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4.7 out of 5 stars
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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.
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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!
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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!
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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.
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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 !
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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.
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on 6 August 2014
"Red Dragon" is I think the second book Thomas Harris wrote and the first to introduce the character of Hannibal Lecter. While his writing is fast paced and easy to read it is not quite the classic that "Silence of the Lambs" has become.

I couldn't help but compare the book to the original film version "Manhunter" which sticks closely to the story for most of the movie. The ending of the movie however is greatly changed and in my opinion the film version is a lot better. In the book the ending is probably the weakest part, as though Thomas Harris had created a situation he didn't know how to resolve.

Hannibal Lecter makes his first appearance here but he actually adds very little to the story. The scenes involving Lecter are well written and he is as creepy as ever, but without knowing he was due to reappear in later stories his presence here seems only to provide a contrast between his own psychopathy and that of the serial killer being investigated, The Red Dragon.

As with all Thomas Harris books his ideas about serial killers and the investigative techniques of the FBI come across as very detailed and genuine. However I have read in several psychology books that Hannibal Lecter is in fact nothing like real life serial killers and you have to appreciate that this is a horror novel where the writers first priority is to provide a good scare.

Overall then this is a good enjoyable read but not one that should be taken too seriously. The ending is dissapointing and I would reccomend the movie "Manhunter" for a somewhat improved version of the story.
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on 16 March 2016
This is one of those stories which you don't ever forget. The minute you invest in the story line and characters, you find yourself drawn into this scary and intelligent world. It lives up to the hype, and went above and beyond my expectations. I haven't seen the film because I am worried it will destroy my memories of the book, but I have heard that the film is an excellent representation. I enjoyed this so much that I immediately purchased the entire 'series'. It is dark and scary, yet we still find ourselves trying to understand Lecter and his 'ways'. A truly great writer.
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on 27 October 2013
To be perfectly honest, I think I built this book up after hearing so much about it and it being a bestseller and everything. I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Red Dragon, so I was very excited to read this, but the killer isn't half as complex and interesting. Hannibal Lecter himself isn't exciting as I was expecting him to be (he wasn't mentioned much in Red Dragon so I was excited to know more about him). I would have liked to know a little more about what Lecter did before he got caught because there are a lot of random references to it throughout both books and we're just expected to know what happened. By the end of Red Dragon you kind of pieced together some of what happened when he got caught, involving WIll Graham, and the same can be said for this book. You can piece together little bits about his capture and that he was a cannibal (Hannibal the Cannibal, as people call him), but if I'm perfectly honest, this book was a little bit of a let down for me, personally. However, the storyline is still interesting and good, Harris' writing style is incredible and he's a talented guy. I don't regret buying this book, but I don't think I'd read it again.
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on 24 January 2015
The character of Hannibal Lecter has now become a legendary creation. Here we get the first glimpse of him, although he is not the main focus of the story.

The book was later adapted into Silence Of The Lambs. Although the plots are slightly different, some of the mechanisms within the plot are reminiscent and if you didn't know about the connection between the two you might think the author was just recycling ideas.
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