By Thomas Harris
I’ve given a lot of thought to want I want to say about this book. It was not my first time reading it. I remember reading it after I read Silence of the Lambs. Silence of the Lambs terrified me. Hannibal Lector lurked in my closet waiting to bite my face off. So I remember finding Red Dragon and devouring it as well as the subsequent sequels. While I recall that I liked the book Red Dragon, I don’t recall being afraid and the only images I could remember were those of the movies (there were two based on this book. One starring William Peterson called Manhunter from 1986 and one starring Edward Norton in 2002).
Now, I will always be a fan of Lector and therefore, I have to give Harris a lot of credit for bringing this complex madman to life. That says a lot about a writer when he can create a character that will live in infamy forever. You’re doing something right. And without re-reading Silence of the Lambs critically as I have Red Dragon, I only speak to the writing in it.
The writing in this book is flat for me. I wanted to feel more for Will Graham than I did. The story is told in third person and mostly from Will’s POV, but even so, you never get close to him. As for the rest of his cohorts, I couldn’t keep them straight. I knew Jack Crawford from SOTL but the rest all blended together because none of them sounded different or spoke differently enough to tell them apart. How can a man who wrote one of the greatest villains of all time fail to write a standout protagonist (remember, I am talking about this book only)?
One other thing that bothered me was the head-hopping. As I said most of the book was from Will’s POV yet occasionally in the middle of it, there would be a sentence or two thrown in from another character’s POV. Which threw me off and made me stop. Never a good thing, right? Now, when I have a problem with a book, especially a popular novel, I like to read reviews by others to see if anyone else felt the same. I found a review by a person who stated they were too young to have ever seen the movies or read the book when it came out. So, take this for what you want, they made a great point that maybe Harris did the head-hopping to show how Graham’s brain worked; i.e. always trying to see through other’s eyes. Maybe that’s true and if so, I guess I missed that. So, not sure if it’s me that is too dense to get a genius idea or if we’re giving Harris too much credit.
One thing I did notice and found interesting was in the one scene with Lector (yeah, the book that advertises itself as the book that introduces Hannibal Lector has one scene with him in it), whenever Harris gives a description of Lector, he does it in present tense. It ups the creep factor. Hannibal is not Hannibal was.
Speaking of creep-factor, how about that Mr. D? Very creepy, yes. Sad though, because we learn about his traumatic childhood and if that isn’t sympathy-inducing enough, we also learn that he is struggling in the end when he finally finds someone like Reba to love him unconditionally. By then, he is too far gone. It’s easy to forget what he did to the Leeds and Jacobis. It’s hard not to root for him at least to survive. I knew and cared more about Dolarhyde than I did Graham. I got hints at Graham’s past but never enough of his internal thoughts or memories to care.
The story was good, although perhaps cliché (especially the “twist” at the end. Oh no, the killer isn’t dead? I didn’t see that coming when he died with three chapters left in the book) Still, I enjoyed watching Graham figure it all out and Dolarhyde struggle with his inner dragon. I liked the book, I read it quickly. But could it have been better, sure maybe even a lot better. But the tale should come first, the fancy shit is just the icing on the cake.