American Lit · Books that have film Adaptations · Thrillers

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

“Because you helped him. That probably saved some lives,” 

This book is the first in the Hannibal Lecter series, which counts Silence of the Lambs among its number.

This book wasn’t stellar but it was certainly well written for a mystery / thriller story. I am quite familiar with the Lecter narrative but it has been about three years since I saw the movie.

While Harris is good at describing settings and scenery, he is not the best writer in the world. He helps us to explore the mindsets of the characters in his stories and yet it is done quite simplistically which did put me off to begin with. It was an interesting introduction to Lecter himself while also showing us the inner thoughts of Will Graham, the police investigator and his personal inner turmoil.

Something else this book did quite well was exploring the motivations of the villain, Francis Dolarhyde (in the 2003 film he was played by Ralph Fiennes). The film only scratched the surface of Dolarhyde’s personality and the book makes him truly a very eerie character with his job working in home movie development which he uses as a device to scope out his next victim. His relationship with the blind character Reba threw up some challenge to the perception of personal identity and how it is perceived by those around us but doesn’t really delve very deeply into it.

So, while I was glad to have finally read this book after three years, I don’t think I will return to it any time soon. This is not a criticism on the writing itself, its just that I think these sort of mystery stories need a great big dollop of ‘suspension of disbelief’ and having reached the end of this book and experienced the ups and downs of the narrative arcs I don’t think I want to read it again while the story is still fresh in my mind.

MY RATING: ***.5 / *****

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