Review: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

“In the realm of psychological suspense, Thomas Harris stands alone. exploring both the nature of human evil and the nerve-racking anatomy of forensic investigation, Harris unleashes a frightening vision of the dark side of our well-lighted world. In this extraordinary tale — which preceded The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, Harris introduced the unforgettable character Dr. Hannibal Lecter. And in it, Will Graham — the FBI man who hunted Lecter down — risks his sanity and his life to duel a killer called…

The Red Dragon

A quiet summer night…a neat suburban house…and another happy family is shattered — the latest victims of a grisly series of hideous sacrificial killings that no one understands, and no one can stop. Nobody lives to tell of the unimaginable carnage. Only the blood-stained walls bear witness.

All hope rests on the Special Agent Will Graham, who must peer inside the killer’s tortured soul to understand his rage, to anticipate and prevent his next vicious crime. Desperate for help, Graham finds himself locked in a deadly alliance with the brilliant Dr. Hannibal Lecter — the infamous mass murderer who Graham put in prison years ago. As the imprisoned Lecter tightens the reins of revenge, Graham’s feverish pursuit of the Red Dragon draws him inside the warped mind of a psychopath,, into an unforgettable world of demonic ritual and violence, beyond the limits of human terror.”

(summary from Amazon.com)

I grew up knowing about Hannibal Lecter but I had never seen the movies or read any of the books, for the simple fact that I was too young and the subject matter wasn’t age appropriate. However, I have older cousins who were old enough and at family gatherings I would overhear their conversations, plus Hannibal is part of our pop culture. My first brush with the famous fictional cannibal was with the NBC show Hannibal ,which is set before Dr. Lecter is captured by Will Graham. With the next season not premiering until April of next year I needed to fill the empty space that Hannibal and Will had created. I wanted to see how it was going to end for the two of them and to get better acquainted with Harris’ work.

These past few weeks I’ve been so busy with hardly any time to just relax but on those rare spare moments I could not put this book down. This book is way out of my reading comfort zone, I usually read YA Fiction with the occasional Sci-Fi novel, but murder mystery thrillers have never made my list. The style in which this book is written did, at times, confuse me. A chapter would start off with Will Graham as the main focus and then immediately changes to another character for a single sentence and then switches back. I settled into the style after getting into the meat of the book and found it to be mirroring the way Graham’s mind works, he sees a swinging pendulum when he enters the thought process of the psychopath and he is able to jump from one reality to the next. Graham enlists the help of Dr. Lector to help capture the Dragon but I was disappointed that Hannibal wasn’t more involved in the case. There was only one meeting between the two and a few letters from Hannibal to Will but he was scarcely used. I felt that there was a missed opportunity to use Hannibal in a more devious way in conjunction with the Dragon. Hannibal being resourceful, cunning, and manipulative could have played an interesting role in bringing the Dragon and Will together in a cat and mouse scenario.

That being said the evolution of the Francis Dolarhyde character was fascinating. I really enjoyed reading his backstory and how everything that happened to him from birth through his adolescence molded him into the Dragon. Getting into his head captured my full attention and I felt sorry for him after reading it. Nothing in his childhood excuses his killing of the Jacobi and the Leeds families but it was the neglect and abuse that he suffered that rewired his brain to kill and torture. After his mother abandoned him because of his disfigurement his grandmother raises him and his overwhelming need to not disappoint and ultimately protect her lead to his first kill, a chicken. He loses himself to the feeling of relief the kill gives him and he experiments with other pets. It was disturbing to read how he gets off sexually while reviewing the films of his kills and that of his future kill and I found myself having to pause while reading. When he meets Reba McClane everything starts to change for him but the damage has been done he is too far into his own sickness that he cannot escape.

I really enjoyed this book and was surprised as to how deep I dove into its pages. The ending caught me completely off guard even though I should have seen it coming. I am eager to read the rest of the Hannibal Lecter series to see what the cannibal is capable of.

Review written by Amanda S.
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