs. I didn't get what I was expecting, I got something better. I was hoping for a bit more of Hannibal Lecter in this book. He is only in it every now and again. The story does not revolve around him, this is not a bad thing because the story is utter genius. The plot involves an FBI agent who is asked to help catch one more killer before he returns to his family. The killer in question is The Tooth Fairy, he butchers entire families. This is easily the equal of The Silence Of The Lambs. Contrary to most peoples opinions this book has in fact been made into a film already. The fantastic Manhunter was made in the 80's but plans are set to remake it entitled Red Dragon. Get this book, love it, then watch the film.
on 29 November 2005
Ok, before I write my opinion on this book, I have to admit something slightly embarrassing first. Deep breath….I love trashy psychological thrillers! However, this is certainly not a trashy book, whatsoever. As a young reader (I was about 14 when I first read this), I was in the lucky position of not seeing the film first. Yes, it is a great movie. Yes, Jodie Foster makes a great Clarice Starling, and yes, it does not deviate from the book too much. However, there is so much more information included in the novel that simply cannot be materialised into a film (do you know the chemical formula for bilirubin?).
I will not bore everybody with the plot, I’m sure the world and his dog has seen the famous ‘liver and Chianti’ scene, and many more besides, but if you have not read this book yet – read it now! Thomas Harris is the most superb, underrated author of modern times, and I find it difficult to choose which of his novels is the greatest. For those of you who have seen the movie adaptations of ‘Red Dragon’ and, more depressingly, ‘Hannibal’; do not be put off from reading these works of art.
I realise I am gushing far too much about Harris’ brilliance, but that is how reading his novels make me feel! Although my view is slightly biased, ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’ offers everything required for a great book – thrilling, page-turning suspense that leaves you hungry for more and feeling like you have actually learned something when you finally put it down. I am now waiting with baited breath in the hope that Thomas Harris will write more about Hannibal’s past ‘meals’, and satisfy my hunger!
on 7 October 2002
So, here we have the inevitable paperback re-issue of Thomas Harris' incredible original Hannibal Lecter novel from 1981, Red Dragon.
This particular re-release is of course to coincide with the imminent release of the big budget movie adaptation in the cinema, and Sir Anthony Hopkins' face now adorns the cover (although this will be different on the USA re-issue cover)
The novel itself should need no introduction. Despite the huge success of it's sequels - The Silence of the Lambs (SOTL) and Hannibal, Red Dragon remains Harris' finest book to date, although in fairness I have not read his first novel which was Black Sunday. However, that story did not feature Dr. Hannibal Lecter - he made his debut in this serial killer thriller.
Unlike SOTL and Hannibal, The Good Doctor spends all of his time safely behind bars in Red Dragon. This will be a turn off to fans of the other books I suspect, but the important thing to remember is that Hannibal has only a small part in this story. A crucial role, of course, but nevertheless his "on-screen" time (as it were) is very small indeed. This was accurately reflected by Michael Mann in his 1986 movie adaptation - "Manhunter" (where Brian Cox played Lecter), but I suspect that due to the casting of Hopkins for Red Dragon, this will change for the new movie version. More flashbacks are likely to feature, including Lecter's original capture I suspect.
The strength of Red Dragon is not really the introduction of Dr. Lecter in my opinion. The story has two other characters who are far more interesting, namely retired FBI investigator Will Graham and serial killer lunatic Francis Dolarhyde. Graham was the man who actually managed to put Lecter behind bars (respect!). However, his capture came at a high personal price to Graham - Lecter visciously attacked him during the arrest, which resulted in physical and mental health problems leading to his retirement. However, when a new serial killer nicknamed "The Tooth Fairy" (Dolarhyde) starts brutally murdering innocent families seemingly at random, Graham returns ...
Readers who enjoyed SOTL will be pleased to know that Jack Crawford also features in Red Dragon, but remember that these events take place before SOTL, so there's no Clarice Starling this time. Seeing as Graham is a much more interesting character however, this is not a problem as you will discover.
Plot and structure wise, Red Dragon is at times very similar to SOTL. For example, Graham visits Lecter in his cell for help, with the hope that it will lead to the capture of The Tooth Fairy. This is of course extremely similar to Starling visiting Lecter for help with the Buffalo Bill case in SOTL. Fortunately, Lecter makes no escape this time, but cunningly he still manages to harm Graham's chances, despite never leaving his cell. There are other similarities throughout, but this should not count against the overall calibre of the novel.
In conclusion, it will be interesting to see the forthcoming movie adaptation, particularly seeing as Manhunter already exists, which was itself an excellent adaptation. Make sure you read this novel though before seeing the film. Harris offers a lot of extra detail within the pages which is sure to be cut from the new film, just as it was for Manhunter. Enjoy!
on 10 June 1999
Red Dragon is the first in the series of three Hannibal Lecter books, and contains some of the best elements from the trilogy. The killer on the loose, Francis Dolarhyde, is chillingly portrayed while allowing us to feel a little sympathy towards him. He is far superior to Jame Gumb, the somewhat amateurish serial murderer in The Silence of the Lambs - if Dolarhyde and Gumb had changed books, both novels would have been improved. But, as always, Hannibal Lecter takes centre stage as the dark and mocking director of the play. He well deserves his fame.
on 22 July 2002
Having already read silence of the lambs and hannibal i was suprised to discover that there was another hannibal lecter book out there that i had not heard of considering the popularity of the the other two. Due to this i was not expecting much from this book given its lack of publicity, i was pleasently supprised. Red dragon proved to be a compelling gripping story driving into the psych of a very disturbed serial killer which kept me addicted right until i got to the end of the last page. I would strongly recommend this book to anybody who has enjoyed other books by thomas harris or enjoys reading gripping psychological thriller. A must read for all.
on 23 July 2014
Why on earth aren't any of the Hannibal Lecter / Thomas Harris books available on Kindle ? Crazy ! I wanted to revisit Great Red Dragon for my summer holiday reading, but it was not to be...
This whole series is really a cut above anything else I have read in the serial killer / FBI procedural genre (which I love) They are macabre, terrifying, highly imaginative, beautifully written & never dull.
It amazed me that not ONE of the books is available on Kindle. What are they waiting for ?! I would probably buy the whole series again if it were available, so it's not as though they'd be losing money...I don't get it !
on 11 January 2002
On the loose is a monster who's mission in life is to murder happy families and become "The Red Dragon". Explore the plot as time runs out for Will Graham and Jack Crawford hunt out the killer before the next full moon. Even as he lets you witness the detectives piecing together the evidence, Thomas Harris shows you the killer's most intimate thoughts and fears. You recieve a privalaged tour of the madman's inner psyche and his corrupt childhood, see him fight and embrace The Dragon and find love. Excellent writing, good enough, even, to make you pity the killer and his internal struggle. A singular experience for anyone who has ever found a book that makes them read compulsively yet scares them through and through.
on 21 September 2000
When you read "The Silence of the Lambs" or hear about the book, you probably start immediately to remember some scenes from the movie starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. The movie comes pretty damn close! And it's rare that a movie follows the plot of a novel so closely.
It is difficult to write something about a story that is so well known, basically by its adaptation for the screen, which has been buried under a heap of Academy Awards. Like many others, "The Silence of the Lambs" proves the fact that the book is always better than the movie.
Clarice Starling is an FBI trainee. The FBI's chief of Behavioral Science has called on her to help solve a serial murder case. She must interview Dr. Hannibal ("the Cannibal") Lector, a psychiatrist jailed for killing and eating various patients, to get inside the mind of Buffalo Bill, a serial killer on the loose. Starling becomes close to Lector who helps her discover how to find Buffalo Bill, and how to find closure in her personal life.
"The Silence of the Lambs" is simply a superb, electrifying book. What a writer Thomas Harris is and what a character the infamous Dr. Hannibal Lector is. With Dr. Lector, Harris makes you look at the face of evil, and stare!
This book sets the standard in psychological terror. If you haven't seen the movie yet, read the novel first, then see the characters brought to life brilliantly by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. I thoroughly enjoyed the two principal characters Dr. Hannibal Lector and Clarice Starling. And I look forward to Hannibal. I wish more novels were like this.
on 1 June 2000
Red Dragon is a brilliant piece of work. Thomas Harris uses a unique style of writing that can easily rank alongside the style of William Golding to suspend the reader and leave them in a complete fantasy world. The book is intelligent, gripping and in places terrifying. The only complaint one could have about this book is that Hannibal Lecter does not feature very much, but Francis Dolarhyde is in his own right a scary piece of work. The highlight of this book is Will Graham retracing the steps of the killer at the first murder scene. Despite the fact that the killer is long gone, you find yourself expecting him to jump out at any second. A triumph all round.