Red Dragon by Thomas Harris - Book Review - Kristopher Cook

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris Book Cover
A second family has been massacred by the terrifying serial killer the press has christened 'The Tooth Fairy.' Will Graham is the greatest profiler the FBI ever had, but the scars of capturing Hannibal Lecter have caused Graham to go into early retirement. Now, Graham must turn to Lecter for help.
Genre: Thriller
Available from: | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Audible

Gruesome crime scenes and gritty detectives, Harris’ Red Dragon offers up much more than a few frights.

‘The Tooth Fairy’ is on the loose; stalking, and then, brutally killing families in the south. First, the Jacobi family, then the Leeds family; both within phases of a full moon.

I won’t dwell on his character because the information is readily available online. Still, it’s best to go into the book knowing as little as possible. This gives the reveals more weight when reading.

Will Graham is set the task of bringing in this psycho-killer; however, he doesn’t have the knowledge to get deep enough into his psyche.

Step forward, Dr Hannibal Lecter.

Hannibal the Cannibal

Hannibal Lecter is a folk-law of fiction. He’s one of those villains that everyone knows about without having read any of the books (The Silence of the Lambs film being the main reason).

To give a little background, he’s a former serial-killer himself. He was captured by Will Graham but not before severely injuring Graham, forcing him into early retirement.

It’s interesting to see how Lecter is perceived here, given his prominent place in pop-culture of the past few decades.

Doctors claim Lecter ‘has no remorse or guilt at all’ regarding his crimes, as well as sharing similar traits to that of a sociopath. Graham himself often references him as ‘a monster’, reinforcing the bogeyman mythology that follows him.

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth

Red Dragon jumps between Will Graham and his hunt for the killer, as well as following The Tooth Fairy stalking his prey. However, as the story moves on, I grew to enjoy the back and forth that takes place between Graham and Lecter.

Both intellectuals who are excellent at associating with the killer’s psyche, trying to dig deeper to find his motives and ultimately stop his next move.

I must stress that although the story focuses mostly on the killings committed by The Tooth Fairy, Hannibal Lecter is clearly the main villain here.

He’ll happily lead Graham along if it means getting a form of revenge on others, notably on Graham himself.

Fear comes with imagination, it’s a penalty, it’s the price of imagination.
Thomas Harris, Red Dragon

The book is incredibly dark and atmospheric, with the first murder being one that still sticks with me well after reading. It’s the mirrors. Horrific!

For this reason, it plays a lot like Deaver’s Bone Collector, minus the high-tech forensic gear. The criminal psychology being the critical aspect of the books – you either find it fascinating, as I did, or you grow to hate it.

Harris writes brilliant characters that have fully-fleshed circumstances, believable actions and above all else, are relatable.

Sure, a former FBI detective isn’t your everyday job, however, his background and his need to protect his family is.

In contrast to the praise, the police profile concerning the Tooth Fairy feels a little cliché, dealing with Childhood trauma and a lack of a parental figure but it’s something that’s easily overlooked.

Despite this, the book’s main psychologies do hold up, even in modern-day.

Closing Thoughts

Red Dragon is more than just another serial killer novel. Digging deep into criminal psychology, Harris crafts a plot that is both compelling and horrifying in equal measure.

Go read it now, you’ll thank me for it later.

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