Red Dragon

Red Dragon



The Pequod Review:

Red Dragon introduces one of the most memorable characters in all of crime fiction: Dr. Hannibal (the Cannibal) Lecter. While he plays a supporting role in the overall novel, some of the best and most frightening moments involve descriptions of Lecter's crimes and temperament. Here for example is the administrator of the Chesapeake State Hospital for the Criminally Insane (where Lecter is being held) describing the doctor’s behavior since he was apprehended:

“On the afternoon of July 8, 1976, Dr. Lecter complained of chest pain. His restraints were removed in the examining room to make it easier to give him an electrocardiogram. One of his attendants left the room to smoke, and the other turned away for a second. The nurse was very quick and strong. She managed to save one of her eyes.”

"You may find this curious." He took a strip of EKG tape from a drawer and unrolled it on his desk. He traced the spiky line with his forefinger. "Here, he's resting on the examining table. Pulse seventy-two. Here, he grabs the nurse's head and pulls her down to him. Here, he is subdued by the attendant. He didn't resist, by the way, though the attendant dislocated his shoulder. Do you notice the strange thing? His pulse never got over eighty-five. Even when he tore out her tongue.”

“I don't think we're any closer to understanding him than the day he came in.''

The overall novel is solid, and involves an FBI agent (Will Graham) who is lured out of retirement to pursue a serial killer alternately known as the Tooth Fairy (because he bites his victims) or the Red Dragon (after a violent William Blake painting). Graham, seeking insights into the mind of a serial killer, engages Lecter in a series of interviews. Harris is a great pure storyteller, and while the Tooth Fairy/Red Dragon character turns out to be a bit of a caricature, the book is suspenseful and thrilling nonetheless.