Maybe you’ve seen it all over the Internet over the past two months. Phrases like ‘Eat the rude,’ and ‘Fannibals’ have proliferated throughout the Web as the T.V. show “Hannibal” gained a loyal fan base and was renewed for a second season. Perhaps you’ve heard of the infamous Dr. Hannibal Lecter from the T.V. show or the movies “Red Dragon,” “Silence of the Lambs," “Hannibal” or “Hannibal Rising.” If you’re considering taking on the series, I recommend starting with the very first book, “Red Dragon.”
The movies and show are all based on a series of books by Thomas Harris, a former journalist who covered crime in the U.S. and Mexico and worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press. Harris wrote his first novel in 1975 and introduced Dr. Lecter in “Red Dragon,” in 1981.
The novel centers on super-intelligent FBI special investigator Will Graham. Graham has a special ability to completely place himself within a crime scene and re-imagine the crime, catching small details that typical investigators don’t see. His ability has helped the FBI solve some of the most gruesome and most difficult cases they encounter. While not much background is given, we do learn that Graham is the one who caught and captured Dr. Lecter, the renowned psychiatrist who had the bad habit of cooking and eating his murder victims. Graham retires after capturing Lecter and moves to Florida where he can relax with his wife and stepson and try to forget about the gruesome scenes he has seen in his career.
Graham is pulled out of his idyllic life when Jack Crawford, head of the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI, arrives in Florida to bring Graham back into the field. A serial killer is on the loose and is slaughtering families. The FBI is at a loss and they need Graham and his special skills to catch the deranged killer before another family dies.
Unfortunately, Graham must utilize the intelligence and know-how of Dr. Lecter, currently serving his sentence in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. We don’t see much of Dr. Lecter but what is there sets the tone for “Silence of the Lambs,” when we really see Dr. Lecter in his element as a master manipulator.
I love this series, which can be a little strange to admit because the crimes are usually somewhat graphic. But the series takes an in-depth look at the stranger crimes the FBI encounters and how they solve them. Even though the books are more than twenty-five years old, the process is still very similar to today, minus some new technology. The books will keep you on the edge of your seat as the FBI engage in the ultimate cat-and-mouse game with the serial killer known initially as the Tooth Fairy.
Be warned; not every chapter is full of explicit details but the crimes can be gruesome. The movies and show are no different. ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and the T.V. show ‘Hannibal’ can be especially hard for the squeamish to watch. Still, the series is riveting and really brings to light the art of FBI profiling.