Red Dragon by Thomas Harris- The Demons inside…
When a serial killer nicknamed as the “Tooth Fairy” kills two entire families at their own home, ex FBI profiler Will Graham is approached by his former mentor, Special Agent Jack Crawford, asking for his help in finding out the killer.
Will Graham, an expert profiler and the man responsible for the capture of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a cannibalistic sociopath serial killer, is retired due to the fatal wound that Lecter inflicted on him during his capture and due to the emotional turmoil caused by chasing serial killers like Lecter. And so, when Jack asks for his help, Will refuses. But as Jack explains to him that the next murder will take place in three weeks and that he needs Will’s help to track the killer by that time, Will agrees reluctantly.
After going through the crime scenes and the evidences, Will realizes that there is not enough evidence to catch the killer in three weeks. He realizes the need for a different perspective and decides to go to Dr. Hannibal Lecter, psychiatrist cum serial killer and to get his opinion on the killer. But help is not what Lecter has in mind for his captor and as “Tooth Fairy” manages to contact Lecter via a letter, Hannibal is all set to break loose hell on Will Graham. Can Will Graham save himself? And more importantly, can he save his family from this mad man who preys on innocent families to feed his fantasies?
Written by Thomas Harris at 1981, Red Dragon excels at portraying the inner demons of Francis aka Tooth Fairy, making you sympathize as well as dread. Thomas Harris, unlike many horror writers does not believe in horrifying with blood and gore and he cleverly uses subtlety and a brilliant characterization to achieve the horror. The novel starts with a happy family (Will’s) at a beach being intruded by someone unwanted(Jack) who explains to Will of the intruder who kills happy families at their own home. Similarly, Harris gives you all the bloody details of the murders by the killer and just when you get horrified, he introduces the nervous Francis and expertly steers the novel to his childhood and makes you understand the reasons that made him to be what he is now.
The split personality and the childhood flashbacks of Francis are expertly written and gives you a great insight on Tooth Fairy’s conflicts and beliefs. The novel is near perfect except for the surprisingly unimaginative climax.
The book is not a great mystery thriller where the suspense builds up to reveal to you the unsuspected killer. Nor is it a racy cat and mouse play either. What it is, is a great psychological thriller and it sacrifices the above to provide you with a vivid picture of the killer’s mentality and shows how appallingly little it might take to create one.