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Hannibal by Thomas Harris – Better Than The Movie. . .

June 24, 2011
Hannibal by Thomas Harris

Horror lits head chef Harris serves up another course in his Hannibal The Cannibal Lecter trilogy, and its a pièce de résistance for those with strong stomachs. In the first book, Red Dragon (filmed as Manhunter), Hannibal diabolically helps the FBI track a fascinating serial killer. (Takes one to know one.) In The Silence of the Lambs, he advises fledgling FBI manhunter Clarice Starling, then makes a bloody, brilliant escape.

Years later, posing as scholarly Dr. Fell, curator of a grand familys palazzo, Hannibal lives the good life in Florence, playing lovely tunes by serial killer/composer Henry VIII and killing hardly anyone himself. Clarice is unluckier: in the novels action-film-like opening scene, she survives an FBI shootout gone wrong, and her nemesis, Paul Krendler, makes her the fall guy. Clarice is suspended, so, unfortunately, the first cop who stumbles on Hannibal is an Italian named Pazzi, who takes after his ancestors, greedy betrayers depicted in Dantes Inferno.

Pazzi is on the take from a character as scary as Hannibal: Mason Verger. When Verger was a young man busted for raping children, his vast wealth saved him from jail. All he needed was psychotherapy–with Dr. Lecter. Thanks to the treatment, Verger is now on a respirator, paralyzed except for one crablike hand, watching his enormous, brutal moray eel swim figure eights and devour fish. His obsession is to feed Lecter to some other brutal pets.

What happens when the Italian cop gets alone with Hannibal? How does Clarices reunion with Lecter go from macabre to worse? Suffice it to say that the plot is Harriss weirdest, but it still has his signature mastery of realistic detail. There are flaws: Hannibals madness gets a motive, which is creepy but lessens his mystery. If you want an exact duplicate of The Silence of the Lambss Clarice/Hannibal duel, youll miss whats cool about this book–that Hannibal is actually upstaged at points by other monsters. And if you think its all unprecedentedly horrible, youre right. But note that the horrors are described with exquisite taste. Harriss secret recipe for success is restraint. –Tim Appelo

In My Top Ten Favorite Books List
There is something so sinister and unfamiliar to most people with Hannibal Lector – you love him or you hate and fear him. I dont see any gray area there. Its the truly elegant, noblisse oblige gestures and actions on Hannibals part that lured me in with Silence. I wanted to know who Hannibal really is – out in the open, away from prison and free to make a life of his choosing knowing it may be the last chance he has to live in the world. The descriptions of Florence are exquisite and moving – having been there myself more than once, I thank Mr. Harris for paying homage to this great city and I found no more fitting place to re-enter Hannibal Lectors life. I wont comment on the emotional, sociological, or ethical issues behind some of the characters choices in this book other than to say in many ways the ending fit very well indeed. Clarice was looking for mate, a partner that knew her, understood her in ways she could not do for herself. While its dark and scary and based on inherently evil acts I felt the love between Hannibal and Clarice was also based on mutual respect, admiration and humor. How could the story end any differently and remain true to these two characters?

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Hannibal by Thomas Harris

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