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Avg. Rating: 4.39
An overlooked creepy classic
Many people have seen the movie, "Silence of the Lambs," and have read the book. But before "Silence" there was the "Red Dragon." This book is creepier, scarier and more suspenseful than the more famous "Silence."
I read this book long before "Silence" and was mesmerized. It's about Will Graham, an ex-FBI agent, who is manipulated by his former FBI boss into joining the hunt for a brutal serial killer, who they call the Tooth Fairy because he bites his victims, but who calls himself the Red Dragon. Graham can reach a place in himself where he thinks and feels like serial killers. He has used his talents in the past to understand serial killer's motivations and predict their movements. He caught Hannibal the Cannibal using this ability and almost lost his life when Hannibal attacked him. He hates his "gift," it scares him because he fears there is a fine line between him and a mass murderer, and Hannibal knows it. In Hannibal's super genuis style he tortures Graham with his own terror of himself, and encourages the Red Dragon in his killing spree.
The really horific part of the story, however, is that there may be a very fine line between mass muderers and us. Harris gives a truly creepy look into the mind of multiple murderer, Francis Dolarhyde. He graphically portrays Dolarhyde's brutal childhood, and not only do we sypathize, we see the logic of what he's doing. We understand why he kills, and what his killing symbolizes to him. We even feel sorry for him. For example, Dolarhyde breaks all the mirrors in the houses of his victims because he hates the sight of himself. At the same time he inserts pieces of the mirrors in the victim's eyes so they will *see* him. The sorrow and pity generated for the victims and killer is intense. It leads us to question whether we, too, could kill given the right, or wrong, set of circumstanses. Too creepy!
The book also gives an interesting view into the workings of the FBI's serial crimes division. Harris describes the forensics process for hair and fiber samples, fingerprints, bite marks, and other details. And we get a fascinating glimpse of the psychological profile process.
This book is not for the sqemish, the murder scenes are graphic and bloody and the story is intense. But, if you're looking for a thriller that goes deeper than the usual and has real characters, then this is the book for you. Just don't read it when you're alone at night, it will scare the pants off you!!
This book precedes Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. It was also made into a pretty good film (Manhunter, a Michael Mann film. Mann is famous for Miami Vice.)
Rather than focus on Hannibal Lecter, this book concentrates on investigator Will Graham, who quit the FBI after catching Hannibal Lecter and just about freaked out from the experience. Graham's theory is that to catch a serial murderer, you must think like the murderer. In the case of Lecter, that brought Graham a mite too close to his own demons.
He is forced to call these demons up again when he is on the hunt for a really nasty killer who's been slaughtering entire families. As in Silence of the Lambs, Graham has to consult his nemesis/mentor Hannibal to get inside the head of the killer. Unlike Silence of the Lambs, Graham also has to, once again, get inside the head of the killer and face his own psychological problems.
Red Dragon is somewhat different than Silence of the Lambs or Hannibal because it depicts the daily life of the murderer. This is probably the closest depiction to a real serial killer in any of Harris' books--a character who blends into the most mundane levels of society and is practically colorless, until you enter his world of madness and evil.
While not as good as Silence of the Lambs, which reads as well as the film, this is a good novel and will satisfy any Harris fans who have read Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal.
It starts off strongly but it eventually falls into some pretty predictable plot lines for this genre. I don't know if its because Red Dragon has inspired other books or if Harris was pulling from the same sources that the other books pulled from too.
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