Review: Red Dragon – Thomas Harris

red dragon cover

Hannibal Lecter #1

Will Graham is retired, out of the psychopath game and living with his wife, Molly, and her son, Willy. Dr Hannibal Lecter almost killed him when they came face to face years ago when Graham was searching for a specific killer. His life now is serene and perfect, which is quickly disrupted when FBI agent Jack Crawford turns up on his door, pleading with him for help. There is a serial killer butchering whole families at random during full moons. Graham is not interested, but Crawford pushes. Graham has a deeper understanding into the mind of a psychopath. Graham himself is a little different. After much debate and rancour, Graham agrees to go see the houses where the families were killed.

The cops are calling the killer the Tooth Fairy, though Graham is not comfortable with it. Going through the evidence of both murders and the homes of the Leeds family in Atlanta, Georgia, Graham is reconstructing the family for himself as well as the events. He is having a hard time zeroing in on everything, though, and feels that the only way he will be able to fully slot back into the role of profiler, of hunter, is to come face to face with the evil that drove him from the industry – Dr Hannibal Lecter. He thinks that Lecter could possibly help him find the Tooth Fairy killer, or offer an insight that the rest of the team has missed. Will doesn’t really get much from the meeting, though Lecter is thrilled to have his “plaything” back, as it seems. Dr Alan Bloom is consulting on the case, but is having issues with Crawford, who wants a psychiatric analysis of Graham that Bloom is unwilling to provide.

As though the police did not have enough issues as it is, slimy reporter Freddy Lounds is on a mission to make waves, and paints Graham in a terrible light. There is no love lost between the men, and they have a sour history. On the other hand, Francis Dolarhyde is the Red Dragon, and despises the name of the Tooth Fairy. He is a production chief at a St Louis film processing firm, and on the hunt for a new family, which he finds through the film that he processes. Graham is hunting an unknown man, yet Dolarhyde has a clear view of who is after him. Dolarhyde has some serious family issues, and an unnatural obsession with William Blake’s painting “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun”. Dolarhyde has terrible vicious sexual urges that he cannot control, and that is when the Red Dragon assumes control.

Soon the Red Dragon makes contact with Lecter, and the FBI needs to find a way to trap him. All the promises that Crawford made Graham are thrown out of the window when Lecter manages to find out where he lives. Graham’s relationship with Molly becomes very strained, and he is angry. Another family somewhere is being hunted, and the FBI has no insight on how they are being chosen and what makes them unique. Freddy Lounds proves to be a massive problem when he interferes heavily in a sting that they FBI was rushing to set up to capture the Red Dragon. Graham needs to find a way to capture the Red Dragon, even if it means laying aside his pride to work with a snake like Lounds. In the meantime, however, the Red Dragon grows restless, and Francis Dolarhyde falls in love with a blind co-worker named Reba McClane. Though his life is taking on a new direction, Graham is still determined to find and catch the Red Dragon, who is still intent on continuing to follow his dark urges.

Will Graham be able to find out who the Red Dragon is? Will he be able to stop the man? How much of himself is Graham going to lose while hunting down another psychopath? What will Lecter do with the knowledge now that he knows where Graham is staying? Will Graham’s family be safe of any and all fallout that comes from this deadly case that he is working on?

GRADE 8.5I was duly impressed with this novel. I am a huge Hannibal Lecter fan, though I have never gotten around to reading the books. I thought it was high time to change that, especially seeing as the series turned out to be so impressive. Let me tell you, I cannot believe that it took me so long to get to this. The book was well written, the story was nice and streamlined, put together well. There were instances where the writing style annoyed me a little bit, but overall I really liked this book, and as much as I feel I should have read it earlier, I am glad that I had something fresh and good still. Good authors with good books are pretty rare. Will Graham is a psychologically in depth character, and his relationship with Hannibal is so damn odd. I found Will to be a very compelling character, too, who has quickly become a favourite of mine. Jack Crawford is a brash and no-nonsense kind of man, though he does feel some sort of affiliation for Will Graham. The story paced at a decent speed, and the book flowed nicely. It was a nice thriller with plenty to make you think. Definitely something that I would read again, and something I could tell you to check out.

9 thoughts on “Review: Red Dragon – Thomas Harris

    1. I must say I was rather impressed with how closely the films stuck to it, to be honest. I would highly recommend reading it. I am actually going to watch over them again, but not bad. Obviously there are a few minor changes (MINOR, did you hear that, Hollywood?!), but not enough to detract from or lose the story.


      1. I like those Hannibal Lector movies. I watched the pilot of the TV series and liked it but never went back to them for no good reason.


      2. I LOVE the Hannibal movies (yep, something is definitely wrong here), and I was very sceptical about the series, but DAMN! You should really get back to it, very much worth the watch. Just the way that they implemented it…


  1. I loved The Silence of the Lambs (book and movie), but just couldn’t get into the Hannibal book.

    I heard that Red Dragon was good, but I didn’t feel like reading it after the drag that was Hannibal. Looks like I should give it a try.

    Might be also time to reread Silence of the Lambs, I read your review, and I am just not able to place Will Graham. Is he a recurring character? Seems strange that I don’t remember him from Silence of the Lambs.


    1. I haven’t read the other books in the series, to be honest. I am a huge fan of the movies, but I am ashamed to say that I never got around to the literature. I was deeply impressed with Red Dragon, I would highly recommend you give it a go! Can’t wait to see what else Thomas Harris will bring forth.

      Even in the movies, Will Graham was only around in Manhunter/Red Dragon. He was the man who put Dr Lecter away, but as far as I know it was the only novel that he appeared in.

      Graham features prominently in the new Hannibal television series that has just come (also definitely worth looking into if you haven’t already).


  2. Dr Hannibal Lecter is definitely an intriguing & terrifying villain. I haven’t seen the film version of this but I did see Manhunter and Silence of the Lamb.


    1. Manhunter is an adaption of Red Dragon, so it is pretty close. The more recent one just took the name of the book, too.

      He is really an excellent villain, scary, insanely intelligent and mad to boot.

      Did you enjoy those two films?


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