I’m pretty sure there is nothing more iconic than a classic noir film. But before movies existed, the detective novel was in it’s spot.
There are some serious classics out there like the works of Dashiel Hammet, Steig Larsson, Raymond Chandler, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie.
There is also a stigma that only men can write these crazy good detective novels, and I’ve even read an absolutely ridiculous conspiracy theory that Agatha Christie was actually a man despite all the contrary evidence. People are just ridiculous sometimes.
However, when you think of the name Hannibal Lector you probably think of some of the creepiest, but smartest horror detective stories out there. But before Clarice was dominating the big screen in a crazy standoff with the cannibalistic doctor, Dr. Hannibal Lector was helping crack cases on the pages of Thomas Harris’s novels, starting with Red Dragon.
I feel like there are a lot of great one-liners in detective novels, but I found myself frequently stopping while reading Red Dragon to make some citations in my phone or scribble a random thought that the book elicited onto the nearest sheet of paper I could find.
If you haven’t already seen the movie, then the plot may surprise you. Dr. Lector was a side character for this one. He’s still one of the most interesting parts of the book, but his role is from the prison cell. He continually helps the protagonist detective Will Graham who was brought out of retirement to hunt down a new serial killer that has been deemed the Tooth Fairy by the media because he leaves a bite on his victims somewhere.
Red Dragon is awesome.
Harris explores some of the darkest parts of the human psyche and makes the reader question morals and intelligence to try and seek the truth.
The book is a bit long for a detective novel, the version I have reached a whopping 454 pages of thought provoking moments.
Harris somehow is able to weave in the thoughtfulness of a philosopher into one of the most gruesome books I’ve ever read. He doesn’t shy away from topics that may seem depraved to most civilized humans, delving into the religious iconography that can go hand-in-hand with mental issues in humans. Some of the worst things are described in visceral details throughout the novel. There are scenes of brutal murder, followed by the same individual experience beautiful love. The staunch contrast only magnified the intensity of the book.
If you want a crazy adventure, and have a strong stomach and stronger moral compass, you should dive headfirst into Red Dragon.
I would go so far as to describe it as beautifully depraved and introspective.