Red Dragon: Book Recommendation Friday

The door from the porch into the kitchen was patched with plywood where the police had taken out the glass. By flashlight he unlocked it with the key the police had given him. He wanted to turn on lights. He wanted to put on his shiny badge and make some official noises to justify himself to the silent house where five people had died. He did none of that. He went into the dark kitchen and sat down at the breakfast table.

Two pilot lights on the kitchen range glowed blue in the dark. He smelled furniture polish and apples.

The thermostat clicked and the air conditioning came on. Graham started at the noise, felt a trickle of fear. He was an old hand at fear. He could manage this one. He simply was afraid, and he could go on anyway.

He could see and hear better afraid; he could not speak as concisely, and fear sometimes made him rude. Here, there was nobody left to speak to, there was nobody to offend anymore.

Madness came into this house through that door into this kitchen, moving on size-eleven feet. Sitting in the dark, he sensed madness like a bloodhound sniffs a shirt.

Red Dragon—Thomas Harris

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Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past thirty some years, you’re well aware of the work of Thomas Harris. Red Dragon is the first of four books. Technically, the book is a thriller. We know the identity of the killer long before our erstwhile detective, Will Graham.

In the Hannibal Lector universe, this book occurs before the current television show, Hannibal. I know I’m a heretic, but to me, Mads Mikkelson is a much more chilling villain than Anthony Hopkins. But no one can match William Peterson’s portrayal of Agent Will Graham in Manhunter, the movie adaptation of Red Dragon.

This series is special for two reasons. First, Will Graham is a finely drawn protagonist, smart, yet plagued by personal demons that threaten to destroy him. Second, Hannibal Lector is a chilling villain, urbane, sophisticated, yet evil and ruthless. For budding writers, there can be no better models for developing characters.

To date, the series consists of four books: Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising. Red Dragon is the best of the bunch closely followed by The Silence of the Lamb. Unfortunately (in my estimation), the quality of the series falls off with the last two books. Harris has these four books over a span of 32 years. Let’s hope he’s got another one in the hopper.

 


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