Book Review – Red Dragon (Hannibal Lecter #1) by Thomas Harris

First published, 1981

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Brought out of isolation, while recovering from being almost gutted by the notorious doctor and mass murderer, Hannibal ’The Cannibal’ Lecter, FBI profiler, Will Graham, is on the hunt for a biting serial killer the police have dubbed ’The Tooth Fairy’.

With the rare ability to enter the mind of a murderer, to see what he sees and feel what he feels, Will is well aware of the killer’s habits; he knows he will strike again within a few short weeks. But aside from an economic bracket, the victims don’t seem to have all that much in common. Aside from their horrible deaths.

But just as Dr. Lecter is becoming pen pals with every psychology student, journalist and whacko who can afford a stamp, so Will Graham is returning to himself, becoming the investigator and family man he was always meant to be. Meanwhile, the Tooth Fairy, who styles himself the ‘Red Dragon’, is simply Becoming. But a dragon must have blood and death to aid his birth into the world.

An incredible story. I kept trying to slow down my reading but I devoured this one in two days. An intricate story with vivid characters, wretched murders, and a terribly clever conclusion. Gosh, when the reason for the bolt cutters was fathomed out, my jaw fell open and I couldn’t have blinked for cash money.

Although I’m posting this as a five star, I’m knocking off half a star for some very annoying typos. The murdered families have the surnames Jacobi and Leeds. Reference to the house of the latter family was regularly just plain wrong, unless it’s an American thing, but I’m pretty sure I’d have come across it before if it was:

“Graham wanted to see the Leeds alive.” p45, Chapter Five, Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

(Should have been Leedses)

“’Too bad he got to the Leeds when old Parsons was right down the street, convenient,’ Lewis observed.” p43, Chapter Four, Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

(Should have been Leedses, or Leeds’ house)

There are other examples, but adding more than two to reference would make me sad beyond words. So let’s move past that. There’s a moment in Chapter Twenty-Five when little Francis Dolarhyde tells his grandmother his name, and my heart split in two.

There’s no doubting the power of the writing. For instance, between Graham and Lecter:

“‘I thought you might be curious to find out if you’re smarter than the person I’m looking for.’
“’Then, by implication, you think you are smarter than I am, since you caught me.’
“‘No. I know I’m not smarter than you are.’
“‘Then how did you catch me, Will?’
“’You had disadvantages.’
“‘What disadvantages?’
“‘Passion. And you’re insane.’
“‘You’re very tan, Will.’
“Graham did not answer.
“‘Your hands are rough. They don’t look like a cop’s hands any more. That shaving lotion is something a child would select. It has a ship on the bottle, doesn’t it?’ Dr. Lecter seldom holds his head upright. He tilts it as he asks a question, as though he were screwing an augur of curiosity into your face. Another silence, and Lecter said, ‘Don’t think you can persuade me with appeals to my intellectual vanity.’
“‘I don’t think I’ll persuade you. You’ll do it or you won’t. Dr. Bloom is working on it anyway, and he’s the most—‘
“‘Do you have the file with you?’

p77-78, Chapter Seven, Red Dragon by Thomas Harris