Review: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

A quiet summer night…a neat suburban house…and another innocent, happy family is shattered — the latest victims of a grisly series of hideous sacrificial killings that no one understands, and no one can stop. Nobody lives to tell of the unimaginable carnage. Only the blood-stained walls bear witness.

All hope rests on Special Agent Will Graham, who must peer inside the killer’s tortured soul to understand his rage, to anticipate and prevent his next vicious crime. Desperate for help, Graham finds himself locked in a deadly alliance with the brilliant Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the infamous mass murderer who Graham put in prison years ago. As the imprisoned Lecter tightens the reins of revenge, Graham’s feverish pursuit of the Red Dragon draws him inside the warped mind of a psychopath, into an unforgettable world of demonic ritual and violence, beyond the limits of human terror.

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. Book # 1 in the Hannibal Lecter series. Audio narrated by Alan Sklar. 12 hours and 7 mins. Published in 1981, audiobook is published by Simon Schuster, March 1989. February group listen for the Goodreads group Horror Aficionados.

For this review, I’ll just get right to it. I did not care for this book. I know, I know! An overwhelmingly high amount of the people who have read this book absolutely loved it. I wish I could say the same, sadly I do not fall into that category.

I’ll start off with something nice about Red Dragon. You can clearly see how this book has influenced not just other thriller books (yes, THRILLER, NOT HORROR. *Saves that rant for a separate post* ) but also police drama tv shows for the last 30 years. I will give it that. *Slow clap*

The thing is… I was kind of bored by Red Dragon. :/ It starts off on the right track. We have a gruesome serial killer doing serial killer things, the FBI go to a retired profiler for help to crack the case. The profiler is supposed to be the best of the best but has baggage. Alright, sounds good so far. Then what happens? Well, for 10 1/2 hours out of the 12 hours it takes for the narrator to read the book, the FBI have made progress on the case at a snails pace. They hardly have any clues and the ones the do get don’t lead them far. In fact, there is a lot of just sitting around twiddling their thumbs while Will is angsty and Crawford doesn’t seem to understand anything. In fact, for Will to be this amazing profiler, it felt like he actually did very little through the whole book. In the last hour of the audio book he finally figures out a few key things, but seriously, it takes him the whole book to make any progress? And that’s just it… I would like to see some sort of moving forward for both the good guys and the bad guys. With just the bad guy making any kind of forward progress, it felt too uneven and it kind of grew stale watching the FBI still make very little progress. I’m not saying they had to solve the case right away or instant gratification or anything like that…. It just felt like the worlds slowest cat and mouse chase ever, and that was boring.

I also didn’t really care for Hannibal’s part in this story. Yes, Hannibal is an amazing character. Creepy McCreeperson. Yeah, yeah, yeah… But the way he was just dropped in to the story felt kind of…forced maybe? Definitely not the smoothest insert of a character. Ok, so here is what basically happens: Will is stumped by the new serial killer. He decides to go to Hannibal, who is locked away, and get his opinion about who the killer is. Why does Will think Hannibal, the man he captured and the man who tried to kill him, will tell him anything? I don’t know. Anyways, Will goes in to talk to Hannibal. Hannibal is a sly jerk and tells him nothing, just toys with Will instead. Will leaves. Newspaper takes a picture and prints it in the news – Will goes to see Lector about new serial killer. The new serial killer reads this and then tries to become pen pals with with Hannibal. And…. that’s basically it. Nothing really came out of Will going to see Hannibal. Hannibal tries to get revenge on Will through being penpals with the new serial killer, but nothing really comes of that either. The serial killer does find out Wills address, but it seems like a very long, hastily done set up for just finding out the address. I don’t know… just, the way it was done… *shrug* It wasn’t very smooth and it felt way too obvious.

A lot of people talk about how this is such a graphic and disturbing story. *Shrug* I really didn’t find it that disturbing or graphic. Yes, there were parts that were disturbing or graphic, but with the way people talk about, I thought it was going to be much worse then it was. I don’t know… maybe I’ve watched and read too much horror, or maybe I’ve seen too many articles about psychology, mental health, and / or macabre news articles to find this book really shocking. Through the first half of the book, it was a nice show of trying to deconstruct a serial killer by a profiler. I didn’t really care about the backstory of why the killer is all screwed up. It felt way too melodramatic, like I was reading something by V.C. Andrews or something. We didn’t need some soap opera like reasoning for what happened to him as a kid. Seeing him as just some tragic abused child took some of the oomph out of his present day story line.

Now let me tell you what I really hated. This has nothing to to with the book itself, but with the audiobook narration. Red Dragon was narrated by Alan Sklar. Wow. His narration was not very good. Everyone sounded exactly the same. All his men sounded like the same man, all his women sounded like the same woman. It was very hard to follow along with conversations when I couldn’t tell who was actually talking half the time! I was already feeling meh about the book and this narration did not do it any favors at all. One of the worst narrations I’ve heard in recent memory. The only person that sounded any good was Hannibal. It felt like that was the only voice that Alan tried anything different with, for he went much deeper and slower when Hannibal talked.

I tried going in to Red Dragon with an open mind, but it just didn’t do much for me. I found the plot sluggish with certain parts that felt unnecessary. Most people find this book very disturbing and amazing, but I found it to be neither. To make things worse, the narrator for the audio book was not very good and made it harder to follow along. I don’t hate this book, but I was far from loving it. It just felt kind of meh and a little bit overrated.


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