Red dragonThomas Harris
Random House / Dell
1981

A serial killer dubbed The Tooth Fairy has already killed two families, both in a bizarre ritualistic fashion. Stumped, the FBI bring in former agent William Graham, now retired and living in Florida. Reluctantly, he takes on the case, trying to track the killer before he strikes again at the next full moon. And to do that, he needs the help of another sociopath- the infamous Hannibal Lecter, the man who’s capture ended Will’s career in the FBI, and nearly ended his life. Can Will Graham and his family emerge from this case unscathed? Without giving away the ending…nope…

I know what you’re probably thinking- “Why read this 450-plus page novel when you’ve watched the movie?” Well, as the age-old adage goes, the book is oft-times much better than the movie. Or in this case, movies. The 1986 sleeper Manhunter was based loosely on the novel, and even the 2003 movie, while staying true to much of the book, still took liberties with certain scenes and characters. Even after viewing the movie Red Dragon several times (Anthony Hopkins is the best) before reading this, I would ascertain the novel is a superior read despite the movies. For instance, the character of Francis Dolarhyde, alias The Tooth Fairy, alias Red Dragon, is delved into much more deeply, offering glimpses not only into his daily life and thought process, but also his past growing up first in an orphanage, then with his eccentric grandmother, and finally with the mother who abandoned him at birth. He becomes a much more sympathetic character than the movie touched on. We also see with greater clarity the pressure and subsequent breakdown the case has not only on Will Graham, but also on his wife and stepson. The question of “will the family stay together” is much darker and ambiguous than the downright positive moving ending. And of course, Dr. Lector here is more of a secondary character, popping up only a handful of times. Still, his brief appearances are brilliant. All said, though I’m not a fan of crime thriller novels, Thomas Harris offered up such delicious glimpses into the minds of madmen and personal struggles that it kept me going, leaving me satisfied and spent at the end…