Lucas Davenport is one busy fellow with an upcoming wedding to his pregnant girlfriend, a new house in the final phases of construction and a lot of p...moreLucas Davenport is one busy fellow with an upcoming wedding to his pregnant girlfriend, a new house in the final phases of construction and a lot of political scheming to be done that makes sure that the top positions within the Minneapolis police get filled by people he trusts as he gets ready to leave the department for a position with state law enforcement. Even though his plate is pretty damn full, when he gets a call from the FBI about Clara Rinker, Lucas drops everything else to give chase.
Clara used to be a hit woman with over two dozen kills to her name, and she and Davenport fought each other to a draw the last time they tangled. Living a new life in Mexico, Clara had been happily hooked up with a man she loved and was carrying his child. Unfortunately, Clara’s old mob employers in St. Louis had found her and dispatch a hired gun. The attempt leaves the boyfriend and baby dead, and Clara very, very angry.
The hit on Clara exposed her real identity, and since Lucas is the only cop who had any luck at tracking her down, the FBI recruits him for the hunt which takes them from Mexico to St. Louis. As Clara plans her revenge on the men responsible for the attack on her, Davenport tries to figure out a way to catch one of the smartest and deadliest foes he’s ever faced.
Clara Rinker is probably the most memorable villain of the Prey novels so it’s no surprise that Sandford brought her back for an encore. Part of what makes her different from the rest of the in this series is that she’s about the only Davenport adversary that you ever sympathize with. Rinker wasn’t born bad, she was made that way through abuse, but even though she’s a ruthless killer, she’s also a woman who tried to leave that behind only to suffer more losses. Plus, she’s smart, tough, funny and just downright likeable. Sandford does a nice job of bringing you to the brink of actively rooting for her only to slap the reader in the face with occasional reminders that Clara is capable of cold blooded murder against innocent people.
Lucas’s attitude towards Clara is also different than any one else he’d ever go after. You can tell that he admires her on some level, but he never loses sight of what she is and the need to stop her. Her planning skills make her the perfect foil for Lucas and the devious traps he concocts to catch the bad guys. (view spoiler)[It’s a nice bit that Davenport turns Clara’s nature against her in his most brilliant manipulation ever by using his own wedding as bait, and the aftermath offers a rare moment of self-recrimination where Lucas observes that he beat Clara because she was a romantic at heart. She couldn’t believe anyone would be so cynical as to turn their wedding day into a trap, and she underestimated what a bastard he really is. It’s also great that one of his biggest triumphs is a bittersweet victory with Lucas actually shedding some tears for Clara after he sees her body. He won, but he doesn’t feel very good about it. (hide spoiler)]
Another element to like about this one is that Lucas is operating in St. Louis for most of the book so he’s off his own turf. Davenport has had a long standing contempt for the FBI (That he generally refers to as the Feebs.) and there’s a nice clash with him getting fed up with their high handed attitude and them wanting to sit around a conference table while he wants to hit the streets and operate. He can come up with more info after talking to a group of retired St. Louis cops over some beers than the Feds do in the entire book, and you get the sense that the old reporter Sandford is no fan of government bureaucracy.
This is among the very best of the Prey novels thanks to the return of one of its best villains. I’d highly recommend reading Certain Prey before this one because the recapping of those events in this one would completely spoil it. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Lucas Davenport and Batman have a lot in common. They’re both rich. They’re both great detectives who race around in fancy cars chasing criminals. The...moreLucas Davenport and Batman have a lot in common. They’re both rich. They’re both great detectives who race around in fancy cars chasing criminals. They both have an extensive rogue’s gallery filled with homicidal crazy types, and now Lucas finally has a his own version of Arkham Asylum.
Davenport’s old friend Sloan from the Minneapolis police asks him to consult on a particularly vicious murder of a woman, and Lucas later links this case to another brutal killing of a father and son. A recently released sex offender named Charlie Pope looks like a likely suspect, but even though he’s supposed to be dumber than a box of hair the cops can’t find him after an extensive manhunt. As they investigate Pope’s history, Lucas and Sloan wind up checking the mental hospital that he was incarcerated in and discover an unsettling connection to a trio of patients known as the Big Three among the staff.
The Big Three are among the craziest and most dangerous inmates at the hospital, and they appear to have details about the crimes that they should have no way of knowing. Lucas fears that they have ‘programmed’ Charlie Pope to go on a killing spree that mimics their preferred methods of torture and murder. As he tries to find Pope, Lucas will also have to figure out how the Big Three are connected to the crimes.
This one starts out seeming like Sandford is going back to using a crazy serial killer as the villain again, but the detour to the mental hospital and the involvement of the Big Three put a new spin on this one. While he makes the three whackos extremely creepy, Sandford thankfully doesn’t try to turn it into a Silence of the Lambs rip-off. It’s also one of the few books Prey series that keeps the reader almost entirely in the dark as to what the villain is up to in the interest of providing several good surprises along the way.
Sandford makes Lucas more fallible than usual with him making some critical errors. The series has always been good about not presenting Lucas as omnipotent, but it’s a little startling near the end when he realizes that he overlooked a huge clue and that people died because of it. While some thrillers would have these mistakes become defining moments that haunt the hero, Lucas doesn’t dwell on them despite his regrets. That’s just life in the big leagues and when you play at his level, any mistakes can come back to bite you hard.
It’s a little quieter on the personal side of things with Davenport’s wife temporarily working in London, and the kids are with her. The biggest surprise is that Sloan is talking retirement because he’s seen a few too many dead people, and the idea that a good cop would willingly quit is shocking to Lucas even though he was making similar noises in the last book.
The best character bit revolves around Lucas making a list after getting a $100 iTunes gift card. He is determined to use it as his ultimate top 100 rock song playlist, and that becomes a running joke through the course of the book with everyone offering their opinions as to what should and shouldn’t be included. The book ends with the list, and I found it extra funny that it doesn’t include the Beatles because Davenport thinks they’re a bunch of wussy pop singers. (less)
Andi Manette and her two daughters are kidnapped right outside the girls’ school by an evil bastard named John Mail. A...moreAnother day, another psychopath…
Andi Manette and her two daughters are kidnapped right outside the girls’ school by an evil bastard named John Mail. Andi is a psychologist who once treated Mail while he was in jail, and the man obsessed over her for years. Mail confines them in a room he built in the basement of a remote farmhouse, and he starts ruthlessly raping and beating Andi.
Not only is this the kind of case that brings on massive media attention, Andi is the daughter of a wealthy and politically connected man. As usual when there’s a high profile shit storm, the Minneapolis police turn to Lucas Davenport.
Lucas quickly determines that they're dealing with a wacko, but there are several people who would gain from the death of Andi. Did someone help set her up for John Mail? With the clock ticking, Davenport pulls out every trick he has to find the Manettes, but this time he’s facing an adversary who thinks like he does. Lucas made a fortune designing elaborate games and uses those skills when trying to smoke out bad guys, but Mail is a gamer who sees playing against Davenport as the ultimate test.
I was kind of dreading rereading this one because of the brutal treatment of Andi in the hands of Mail. Fortunately, while Sandford doesn’t shy away from depicting just how awful it is, he also avoids wallowing in the gory details. He tells us enough to let us imagine the worst and leaves it there, but he still makes the reader hate John Mail so much that you’ll be praying that Lucas takes the law into his own hands by the end of this. It also helps that Andi and her girls aren't just passive victims. Trying to manipulate Mail and coming up with a way to fight him are big parts of their story.
Sandford has played up the angle of Lucas as game designer since the first book, so it’s a little surprising that he waited until the seventh book in the Prey series before using the premise of Davenport’s adversary being a gamer. The idea that Lucas is a minor celebrity and that Mail couldn’t resist contacting him once he knows he’s on the case helps sell the schtick.
It also shines a light on some of the darker corners of the Davenport character because it’s pretty obvious that he’s getting off on this game of wits. At one point his girlfriend Weather even calls him out on it by noting that despite the stress and the lives of three people depending on him, he seems happy. Lucas reluctantly admits that Mail is interesting, for a nightmare.
Speaking of Weather, there’s’ also a personal sub-plot with Lucas considering proposing to her. The normally unflappable Davenport is freaked by the prospect of marriage and worries that he’ll screw up the best relationship he’s ever had just by asking.
Another tense and relentless thriller that should keep most readers on the edge of their seat. (less)
A long Minnesota winter has left Lucas Davenport in one of his funks, but fortunately there’s a hunt for a new serial killer to put a spring in his st...moreA long Minnesota winter has left Lucas Davenport in one of his funks, but fortunately there’s a hunt for a new serial killer to put a spring in his step and a song in his heart.
James Qatar is an art history professor who likes luring lonely women into romances and then strangling them. His other hobby is doing explicit pornographic drawings of females he’s angry with and sending them the pictures anonymously or posting them in a public place. So Qatar is a real peach of a guy.
A recently discovered body is linked to complaints about the drawings, and a Wisconsin deputy who has been investigating his missing niece shows up with a pattern of missing women that fits the victim’s profile. Lucas smells a freak and launches a hunt. There’s the usual Sandford cat-and-mouse game with the reader getting Qatar’s psychotic point of view as he engages in increasingly violent efforts to keep from being caught.
It’s a good news/bad news scenario for Lucas on the personal side of things in this one. The good news is that he has reconciled with a former girlfriend and things are going so well that they’re considering having a baby. The bad news is that politics are going to force the current police chief out in a few months and Lucas along with her.
While the personal angles signal that change is on the horizon for Lucas, the rest of this book seems a bit formulaic and repetitive. Qatar is a decent enough villain, but Sandford had leaned a bit too heavily on the crazy serial killer targeting women already so despite some effort to differentiate him from the others, it still seems overly familiar. Plus, there are other elements that reminded me a lot of Night Prey like Lucas working with a cop who has a personal obsession with finding the killer and a woman being used as bait at one point.
There’s an interesting sub-plot about Lucas having to deal with an old foe to get critical information, and also a nice curve ball thrown in at the end. (view spoiler)[I really liked how Lucas figured out that Terry was going to try and kill Qatar, and that he wasn’t sure how to play it. (hide spoiler)] Still, while it’s another entertaining thriller from Sandford, it’s not one of the most memorable books in the Prey series.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Deputy Chief Lucas Davenport of the Minneapolis police has been tracking a couple of female suspects in a series of bank robberies. When Davenport’s t...moreDeputy Chief Lucas Davenport of the Minneapolis police has been tracking a couple of female suspects in a series of bank robberies. When Davenport’s team is waiting after their latest heist, the two women decide to go out in a blaze of glory and the cops oblige by killing them on the spot.
Davenport takes heat from the media and his boss for the shootings with some accusing him of baiting the robbers into a situation where they could legally be gunned down, but that’s the least of his problems. Dick LaChaise is serving time in prison, and he's a member of the Seeds, a group of bikers/organized crime syndicate/white supremacist anti-government movement. One of the dead women was his wife and the other was his sister. Now he wants revenge on the cops who killed them.
With the help of two of his buddies, LaChaise breaks out of custody and heads to Minneapolis where they blackmail a dirty cop into handing over personal information about the officers involved in the shooting. The three men begin targeting the police family members and soon the snow filled streets are turned into an utter war zone as Davenport and the cops try to protect their loved ones and themselves.
In the earlier Prey novels various kinds of nutso serial killers were usually the bad guys, and the last two books had stalker type men obsessing over specific women so it was a good time to do a completely different style of plot. This is the most action filled book into the series up until this point, and I particularly liked how Lucas is so busy dealing with one crisis after another that he’s frustrated because he has had no opportunities to do what he’s best at which is to sit down and think about how to trap these guys.
There’s also another set of memorable villains for the series. LaChaise and his friends are on a suicide run to do maximum damage before an end that they consider inevitable. A lot of these types of books would have made these guys some kind of ex-military bad asses or something along those lines, but Sandford portrays them as fringe characters to that whole murky world of racist anti-government types who spend most of their free time polishing their guns and dreaming up elaborate compounds in which they will hold off the feds. They're mean and they're dangerous, but it’s not like cops are facing a group of former special forces. LaChaise and his friends are just a heavily armed pack of assholes and that’s more than enough to cause plenty of grief.
Maybe the most interesting factor is how Davenport gets called out on some of his tactics for the first time. Usually his bosses are happy to ask no questions as long as things worked out their way, but there’s a note of unease that Lucas got a little too cute in baiting the LaChaise ladies into robbing that bank. Even Davenport’s girlfriend questions the way things played out. Although Lucas protests that the LaChaise women decided their own fate, the people who know him best seem to be getting slightly uncomfortable with his knack for manipulating events and this is before people start trying to kill them because of it. Even if Lucas stops the LaChaise gang, will anyone trust him again?
If I was ranking the entire Prey series, this would probably come in at #2 and considering there’s 23 of these things, that gives you a pretty good idea of how much I think of this one.(less)
Life has changed for Lucas Davenport. Now that he’s a newlywed with an infant son and a new job with the state as the head of a research department, o...moreLife has changed for Lucas Davenport. Now that he’s a newlywed with an infant son and a new job with the state as the head of a research department, one might think that Lucas has left his days of hunting deadly criminals behind him. But the new gig is with Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and the title is just a bureaucratic cover for what he’ll really be doing as the guy who ‘fixes shit’.
The governor needs someone to deal quickly with crimes that can be sensitive politically, and it doesn’t get much more politically sensitive then an interracial couple found hanging from a tree outside a small town. Lucas and his old cop buddy Del are dispatched to the frozen wastes of northern Minnesota and since a race-baiting political activist with an appetite for publicity is on the way, Davenport has to kick the investigation into overdrive in an effort to stop a potential media outrage fest.
It turns out that there are a couple of illegal operations running in the rural area, and the victims were connected to them. Lucas finds a valuable local guide in twelve-year-old Letty West. Letty is an smart girl who is practically raising herself thanks to an alcoholic mother. Tough and self-reliant, Letty discovered the bodies while out trapping muskrats, and since she finds it all very interesting, she finds excuses to keep hanging around Lucas.
Shifting Lucas and Del to new positions gives us some new supporting characters like the political savvy governor and thuggish BCA agents Shrake and Jenkins who provide plenty of humor. The new job also puts Lucas on a bit of a learning curve. His skill at manipulating people has always given him a feel for dealing with political and media angles, but he’s operating on a whole new level here. Having the governor behind him also allows Lucas to throw some serious weight around when need be and busting balls to get things moving is something that he’s very good at.
With the changes to Davenport’s personal and professional life, this book signaled a new phase in the Prey series. A bit older and calmer, Lucas’s investigations would seem more like a job he enjoys rather than just a way for him to avoid depression and boredom. The additional authority also seems to suit him, and this plays into the spin-off series featuring Virgil Flowers in which Lucas is the boss. The plots also shift away from often being about crazy serial killers stalking women into more offbeat type crimes
The aspect that Lucas would grow and change a bit through the course of the series is something that I‘ve always liked. Too many series get stale and tired when the author is scared too veer to far away from what’s worked before, and it’s Sandford willingness to shake things up a bit that’s helped Davenport’s longevity as a character.(less)
If a CEO gets killed in the forest and no one is around to hear him fall, does he make a sound?
Five top executives from a bank have gone into the wood...moreIf a CEO gets killed in the forest and no one is around to hear him fall, does he make a sound?
Five top executives from a bank have gone into the woods on a deer hunting trip, but only four come out alive after someone tried to make a murder look like an accidental shooting. The dead man was the president who was in the middle of putting together a merger that would have made him and the bank’s board members rich while pretty much screwing over everyone else so any one of the four are likely suspects to have killed him.
Lucas Davenport is having a bad time since his fiancé broke off their engagement. As someone who suffers from bouts of depression, Lucas can feel his mind falling into bad habits. Fortunately, an interesting murder case is just the thing to perk him right back up and while he initially thought the bank president’s death would be easily figured out, it turns into tangled mess that gets him fully engaged.
This one was a departure from the typical Prey formula in a couple of ways. Usually we get the villain’s point of view, even if Sandford sometimes hid their identity, but the first half of this one is complete whodunit with the reader having no more clue than Lucas as to who pulled the trigger. A significant part of the book is about the remaining bank execs scheming and maneuvering to try and get the top job, and it’s surprising how interesting that portion is even aside from how it plays into the murder investigation. It also shows that Sandford was a little ahead of the curve when outlining outlandish executive salaries and perks several years before it really became fashionable.
The killer is eventually revealed, and then the second half of the book seems more like a traditional Sandford novel with Lucas engaged in a battle of wits in which he’s trying to piece together a case that has far more victims than just one bank president. Still, there was definitely a different vibe to this one and showed that Sandford wasn’t interested in just repeating what had worked in the previous books, and that breaking up of the formula along with an intriguing villain makes this one of the better books in the series.(less)
With this one, I have now reviewed all 23 of John Sandford’s Prey series. I really feel like I should get a nicely framed certificate or perhaps a med...moreWith this one, I have now reviewed all 23 of John Sandford’s Prey series. I really feel like I should get a nicely framed certificate or perhaps a medal along with a ceremony commemorating the occasion….Maybe a small gathering with some cake and punch?…. No? Nothing?
Fine, ya bunch of ingrates….
A rich old lady and her housekeeper have been brutally killed in what appears to be a home invasion burglary of the type that small time crooks might pull. However, when there are indications that a few valuable antiques might have gone missing, too, Minnesota state investigator Lucas Davenport thinks that they’re may be more complex killers hiding their true motives in the mix. As he looks into the murders, Lucas also has to deal with the headache of a politically sensitive case involving a state legislator who may or may not have had sex with an underage girl.
This is yet another rock solid thriller from Sandford with all the things fans have come to expect from this series. There’s some offbeat and twisted villains operating with a mixture of greed and blood lust. Davenport has an interesting puzzle to untangle as the bad guys make moves to try and throw him off the scent so it’s another entertaining cat-and-mouse game.
Lucas relies on his supporting cast to help him figure out what’s going on, and there’s an interesting new addition in the form of Virgil Flowers. Virgil is introduced here as another state investigator working for Lucas before Sandford spun him off in his own series, and it’s soon apparent why everyone he deals with starts referring to him as ‘that fuckin’ Flowers’.(less)
Lucas Davenport has always had a way with the ladies, but he’ll need a lot more than charm to deal with Carmel Loan and Clara Rinker.
Carmel is a pit-b...moreLucas Davenport has always had a way with the ladies, but he’ll need a lot more than charm to deal with Carmel Loan and Clara Rinker.
Carmel is a pit-bull of a criminal defense lawyer who gets what she wants. Since what she wants includes her handsome and married co-worker Hale Allen, Carmel reaches out to a drug dealing client to hook her up with a hit man to kill Hale’s wife so she can step in. In this case, the hit man turns out to be a hit woman. Clara Rinker has killed over two dozen people while earning a lethal reputation, and she spends her spare time running her bar in Wichita, Kansas.
Clara pulls off the hit on Hale’s wife, but when complications arise, she and Carmel begin working together to cover their tracks. Their partnership turns into a bizarre friendship with the two women able to share sides of themselves with each other that they’ve had to keep hidden from others. This apparently proves that torture and murder are just as effective at creating female bonding as a pitcher of margaritas.
Lucas quickly gets an inkling that Carmel was involved with the death of Allen’s wife, but he has to be extremely careful when investigating her because of the legal hell she could rain down on the police department. He’ll also work with the FBI on trying to track down the elusive hit woman they’ve been chasing for years. Facing a professional killer and a lawyer who knows exactly how to work the system, Lucas will have to pull a couple of dirty tricks of his own in order to catch Carmel and Clara.
This is among the best of the Prey novels mainly because it’s got two great villains at the heart of it. Either Carmel or Clara would worthy of a novel by themselves, but teaming them up was a great idea. With Carmel being a big city lawyer and Clara being a former nudie dancer turned paid killer/ bar owner, you wouldn’t think they’d have a lot to talk about, but the two of them both have a tough pragmatic streak they admire about each other.
Even their differences are interesting with Carmel featuring a nihilistic philosophy of believing that since nothing really matters there’s no point in not doing almost anything whereas Clara sees herself more in a role of delivering karmic justice to those who deserve it. Their odd couple friendship also generates some black humor like one scene where the two ditch a couple of guns they’ve used to murder someone and then start planning a joint vacation to Mexico to hang out some more.
It’s also notable that a couple of weird events are at the heart of this one. The Prey books usually feature a tightly plotted war of wits, but in this case Lucas makes a deductive leap that seems reasonable and leads to an important clue. We later find out that his reasoning was completely wrong so a mistake led to a major breakthrough. Then a freakish coincidence winds up driving the plot through the second half of the book. In other crime fiction, this could seem ridiculous, but that’s a change from how Sandford usually does business and so throwing a few odd events at Lucas doesn’t seem like cheating.
With Carmel and Clara featured so prominently, Lucas doesn’t really have any personal subplots this time other than a running joke about him toting around a giant report as part of a diversity commission he got roped into serving on. However, there’s the usual dynamic of Davenport pulling some shady moves and more than a few mind games. This one deserves its reputation as one of the best of the Prey novels.
Random trivia: The USA Network made a TV movie based on this a few years back starring Mark Harmon as Lucas. It wasn’t particularly good or memorable, but it did have a nice performance by Tatiana Maslany as Clara, and she’s currently getting rave reviews for her work on Orphan Black. (less)
Serial killer thrillers are a dime a dozen anymore, but this one added just enough of a twist to make it halfway interesting. It will also make you cr...moreSerial killer thrillers are a dime a dozen anymore, but this one added just enough of a twist to make it halfway interesting. It will also make you cringe slightly whenever you have to handle a bottle of drain cleaner for a while after reading.
The main mystery is pretty conventional with a quirky female reporter getting pulled into a police investigation. If that's all there was too it, then it wouldn't be worth reading.
However, the more interesting portion revolves around the relationship between a female serial killer, Gretchen Lowell, and the detective, Archie Sheridan, that she tortured before being captured. The author reportedly got tips on writing violence from Chuck Palanhuik, the author of Fight Club, and that may explain why the gore in the torture flashbacks seems more horrific than the rest of the book.
To the author's credit, she avoids turning this into a Silence of the Lambs type of story, and the mystery of what happened while Archie was Gretchen's captive is what will keep you turning the pages rather than the weaker main story. (less)
When it comes to Hannibal Lecter, I’m like one of those music hipster douche bags that everyone hates because I’ll snootily declare that I knew about...moreWhen it comes to Hannibal Lecter, I’m like one of those music hipster douche bags that everyone hates because I’ll snootily declare that I knew about him long before most people did and that he’s sucked ever since he got really famous.
I’d read this years before the book of The Silence of the Lambs came out and led to the excellent film adaptation that skyrocketed Hannibal to the top of pop culture villains. Hell, I’m so Hannibal-hip that I’d caught Brian Cox playing him in Michael Mann’s adaptation Manhunter, and I didn’t just see it on VHS like all the other late-comers, I actually saw it in the theater. Twice! (I’m pretty sure this is the literary equivalent of claiming to have seen a band in a bar with eleven other people long before their first record deal.)
So after Thomas Harris and Hollywood ran the character into the ground after the second movie, it’s been years of shaking my head and saying, “Man, nothing’s been the same since Anthony Hopkins gave his Oscar acceptance speech.”
Since I felt like Harris was just cashing in and had pretty much ruined Hannibal in the process, I hadn’t felt the urge to revisit Red Dragon or The Silence of the Lambs in some time. I was more than skeptical about the NBC prequel TV series Hannibal, but great reviews and the involvement of Bryan Fuller got me to check it out. Not only has it been incredibly good and returned Hannibal Lecter to his creepy best, it’s clever use of events referenced as backstory in Red Dragon had me digging out my copy to refresh my memory. Even better, the show has given me a new appreciation for an old favorite and reminded me what I found compelling about it to begin with.
Will Graham was a profiler for the FBI until he was badly injured while identifying a certain gourmet serial killer whose name conveniently rhymes with ‘cannibal’ which certainly made life easier for the people writing tabloid headlines. Will has retired to a happy new life with a wife and stepson in Florida until his old boss Jack Crawford comes calling and asks for help. There’s a brutal new killer dubbed the Tooth Fairy by the cops due to his habit of biting his victims. He’s killed two families after breaking into their homes and seems to be on schedule to do it again at the next full moon.
Will is reluctant to come back not just because he’s already been gutted once by a madman. He also fears that trying to think like a mass murderer isn’t the best thing for his mental health. It turns out that his concerns are justified after a tabloid journalist essentially paints a target on his back for the Tooth Fairy. Even worse, Will has to confront the man who nearly killed him and being confined to a cell doesn’t mean that Dr. Lecter can’t still do some serious damage.
Even as someone who was on the Hannibal bandwagon for a quarter of a century, it’s shocking to re-read this and realize how small of a part he actually plays in the story. Yes, he’s terrifying and his presence hangs over Will like a dark cloud, but he’s still a supporting player. Francis Dolarhyde (a/k/a The Red Dragon a/k/a The Tooth Fairy) may not have Hannibal’s culinary skills, but he’s one damn scary and slightly tragic villain while Will Graham makes for a damaged but compelling hero in the story.
I think one of the things I love best is just how much time is spent on how Will thinks. As a man with extremely high levels of empathy and a vivid imagination, Will’s ability to put himself in someone else’s shoes is a gift and a curse. Thinking like deranged killers has left him questioning if he might not be one of them, and it spills over all his emotions like a toxic oil spill.
By understanding their madness, Will can find the logic in their thinking, and it’s following that internal logic that allows Will to find the evidence they need. The breakthrough Will eventually makes is one of my all-time favorite examples of pure detection in the genre. It was in front of the reader the entire time, but it’s such an elegant solution that fits together so perfectly that Harris doesn’t have to engage in obscuring it with red herrings.
As a thriller that led to countless rip-offs and even the eventual collapse of the franchise due to it’s own success, it’s been often imitated but rarely equaled.