Man vs Bookshelf

Man vs Bookshelf: Red Dragon

This entry is part 50 of 104 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

Another week has rolled around, another blog I’ve got to write.

Had a good day yesterday – Sunday. I told you about it in my last two blogs because I started, edited and schedule them both yesterday.

I should be close to breaking even, but I’m not. Here I sit, writing my Red Dragon blog but there are two more after that before I’m up to date. That’s assuming I don’t finish reading any more. Which would be a disaster.

Actually, I should finish my latest book tomorrow so that’s another blog. After that, at least, I’m onto a Stephen King collection of 20 short stories and novellas. That should take a bit more time, allowing me to get a little closer to break even.

For now, though, we plough on, writing about Red Dragon, chasing the dragon of being completely up to date.

Hannibal and Me

Doesn’t feel like you can talk about Red Dragon without talking about one of the best-known villains in fiction.

The cannibal doctor himself, Hannibal Lector.

To most people – of my generation, anyway – Hanibal Lector is Anthony Hopkins. I’ve never even seen the films but he is the first face that comes to mind when someone mentions Lector.

In more recent years, of course, there was the TV show, Hannibal, with Mads Mikkelson playing Lector. I’ve seen a couple of episodes of this, and Mads was great, but still, when you say Lector, I see Hopkins.

So, having never seen the films or read the books, my Hanibal knowledge all came second hand.

He’s such a resounding figure that I knew all about him. But I was looking forward to experiencing him first hand in his first-ever appearance.

Red Dragon

Hopkins is the first person most think of when conjuring up an image of Hannibal. While the first story is Silence of the Lambs.

As a film, it was Silence that launched Hannibal in cinematic terms. Although it was not the first time Lector had appeared on the big screen. And, as such, people often think it is the first story Hannibal ever featured in.

Not so. First came Red Dragon. In which Harris introduces us to the doctor as the man who damaged our protagonist, Will Graham. Both in physical and mental terms. It is also the first time he makes an impact on the plot. Assisting and hindering in the quest to capture The Red Dragon.

Having had the book a long time but never read it – as per usual – I was looking forward to getting into it. Unveiling the story, and finding out what all the fuss was about.

After all, without Red Dragon, there would likely be no Silence of the Lambs, no movies, and no enduring legend.

The Plot

I had assumed Red Dragon would be a mystery thriller. A whodunit in which Will Graham struggles to work out who the killer calling himself ‘The Red Dragon’ is.

This is what happens. But it is not a whodunit.

Harris introduces us to the killer early on. Telling us who he is. What he’s doing. Why he’s doing it. He puts us ahead of Graham and turns the book from a whodunit to a howcatchem. Columbo style.

This didn’t disappoint me. While I like Whodunits, including the villain from the beginning can be exciting. It allows said villain more screen time, and for the suspense to build in a different way.

My first experience of the Howcatchem came from the first season of Luther. In which Idris Elba chased an assortment of baddies shown to the audience early on.

It worked in Luther, and it worked here. I wanted to find out how Graham would stop the Red Dragon, and it was exciting to get to see both sides of the story. The FBI doing the chasing and the killer trying to evade capture as he prepared his next murder.

The Cast

The issue here was I found the bad guys far more compelling characters than the good.

Our villain was well developed. He was crazy, sure, but he was interesting and layered. A damaged character who had turned to the darkest form of revenge.

It was interesting to watch him change. First, as he was angry, and planning murders. Then as he struggled with feelings for a co-worker. As this affected his plans and his inner killer. And finally, as he realised the police were on to him, going to desperate measures in his quest for survival.

The Red Dragon character was captivating. Far more so than his counterparts on team good guy.

Sure, there were some good characters here. Dr Bloom was interesting and Crawford and Graham were hardly boring. But I felt they didn’t get enough time. There were a lot of characters and none of them got the space they needed.

Graham was our main character and yet it never felt he had much to do. Things happened around him. And, while he did find the evidence to crack the case, everything before was busywork.

This diminished the good side. I wanted more from Graham. I wanted him to be as interesting and layered as the Red Dragon, and Harris does try to achieve this. Graham has his haunted past. It’s revealed to us as we go through the book, but it never felt quite as powerful as the other side.

The Legend

Graham’s biggest contribution to the book is his link with Hannibal Lector.

Will Graham was the man who caught Lector and almost died doing so. This led to his resignation from the FBI.

During the story he feels it necessary to consult Dr Lector, introducing the audience to him.

In a way, Hannibal was as I expected, but I don’t believe he was as developed as in Silence of the Lambs. He has one conversation with Will showing some of his ability to see through people. Digging out their innermost secrets. But this talent is only hinted at.

Despite this single conversation, it is clear Harris liked the character. He continues to feature throughout the book and is integral to keeping up with the villain at one point.

Still, his impact is underwhelming. I guess I’d have to read book two to find out why everyone loves Lector as a villain.

Sum Up

I enjoyed Red Dragon but it did not blow me away.

I gave it a three out of five on Goodreads.

The plot was well formulated and was nowhere near as slow going as I thought it might be. The chapters are short and the action moves along fast.

The good guys may not have given me everything I wished they would, but the villain is well done. And Hannibal Lector, even in his short cameo, is effective.

Next Up

Goodbye fiction, hello one of the most successful businessmen of all time.

It’s one of two books written by Richard Branson, founder of Virgin.

This one is Business Stripped Bare.

I have always wanted to start my own business.

Series Navigation<< Man vs Bookshelf: Football Manager Stole My LifeMan vs Bookshelf: Business Stripped Bare >>
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International worst-selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). An author of mystery and suspense novels including the James Perry Series of mysteries.

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