The Silence Of The Lambs by Thomas Harris
|The Silence Of The Lambs by Thomas Harris
|Reviewer: Gina Garnett
|Summary: Still as thrilling and original as twenty five years ago. Read it and meet a generation's bogey man.
|Date: August 1988
|Publisher: Arrow Books
|External links: Author's website
Well, I suppose I know what all the fuss is about now. Except it isn’t fuss, not any more. It’s so famous that it’s become part of our language. People who’ve never read the book or seen the film can name at least one of the characters. At twenty five, I am the same age as Silence of the Lambs (the novel) and only three years older than the film, which is incidentally the same age as my brother. I cannot remember a time when Hannibal Lecter was not the bogey man. For some years I was under the impression that Buffalo Bill was a real serial killer. There is even a rather catchy and charming song entitled It Rubs The Lotion On It’s Skin.
I hardly feel I have to give a rundown of the plot here, but for any visiting aliens, here you go: FBI agent in training Clarice Starling is sent to visit with Hannibal Lecter – convicted serial killer and famous psychologist known for eating his victims. She’s only meant to persuade him to engage in some profiling tests but leaves with a lead on how to find Buffalo Bill, the murderer who skins his victims. When a Senator’s daughter is feared to be his latest victim, Dr Lecter and Clarice are both entangled in a case with a very gruesome deadline.
When the opportunity came up to review this book, I jumped at it. After all these years, I suddenly had to know where it started. Now I know not only how the story starts, but how the phenomenon that is Hannibal started. Thomas Harris includes a fascinating introduction telling us how the character came to him, an anecdote that kept occurring to me throughout the novel. I wonder if the man in question ever got a copy of the book.
It’s easy to see why this has become a classic. Above all else, it’s absolutely gripping. The tension never really drops, not even for the slow bits, which is an unfair term for the respites between the big set pieces, put in out of pity by the author so we can breathe for a moment and recover. The race against time is palpable. The characters are so well written that you find yourself on the side of whoever you’re following at the time, regardless of with whom you think you should be siding with or even with whom you think you’re siding with when you’re not reading it.
As a true tragedy of this generation, I did find myself smiling over the polaroid cameras and dot matrix printers, but only when the book was allowing me to think of these things rather than what was actually going on. You could set this thing in any time, with any technology and get the same results, something which not many icons of popular culture can brag.
If you haven’t read it, read it. If you’ve only seen the film, read it. If you want to write a crime thriller yourself, this is now your textbook. I’m off to track down Hannibal and Red Dragon.
If this book appeals then you might also enjoy Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris.
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