Book Review: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

This is the novel where Harris introduced his most famous creation Hannibal Lecter to the world, and it’s been adapted twice for the big screen, the first time as Manhunter in the ’80s and with the original title about 10 years ago. I’ve seen both versions, but when given the option to buy the novel for a reduced price I seized it eagerly, having thoroughly enjoyed the sequel, The Silence of the Lambs.

The plot follows Will Graham, a retired forensic expert with a gift for profiling, who suffered grievous wounds while trying to bring Lecter in. He’s brought back into the fold by his old boss, Jack Crawford, who needs his help investigating the brutal killings of two families.

red dragon

It’s obvious they are the work of the same killer, dubbed the Tooth Fairy because of his habit of biting his victims, and he strikes around the full moon. With a little under a month to go, Graham joins Crawford and his team, struggling to regain his mojo as an investigator at first but soon starting to piece things together.

The killer is the physically and emotionally scarred Francis Dolarhyde, who believes that the killings will help him change into the “Great Red Dragon”.

Can Graham regain his instincts and work out who the Tooth Fairy is? Can his home life survive the pressure and should the door of insight into the mind of a killer really be opened? Does the interest of a sweet, blind colleague offer Dolarhyde a chance to change his path? And does Graham really want to visit Lecter, the killer he put away but who left him in hospital?

I really dug this book, it’s an immensely thrilling and captivating read, the kind of book that I found myself ploughing through chapter after chapter, entirely engrossed  by Harris’ fast flowing, no nonsense prose. Harris does a great job in conveying Graham’s fragile mental state as well as the insanity of the killer, but in such a way that you do develop some sympathy for Dolarhyde.

It’s genuinely unsettling in places and as it hurtles towards the conclusion the tension builds unbearably. There’s a particular nasty sequence featuring Dolarhyde dealing with a scumbag journalist which will stick with me for a while.

I thoroughly recommend this for anyone looking for a quick, thrilling read which will keep you entranced throughout.

Verdict: A gripping thriller which is written with real verve and energy, and Harris has a real knack for racking up the tension and some delightfully nasty flourishes. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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One Comment on “Book Review: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris”

  1. […] is the third book in the Hannibal Lecter, and having enjoyed Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs I was keen to check it out. However, I was slightly […]


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