Friday, June 28, 2013

Reader's Review - Thomas Harris (Red Dragon)

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Some years ago I was exposed to a very unpleasant experience. A good friend and I sat one evening and drank some fine whiskey while we heard some nice blues. After a while I left the room for a moment, and returned to my chair a couple of minutes later - ready for more blues and more whiskey. We raised our glasses and drank. The surprise caused me to spray the contents of the glass on myself and around my immediate surroundings. My 'good' friend had poured my whiskey out and replaced it with coffee.I have not the slightest against coffee, but my expectation of a very particular taste when I emptied the glass, got my senses to react very strongly and inappropriately. On the other hand, if I had a cup of steaming coffee in front of me, the experience would have been extremely pleasant. 

That was the kind of feeling I got when I read 'Red Dragon' by Thomas Harris. If you place the book in chronological order with the other books the author have written about Hannibal Lecter, this book will be the second out of four books - until now. But Hannibal Lecter appears only peripherally in the story. The readers are never allowed to enjoy his sublime character, his intellect and his cold-blooded cruelty.In this story, Hannibal Lecter is merely a mentor for the story's protagonist, Francis Dolarhyde. Francis Dolarhyde is a deeply disturbed man who obviously have severe personality disorder. Officially, he works as a manager at a photo lab, but after work, he suffers from a compulsive idea that he is about to transform into a red dragon. To accomplish his conversion, Dolarhyde must implement one brutal murder after another. 

'Red Dragon' is Francis Dolarhyde's story. As usual, Thomas Harris is both stylish and sharp. He knows where he wants to lead us, and he knows how to enthrall the reader from start to finish. 'Red Dragon' is well told and captures the reader from the first pages. If it had been another writer and if Thomas Harris had not created such a charismatic figure like Hannibal Lecter, 'Red Dragon' would have been a great novel. But because I expected that Hannibal Lecter would be the focal point in the story, I was not able to enjoy the many fine details. I was so focused on Hannibal's presence, that the other action of the story was of minor importance. What a shame it was. The novel was indeed well told. 

In other words: I expected the taste of whiskey, but what I really got, was a bitter cup of coffee.It's a bit of a paradox when a writer is able to create such strong and significant character that he completely takes over the story and begin to live his own live.I believe that if Thomas Harris had left Hannibal Lecter out of 'Red Dragon', the novel would have been so much easier to appreciate. The producer of the movie must have come to the same conclusion. In the movie, Hannibal Lecter have been offered a much more prominent place, without dominating the film. 

The best thing you can say about the 'Red Dragon' is, that readers still have the best experiences waiting ahead. In 'Red Dragon' Hannibal Lecter had for awhile resigned and left the stage to another - that is not going to happen again in 'Silence of the Lambs' and 'Hannibal'.

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