Updated: May 9, 2020
"Invite Hannibal Lecter into the palace of your mind and be invited into his mind palace in turn.Note the similarities in yours and his,the high vaulted chambers of your dreams,the shadowed halls,the locked storerooms where you date not go,the scrap of half-forgotten music,the muffled cries from behind a wall."
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I was excited to read this book because Hannibal Lecter is one of my favorite fictional horror characters.
We get to follow Special Agent Clarice Starling through her troubles in the FBI,Hannibal Lecter's life while on the lamb (yes,that was intentional),one Italian detective's need for retribution,and a family's empire thirsty for revenge all inside of Harris' well-written 'Hannibal.'
The transition between this cast of characters is easily done with quick chapters,but Harris never loses a stride,keeping the momentum going from page to page.
The book begins with Special Agent Starling having made her place in the FBI. This soon becomes a controversy after a shootout pushes Starling into the headline spotlight,dubbed as the: Death Angel. Her career begins to fall apart,but not unnoticed by the one and only,Hannibal Lecter.
We meet a new and unforgettable character named Mason Verger. Verger is one of Lecter's earlier victims (pre-Silence of the Lambs),who survived and offers a high reward for the capture of his attacker. Verger is a memorable character --- "Mason Verger,noseless and lipless,with no soft tissue on his face,was all teeth,like a creature of the deep,deep ocean. Inured as we are to masks,the shock in seeing him is delayed. Shock comes with the recognition that this is a human face with a mind behind it. It churns you with its movement,the articulation of the jaw,the turning of the eye to see you. To see your normal face." But finding out the things he had done during his lifetime stays with the reader.
"I'm not ashamed anymore.I'll tell you about anything. It's all okay now. I got a walk on those trumped-up molestation counts if I did five hundred hours of community service,worked at the dog pound and got therapy from Dr. Lecter."
Even I couldn't blame Lecter for what he did to Mason.
"He went over to the mirror I looked at myself in,and kicked the bottom of it and took out a shard. I was flying. He came over and gave me the piece of glass and looked me in the eyes and suggested I might like to peel off my face with it."
Although most would have a revelation after such an attack,Mason continues to be the person he had always been,especially towards the children in his family's 'day care.'
"Do you know what will happen to Kitty Cat? The policemen will take Kitty Cat to the pound and a doctor there will give her a shot. Did you get a shot at day care? Did the nurse give you a shot? With a shiny needle? They'll give Kitty Cat a shot. She'll be so scared when she sees the needle. They'll stick it in and Kitty Cat will hurt and die."
Another interesting character we meet is named Rinaldo Pazzi,an Inspector in Florence,Italy. Pazzi is well known for working high profile cases,including the infamous serial killer,Il Mostro. It is Pazzi who identifies Lecter hiding in Florence. He makes a deal with Verger to help capture him for a nice lump sum,but at the chance of being killed by Lecter.
Eventually,we get a small insight into Lecter's psychological makeup by reliving the death of his sister,Mischa. This memory plays on and off throughout the rest of the book,but it's the only glimpse the reader gets into the dark side of Lecter's mind palace.
Harris beautifully transitioned from 'Silence of the Lambs' to 'Hannibal,' keeping readers on their toes from chapter to chapter. Interesting and dark characters intertwine to bring an end to Hannibal Lecter's series ('Hannibal Rising' is a prequel detailing Lecter's life as a young man).
I wouldn't say that you HAVE to read 'Silence of the Lambs' to understand the book 'Hannibal.' Harris did a great job of reminiscing over events that happened in 'Silence . . ." Yet,having read 'Silence. . .,' I will say you would get a better picture of Hannibal and Starling's view of one another,which would make the ending of 'Hannibal' make more sense to the reader.
Overall,I enjoyed 'Hannibal' more than 'Silence of the Lambs.' I find Starling's maturity in 'Hannibal' refreshing compared to her insecurities in 'Silence. . .' The book is very fluid,but a heavy read - this is not a read-in-a-day kind of book (484 pages). I found myself stopping and allowing what I read to settle in because it just seemed the right thing to do. My only annoyance was that during the entire part two that takes place in Florence,there is a lot of Italian being used without an english translation (I am not fluent,not even a little,so all of those sentences went right over my head). I feel like I may have missed out on some dialogue because of this.