Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
Published by Dutton
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Horror, Adult Fiction
For Fans of: The Hannibal Lecter movies, NBC’s Hannibal, Criminal Minds, crime-thriller novels.
My Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Will Graham stands in a silent, empty house communing with a killer. An FBI instructor with a gift for hunting madmen, Graham knows what his murderer looks like, how he thinks, and what he did to his victims after they died. Now Graham must try to catch him. But to do it, he must feel the heat of a killer’s brain, draw on the macabre advice of a dangerous mental patient, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and follow a trail of microscopic clues to the place where another family has already been chosen to die–and where an innocent woman has found the Dragon first.
As a child, my parents never really had any problem with me and horror movies. None of my babysitters had to be told, “don’t let her watch any scary movies”; I wan’t shooed out of the room when a scary movie was on TV; I wasn’t told to cover my eyes during a scary scene on a show I was watching.
This was mostly because I didn’t scare easy. Sure, there’d be times when I’d watch something that had me lying awake in bed, wondering if there was something under my bed (other than dust bunnies). But I never gave anyone any trouble over it, you know? And on the off-chance there was something that I found too scary, I’d inform whoever I was with and just leave the room.
Yeah. I was one of those kids. Ugh.
Anyway, TL;DR – As a kid, I was allowed to watch any scary movie I wanted, as long as I thought I could handle it. (and if it was, you know, PG)
Meaning, I watched the Hannibal Lecter movies when I was pretty young. Not the two Will Graham movies, mind, (Haven’t seen those yet) but the Silence of The Lambs and Hannibal. As someone who doesn’t scare easily, I have a special appreciation for Hannibal Lecter and the gang. Because Dr. Lecter is messed up, and it properly terrifies me knowing that there are people as crazy, as evil, as maniacal as he is actually out there in the world. So, obviously, I watched NBC’s Hannibal.
NBC’s Hannibal has spoiled me rotten. Because Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham is so full of character; a sad, angry conflicted, mentally unstable little puppy dog (shut up), and Mads Mikkelsen’s Dr. Lecter is a smug, intelligent, manipulative, self-assured nutter. And here’s where I get to my issues with Red Dragon.
Book Will Graham was nothing like his TV counterpart. We were told he was mentally unstable. We were told that his ability to understand killers took a severe toll on him. We were never shown these things. TV Will Graham is actually a pretty good profiler. Book Will Graham was kind of shit at his job – especially when you consider how badly Crawford wanted him on the case. Like, “you were this desperate for… this ? ???“
Book Hannibal was, yeah, alright, smug and narcissistic, but… not much else. He was only mentioned in, like, five pages.
This book wasn’t about Hannibal Lecter. This book wasn’t even about Will Graham. You could say that it was actually about Dolarhyde, but personally, I’d say even that’d be a stretch. And if it was actually about Dolarhyde… what was the point in calling this the first Hannibal Lecter book?
What’s that you say? Red Dragon was mostly just a set-up for the next book? Alright, I’ll bite. Your theory sucks. First of all, Dr. Hannibal Lecter is barely in this book to begin with. Second of all, the second book in the series is Silence of The Lambs. Clarice. Will Graham isn’t going to be in the next one at all (from what I know/remember) There is literally nothing to properly tie this thing to the next novel.
Before I picked Red Dragon up, I read somewhere that you could skip it and go straight onto SoTL without missing anything much. I haven’t read SoTL yet, but I’m pretty sure this is accurate af.
Thomas Harris isn’t the best writer. There. I said it. Come at me with your pitchforks and torches, I don’t care. Someone had to say it. The narrative was monotonous and unmoving. A lot of the narrative (and the dialogue, for that matter) was tedious. Honestly. There were times I felt like Harris only added certain things because he felt like it would give us better insight into the character’s personality, or make care more. (SPOILER ALERT, it didn’t work. I didn’t learn squat about these characters, and I didn’t give a damn).
There were lengthy bits of dialogue, written almost like it was a play. Back and forth. Blah-blah after blah-blah. A couple of times both of us, writer and reader, forgot who was speaking. I had to go back and check, and even after keeping careful track of each speaker, sometimes the dialogue just didn’t match up.
Everyone even talked the same. There was nothing to help a reader distinguish between each character – they all had that same, clipped way of talking.
Red Dragon’s saving grace was Harris’ obvious talent with ideas. The idea for this book was great. It would have made a good stand-alone book – without Hannibal and Will. It would have made an excellent Criminal Minds episode, if you took out Hannibal and replaced the entire investigative group with Hodges and the gang. Dolarhyde was a very good antagonist. You could sympathize with him, and simultaneously question your sanity for feeling sorry for a crazy murderer.
I didn’t hate this book, no matter what this review makes it sound like. I just didn’t particularly like it either. With the exception of Dolarhyde, the characters were disappointing, and the story was mediocre. I am going to finish the series because, come on, Hannibal-freaking-Lecter. I’m too big a fan to NOT finish this.