Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Funerals often make us want sex—

--it’s one in the eye for death."

~Red Dragon - by Thomas Harris

Downloaded from 

The character of Will Graham reminded me of myself as I read this novel. "He didn't want a face aimed at him all the time." He described the morgue as a peaceful place, and it is. I've been there. It's place where the dead don't complain. Where the world might smell bad, but the science makes sense.


I don't know why people continue to call the smell of blood "coppery." It's not. It smells like the iron that is in it. Rusted iron when the blood gets old. This was one of a few things that bugged me in the prose, but I could let it go.

Page 20 (Kindle version), when Will drinks "two fingers of whiskey," it's a small thing, but I would have liked to know what kind of whiskey it was. Would have told me a bit more about him. 

Throughout the novel, I enjoyed the simplicity of the prose and the natural flow of the dialogue. That's what made this book both an easy/quick read and steady pace.

As I read, I thought about how Graham let himself get into the brain of the killer, and how it both bothered and thrilled him. I compared it to those of us who write we absolutely MUST go into those dark places in order to write our scenes well and fully develop our characters and how...when we emerge from those places...many of us need a cleansing ritual in order to be all right with our world.

Another thing I enjoyed that perhaps younger readers wouldn't understand, was the trip back to the 80's. Cigarette smoke inside the diner, old style antacids and headache medicines that no longer occupy modern pharmaceutical shelves, and the absence of cell phones. The very beginnings of computers, the popularity of was a very different time, the 80's. In the criminal justice system, fingerprints were often hoarded together in large binders, and matching prints to a suspect was an onerous task. These days, CODIS has made it easy to find a set of prints from millions of persons in the system.

Forensics: Many of the forensic descriptions were accurate, which is something I enjoyed. From the chemicals described in the breakdown of a wound to the details about bite marks and other aspects of  forensic odontology. . . Harris placed an air of believability in his story because it was framed with  scientific elements that were true at the time the novel was written. 

Interesting quote observations early in the story:

"You know how cats do. They hide to die. Dogs come home." (p. 33, Kindle)

"The Tooth Fairy will go on and on until we get smart or get lucky. He won’t stop.” (p. 39, Kindle, Interesting because of the criminal profiling.)

"Men have no confidence in whispers." (p. 47, Mrs Leed's Diary.)

“He did it because he liked it. Still does. Dr. Lecter is not crazy, in any common way we think of being crazy. He did some hideous things because he enjoyed them. But he can function perfectly when he wants to.” (p.63, describing Hannibal Lecter.)

"Perception’s a tool that’s pointed on both ends.” (p. 179)

As someone who has studied criminal profiling, much of what Harris wrote in his novel was textbook for the times. The descriptive actions of sociopaths are taken right out of behavioral science journals. For example, the early start in the sociopath 'career' torturing/hurting/killing animals. . . it's one of the things that seriously creeps me out because even though it's written in a fiction novel it's true in the real world. It's true in a world I'd prefer for my brain not to admit exists.

All in all, I've got to say I enjoyed this book. Harris handles multiple POV's well in the story, and he's not overly descriptive on the setting. He uses a lot of dialogue which helped to keep the novel interesting. The one major drawback (for me) was that it was so much like the film, "Silence of the Lambs," that I couldn't help but compare them. I haven't read the novel, but comparing this book with the SotL movie, I found much of it repetitive. Overly redundant. So much so, that I wonder if I would enjoy reading the sequel novels or if I'd find them boring.

I'm sure that in the near future, I'll find out.

1 comment:

  1. According to a bok I have at home (where I'm not right now), Crawford was based on Jack Douglas, who wrote a lot of the early behavioral science guides. I read this book when it was first published, and at the time, it was *different.* Not so much now. Good detail about the smell of blood. I've made a note!