Review: Silence of the Lambs (Thomas Harris)

"Thrillers don't come any better than this...", says Clive Barker from the back cover of this book. "A virtual textbook on the craft of suspense..." That one's from the Washington Post. Now, I'm not the one to judge a book from the blurbs on the back cover, but having read the book, I must admit that these words of praise are well deserved.

Less than three weeks ago, I finished Red Dragon, the first book of the Hannibal Series that introduced Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Then, I had written that although I didn't find the book outstanding, I still would love to read more from the author. Turns out that I was right. Silence of the Lambs is creepier than the first book, with another psychopath, Jame Gumb taking over from Francis Dolarhyde as the serial killer on the run. And I liked this one better than the first book.

Set ten years after the events of Red Dragon, Dr Lecter is still in his cell in the mental asylum, Jack Crawford is still running FBI's behavioral science unit, but Will Graham doesn't make a comeback. Curiously, the person who investigates the serial killings this time is a trainee, Clarice Starling -- which means you get to see a totally different approach to the investigations as compared to that of the highly experienced Graham. Starling's Nancy Drew-ish methods -- looking for clues, fingerprints, talking to experts -- contrasts sharply with those of Graham's -- less of legwork, more of thinking and getting the feel of the crime. Makes me kind of wonder if consulting Lecter would have been of any use in this case had he not known the identity of the murderer beforehand.

Apart from the style of the investigations, Harris has also changed the way he presents the killers. True, both of them have been shown as extremely evil. But in case of Dolarhyde, Harris explains the troubled childhood that changed him into a monster and there are times when you feel that he might yet give up his "Red Dragon" identity. Gumb is simply shown as a thoughtless killer, whose kind treatment of his pet dog is in sharp contrast with his cruelty towards other human beings -- he calls his dog as "precious" and "darling" while he calls his victims "it" and "that thing" -- which probably makes you hate him even more.

Hannibal Lecter was the character I was looking forward to seeing in this book. But yet again, as in Red Dragon, he is kept in the shadows for most part of the book, even as he manipulates everyone else around him. We are told almost nothing more about his background, which only increased my curiosity about this enigmatic character. And with him on the loose now (he escapes towards the end of the book), I can only expect the sequel, Hannibal, to be as interesting -- no, more interesting than the first two parts.

My Rating: 8/10.

Related Posts:

Red Dragon (Thomas Harris).

Other Reviews:

Between the Covers (Rating: A)


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