Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book Review: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Before CSI and the current vogue of cops vs. serial killers books and movies, this Harris book set the template for what was to come. No less an authority than James Ellroy praised is as the best suspense novel he had ever read in the preface to one of his books. It still holds up pretty well after nearly twenty years and two film adaptations. Ex-FBI agent Will Graham has left the bureau and is living a quiet life in Florida when his former boss comes calling. Two entire families in the southern US have been brutally murdered and the evidence points to a serial murderer. Graham is recruited back into the fold and goes to work trying to gather evidence and form a profile of the killer. Graham has a unique ability to establish empathy to both the victims and the killer, and his unique skills are valued and feared by colleagues. Harris shifts focus and we follow the killer, a man deformed at birth and abused in childhood, and now developing film at a processing plant in St. Louis. The killer, Francis Dolarhyde, has become obsessed by the William Blake painting The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Sun. He believes the dragon is speaking to him and directing him to commit his crimes as part of his "becoming." The narrative develops into a race against time: can Graham beat the dragon and stop the next killing? Its easy to see how this book got its reputation, Harris did a tremendous amount of research and it shows in is deeply drawn and well written characters. The action is fast and furious throughout and the deceptions of Dolarhyde's crimes and battles with his own inner demons are truly terrifying. Only an unnecessary plot twist at the end keeps this from being a five star book. This is a taught and continually interesting thriller and should appeal to anyone who is interested in crime fiction. Red Dragon -

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