HE IS ONE OF THE MOST HAUNTING CHARACTERS IN ALL OF LITERATURE. AT LAST THE EVOLUTION OF HIS EVIL IS REVEALED. Hannibal Lecter emerges from the nightmare of the Eastern Front, a boy in the snow, mute, with a chain around his neck. He seems utterly alone, but he has brought his demons with him. Hannibal’s uncle, a noted painter, finds him in a Soviet orphanage and brings him to France, where Hannibal will live with his uncle and his uncle’s beautiful and exotic wife, Lady Murasaki. Lady Murasaki helps Hannibal to heal.With her help he flourishes, becoming the youngest person ever admitted to medical school in France. But Hannibal’s demons visit him and torment him.When he is old enough, he visits them in turn. He discovers he has gifts beyond the academic, and in that epiphany, Hannibal Lecter becomes death’s prodigy.
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Thomas Harris remains both the progenitor of the modern serial killer novel – and its greatest exponent. Red Dragon was the first appearance of the murderous Hannibal Lecter, and with its success, the Harris imitators burgeoned almost immediately. The Silence of the Lambs, however, moved Harris into really rarefied heights, its achievement boltered by the addition of a strongly drawn heroine, trainee FBI agent Clarice Starling. Hannibal, the last outing for Harris’ monstrous Lecter, drew a more controversial response, with Clarice Sterling locked into a bizarre relationship with her cultivated predator, and it looked as if the next book would develop that grim scenario.
However, Hannibal Rising goes in a totally unexpected direction – in effect, it’s a prequel to the earlier books, returning to Lecter’s childhood in World War’s Eastern Front. The youthful Hannibal sees his family murdered by the Nazis. But something else happens which alters (and deforms) Hannibal’s psyche forever. The boy moves to Paris with the beautiful Japanese widow of his last surviving relative. And soon, an orgy of grisly revenge is in train, wrought on some opponents almost as nasty as Lecter is to become himself.
We’ve seen this before: Hannibal murdering people quite as ruthless as he is – whether this makes the operatic bloodshed satisfying is a matter for every individual reader. Whatever your stance, the effect of Harris’ prose is, as ever, utterly irresistible.
Hannibal Rising is comparatively uncomplicated, when set against the complex, richly textured Harris novels that came before it.
Is there a danger that in showing us how Hannibal became a monster, something is lost of his terrifying mystery? As if to deal with this possibility, Harris keeps Lecter unknowable by removing his customary articulate examination of this own motives (he is still a boy, after all). But the tale of bloody vengeance has a forward trajectory that (whatever your reservations) will render this is a one (or two) sitting reading. And the next book will, surely, recapture that richer Harris texture. --Barry ForshawReview:
Praise for Hannibal:
Quite simply a compelling and brilliant thriller" ( Daily Mirror)
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