Friday, September 21, 2012

Red Dragon (Hannibal lecter #1) by Thomas Harris

Lying on a cot in his cell with Alexandre Dumas's Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine open on his chest, Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter makes his debut in this legendary horror novel, which is even better than its sequel,The Silence of the Lambs. As in Silence, the pulse-pounding suspense plot involves a hypersensitive FBI sleuth who consults psycho psychiatrist Lecter for clues to catching a killer on the loose.The sleuth, Will Graham, actually quit the FBI after nearly getting killed by Lecter while nabbing him, but fear isn't what bugs him about crime busting. It's just too creepy to get inside a killer's twisted mind. But he comes back to stop a madman who's been butchering entire families. The FBI needs Graham's insight, and Graham needs Lecter's genius. But Lecter is a clever fiend, and he manipulates both Graham and the killer at large from his cell.
That killer, Francis Dolarhyde, works in a film lab, where he picks his victims by studying their home movies. He's obsessed with William Blake's bizarre painting The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun, believing there's a red dragon within him, the personification of his demonic drives. Flashbacks to Dolarhyde's terrifying childhood and superb stream-of-consciousness prose get us right there inside his head. When Dolarhyde does weird things, we understand why. We sympathize when the voice of the cruel dead grandma who raised and crazed him urges him to mayhem--she's way scarier than that old bat in Psycho. When he falls in love with a blind girl at the lab, we hope he doesn't give in to Grandma's violent advice.
This book is awesomely detailed, ingeniously plotted, judiciously gory, and fantastically imagined. If you haven't read it, you've never had the creeps. --Tim Appelo GOODREADS
This is a book I bought on sale at my local bookstore and it was worth it. It's a classic but disturbing psychological thriller. One of the motivations for buying this book is the movie and also because I wanted to know more about Hannibal Lecter.

There's a forword by Thomas Harris before the first chapter, in which he explains his first encounter with Hannibal and how he became a recurring character in these books.  For some reason this gave me a foreboding feeling about  reading the book. A few chapters into the book was disturbing because Will goes to the house of one of the families that was murdered and walks through the scene. It's so well written that the gruesomeness of the scene scares and disturbs you.

Will's character is a well fleshed out one and so are some of the other  characters. He's suffering some trauma from the last case he worked on in which he had caught Hannibal. Crawford, an FBI agent working on the "Red Dragon " case asks Will to help him because it's similar to the Hannibal one and Will has a mind for these cases. Will can project  other peoples points of view and he can feel what their feeling. This is what makes him good at his job even tho he hates it.

Eventually Will decides to consult Hannibal on this case. If you pick  this book only for Hannibal then you should know he only has few scenes but significant ones. When Will first visits him in the mental institution (pg75), this scene has a kind of sinister and foreboding atmosphere to it. Hannibal is a sociopath and a trained psychologist. He feels no guilt about the people he's killed  and no shame about it. What makes him even more scary but also intriguing is the way he can read people and manipulate them. If you'd met this guy on the street you'd be charmed, you wouldn't suspect he was a sociopathic murderer!

The book picks up the pace when the murderer ,called from the start of the book the Tooth fairy, sends Hannibal a letter. The FBI intercepts this letter and try to communicate with the tooth fairy. This doesn't work out so well in the end.

Further into the book we start reading chapters and passages about the Tooth Fairy, Francis Dolarhyde.Who thinks there's a Red Dragon living inside him. To him murdering people is a process that will change him into the Dragon. Francis is obsessed with William Blake's painting of The Great Red Dragon and The Woman Clothed in the Sun. *behold on the right ->
I'm even creeped out by this painting ,so I don' get his obsession with it.

This painting is the explanation to the title. It's called the Red Dragon because of Francis obsession with the painting, but there are several other references about dragons throughout the book: When Will finds a Chinese character carved into a tree near one of the victims houses, which appears on Chinese mahjong pieces and marks the red dragon or the red finger print powder called dragons blood.

He has it tattooed on his back , he has printouts in his house.  Francis chapters are fascinating to read because there are flashbacks to his past : when he was born with a facial disfigurement (hare lip) , living with his grandmother and how he was treated by them and his mother an step siblings. Seeing how he was and how he is: leaves me with the question that if he was in a healthier environment , would he have become a murderer?

Francis changes when he meets Reba McClane. This is my favorite part. Francis and the Dragon separate. The dragon now has an individual voice that sounds similar to his grandmother, telling him he doesn't need Reba and he should kill her. Francis attempts to become one again with the Dragon by breaking into a museum and consuming the actual painting of the Great Red Dragon.

Things don't work out in the end. Francis fakes his death and then tries to kill Will. The killers dead but the book doesn't really have a happy ending more like a depressing one. Everything's explained in the last chapter and on the last page Will goes on about somebody named "Shiloh" which is confusing.

I'd definitely recommend this to anybody who enjoyed the movie or is just interested in a good book about the criminal Psyche. The characters are well developed and the writing is amazing and easy to follow.



  1. I also like the movie lol and I want to read the books of the series. I confess I liked Hannibal in the movie I found him a interesting character and I hope in books he can be like that too lol. *-*

  2. I LOVED the movie and am looking forward to reading the book someday. :) So you got danse macabre? I hear it's awesome, too. GO KING!



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