Book Review: ‘Red Dragon’ by Thomas Harris

Posted: 21 July 2015 in Book reviews
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Three years after almost being killed by the now incarcerated Hannibal Lecter, Jack Crawford  enlists Will Graham, much to the chagrin of Will’s wife Molly, to help catch a new killer: the Tooth Fairy. He got this name from bite marks found on the wives of the two families found murdered. Nothing noticeably links the two murders other than they happened on or around a full moon. That gives the FBI around a month to discover why these families were killed and avoid another murder.

Enter Francis Dolarhyde aka the Tooth Fairy, a man obsessed with William Blake’s painting The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun. He is the production chief of a film processing lab and uses the home movies he processes as ‘auditions’ for his next victims. This obscure way of picking his victims keeps him one step ahead of the FBI. But Graham isn’t like the rest of the FBI and proves to be a threat. After Graham consults Lecter at his cell at the Chesapeake State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Dolarhyde sets up a line of communication. It is discovered and Lecter responds to Dolarhyde giving him Graham’s home address so he can kill Graham and his family. Crawford relocates Molly and Willy (Will’s stepson) to a safe location.

When Dolarhyde contacts Graham, it ends up being sleazy tabloid writer Freddy Lounds, a man willing to do anything to get a lead. Rather than incarcerate him, Crawford decides to use him to draw Dolarhyde out. And it does. Rather than go after Graham though, Dolarhyde kills Lounds as if he were Graham’s pet (the first step to each of his murders). His retaliation gives Graham more clues and brings the FBI closer to finding him.

Dolarhyde’s downfall comes shortly after he begins a relationship with blind coworker Reba McClane. To maintain his “becoming”, the dragon requires he sacrifice Reba. He doesn’t want to so he goes to the Brooklyn Museum and devours the painting. When he returns, he discovers Will and Crawford at his work. Graham put the pieces together and traced it back to Gateway. With the FBI nearly at his doorstep, Dolarhyde gives in to the dragon one last time.

My Thoughts

Having seen all the films, I had no idea there was a series of books they were based on until I read Silence of the Lambs in 2010. I wanted to continue the series and was once again surprised to learn that SOTL was actually the second in the series. Since I watch the show Hannibal (a really good show), I finally decided to work through the series.

I’ll get it out of the way and say that the book and show are very different. Many scenes are alluded to and scenarios are there, just with the wrong characters. Like the events that happen at the Chesapeake State Hospital. Also, many characters were altered. Freddie Lounds is a woman in the show and a man (Freddy) in the book. All the main characters seem to be white, unlike the show. Dr. Bloom is Alana (woman) in the show and Alan (man) in the book. There is no physical relationships between characters as in the show. Will is married in the book. And they all live outside of DC with the exception of Crawford. Oh and Lecter only gives cameos in the book and is in a mental institute. Dolarhyde is even in show if only for a few episodes. Obviously there are lots more differences between the book and the show. Pointing them all out would take ages.

Anyway. I really enjoyed the book. It has been quite a long time since I have read a book which bounced back and forth between the POVs of protagonist and antagonist. It was very engaging and very well written. You can tell that a lot of research was conducted with how detailed the scenes are. I enjoyed not being able to figure what was going to happen next. And what an ending. Everything ties to each other in such a way that I never even put them together. There were elements of foreshadowing and suspense. Especially regarding the fate of Reba.

The characters were great as well and quite complex. I had originally envisioned Dolarhyde as a physically weak character when he isn’t. He is solid, muscular, strong, and for the most part he seems attractive. But from how he sees himself he seems like an ugly, disfigured man due to how he was raised. Very interesting. Will is an intriguing character as well. I won’t lie, the show influenced how I perceive Graham to be, but it really isn’t so. Yes he is damaged, but not in the way they make him seem in the show. He isn’t mentally unstable and he has no mental connection with the killers. He is just really smart and can see things in a scene that others might overlook. He is very smart. When he shot Garret Jacob Hobbs, he was scarred by it unlike Dolarhyde who thrives on it. Both are very well created characters.

This is definitely a book I would recommend. If you like crime thrillers that are unpredictable and engaging, then this will be perfect for you. It is well written, clever, and absorbing. Enjoy 😉

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