Susan's Reviews > Red Dragon

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
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's review
Jan 06, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: re-reads
Read in January, 2009

Glad I re-read this one. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it.

RED DRAGON was the first (published) installment in the series of four books surrounding Hannibal Lecter. We don't see much of the good doctor in this book, though he's obviously never far from the thoughts of Will Graham and, therefore, the reader. Like the second installment of the series, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, Lecter is merely a secondary character, a serial killer on the loose leads us to him. It takes a killer to know one, and especially one as intelligent as Lecter obviously is.

We first meet the main character of the book, Will Graham, being little more than a beach bum in sunny Sugarloaf, Florida. Section Chief Jack Crawford has come to him looking for help solving the murders of two families. Lecter is incarcerated because of Will Graham, having gotten away with nine known murders before getting caught. Will was badly injured by Lecter and got out of the investigating business after that. He's since gotten married and works as a diesel mechanic, taking in stray dogs that no one else will have. Once Crawford shows him the pictures of the families, he's in. Begrudgingly, but he is.

He first goes to Atlanta, location of the most recent killing (the other a month prior in Birmingham). It's made clear throughout the book that Will Graham has some sort of "extra" ability when it comes to getting clues. He senses things, gains information from clues that others don't, seems able to get into the killer's mind, which is what makes him valuable to the FBI. He suffers greatly for this, however, being able to connect with a killer. After viewing the crime scene, he decides that a visit to Lecter to gain some insight would be in order.

Eventually, the reader learns the identity of the killer. So, the book is not a "who done it?" but rather when will the FBI figure it out and catch him. Francis Dolarhyde proves to be a formiddable foe to both Will Graham and the FBI. His is a story of becoming, the Red Dragon. A man who's never known acceptance or love, abused as a child, shunned by his mother.

Obviously, the good guys win. Mr. Dolarhyde is stopped, but it costs Will Graham a lot more than he bargained for when he agreed to help Jack Crawford with the case. This is probably my favorite book of the Lecter series. The characters really came alive for me. I liked the case Will Graham and the FBI had to solve. The way the killer found his victims was quite original. As much as I like Clarice Starling, I really enjoyed Will Graham and wish we'd seen more of him. A brief mention of him in the later books, so he's clearly out of the game for good. A strong book that introduces the Lecter character well, sets up the idea that he'd be consulted as he is in Silence of the Lambs.
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Taylor Laminty I read the books before I watched the movies, I was thrilled to hear about the films. That was my first lesson in the 'book vs movie' mindset. I adore Thomas Harris' meticulous explorations into the minds and inner workings of his characters. Sharing their knowledge with us, their references and frame of mind through vivid imagery and metaphoric phrasing. Letting you in on little details that make characters more real and more engaging, letting you observe the character in the events.
Naturally there is also an excellent thriller at hand as well, but what the movies lost in translation was the depth of the characters within the multilayered, fast paced plot.

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