Title: Hannibal (Hannibal Lecter #3)
Author: Thomas Harris
My Rating: ★★★★
Goodreads Summary: “Years after his escape, posing as scholarly Dr. Fell, curator of a grand family’s palazzo, Hannibal lives the good life in Florence, playing lovely tunes by serial killer/composer Henry the VIII and killing hardly anyone himself. Clarice is unluckier: in the novel’s action-film-like opening scene, she survives an FBI shootout gone wrong, and her nemesis, Paul Krendler, makes her the fall guy. Clarice is suspended, so, unfortunately, the first cop who stumbles on Hannibal is an Italian named Pazzi, who takes after his ancestors, greedy betrayers portrayed in Dante’s Inferno. Pazzi is on the take from a character as scary as Hannibal: Mason Verger. When Verger was a young man busted for raping children, his vast wealth saved him from jail. All he needed was psychotherapy — with Dr. Lecter. Thanks to the treatment, Verger is now on a respirator, paralyzed except for one crablike hand, watching his enormous. brutal moray eel swim figure eights and devour fish. His obsession is to feed Lecter to some other brutal pets.”
I found Hannibal to be the most disturbing and realistic of the 3 of 4 books I have read so far. The focus on Mason Verger being a rapist and using his money to avoid imprisonment is far more real than the villains in Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs. There is story after story of successful men who have paid their way out of rape charges. Additionally, Clarice being thrown under the bus by her male coworker because he is jealous of her success is not exactly the most outlandish idea I’ve ever heard. However, I will note that the idea of a white FBI Agent getting suspended for shooting a black drug dealer who shot first is ridiculous. Police don’t even get in trouble for murdering innocent people, let alone armed drug dealers. Clarice also displays abuse of power, like threatening an immigrant with turning him in unless he helps her. Krendler and Pazzi also show many many examples of this, which I liked, because even though I love Clarice and didn’t want to see her be a bad person, I think Harris is accurately showing the power the police and FBI have and how too many abuse that power, even those who are generally good.
To expand on my earlier idea, Hannibal is more scary because Mason makes my skin crawl in a way Hannibal never does. Don’t get me wrong, Hannibal is terrible, but Mason rapes children. Hannibal kills people to eat them, but never harms children and tortures Mason for enacting such violence against children. This is an interesting dynamic, because it makes Hannibal more complex as a character and makes clearer that he does have a moral code he sticks to, although it is convoluted and usually objectively wrong. My heart broke for Margot, Mason’s sister, who suffered a lot of abuse from him as a child, and is a lesbian in a family that is deeply religious and will not give her any inheritance money because of this (unless she has a biological heir). Instead, all the money will go to the Southern Baptist Church when Mason dies. This novel also focuses more on Hannibal’s internal thoughts and Hannibal in general. It was interesting to be in his head and to learn about the trauma he faced as a child, which contributed to him becoming a cannibalistic serial killer.
There were a few things I did not love about Hannibal. First off, Margot is a quite a stereotypical lesbian, which if there were other lesbians in the novel (other than Judy, Margot’s partner whom who know basically nothing about), would be more okay. But she’s not just a stereotype, her portrayal is sort of homophobic, because it is insinuated that she is hardly a women at all. When we first meet her, Clarice mistakes her for a man and Harris does not present a more positive impression of her. There is also a line about her taking hormones, which leads me to think Harris may have confused being a lesbian and being a trans man.
Her cornsilk hair had receded enough to make Starling wonder if she took steroids and had to tape her clitoris down.p.58
The homophobia doesn’t stop there! Mason tried to seduce Hannibal in order to get out of therapy, giving us readers another lovely gay-man-is-a-child-molester trope. (This obviously did not work well for Mason).
My main issue with this book is the ending. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. *Spoiler alert* (I hate it so much I need to discuss it): Clarice marries Hannibal and they run off to Argentina together. I’m sorry…fucking what?! I knew how it ended, but I was hoping Clarice was drugged or something. Nope. It was by choice (she was drugged by him for a while before though). They’re like dancing on balconies and going to the opera, like just any other happy, rich couple. Once again, Harris does a sub-par job with a female character. I don’t know who this woman is, but it’s not Clarice Starling, that’s for damn sure.
Once again, I enjoyed comparing the book to Hannibal (NBC), because of I had seen the show first, and Margot is so different, but I love her in both the TV show and the book. Cause this is what she looks like in the show:
This was largely because the creators of the show (namely Bryan Fuller) took issue with Harris’ descriptions of Margot as well. It was interesting to read the original text after watching and falling in love with Hannibal (NBC). The plots are different, but the characters are all the same, so it was cool to see how they were similar and different. Speaking of lesbians, I am only more convinced Clarice and Ardelia should be together, especially because the ending of Hannibal was so bad. Clarice deserves better! (And by better I mean a partner that isn’t a fucking serial killer).
Lastly, I love how Harris organized this novel! Switching between many plots until they all collide is always a favorite of mine. It’s so intriguing to watch it happen and keeps me on my toes. I think of the Hannibal Lecter books, Hannibal is my favorite so far, because of the storytelling and how the plots combine and occur. Once again, like with every Hannibal Lecter book, I had issues with Harris’ portrayals of women and LGBT people, but I still really liked it. If you can get past the ending, Hannibal is great! (I can’t really so I’m just gonna pretend that never happened).