Hannibal by Thomas Harris

detail from ancient carving: dragon swallowing a man
The dragon has a mouthful.

Thomas Harris’s Hannibal is a Stephen King-like thriller without any supernatural effects.

The story opens with FBI agent Clarice Starling being suspended for an attempted drug arrest that resulted in five deaths, including that of a woman holding a baby, all captured by a TV crew tipped off by insiders.

While she’s suspended, Starling gets a letter from murderer Dr. Hannibal Leeter, who she interviewed in a hospital for the criminally insane before his escape seven years earlier. He’s never been found.

Starling begins looking for Hannibal, whose gruesome killings are at odd with his expensive tastes in food, wines, and the fine arts.

Unknown to her, Hannibal’s sixth victim, the only one who survived, is also looking for him. Mason Verger, head of a meatpacking empire, wants to see Hannibal suffer—literally—for turning him into an invalid. His body-builder sister has her own agenda that will require her brother’s presence for only a few minutes.

While Sterling’s investigation is being sabotaged by political considerations and male egos, Hannibal is pleasantly employed as a museum curator in Italy, under the name Dr. Fell.

Just when readers wonder how all these multiple threads will ever be resolved, Harris pulls out a surprising yet perfectly prepared final chapter.

Hannibal by Thomas Harris
Delacorte. ©1999. 486 p.
1999 bestseller #2; my grade: A-

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Cat & Mouse (novel)

Two lights glow in a railroad tunnel above which a cat stands looking at the trackThe six-page prologue to Cat & Mouse opens with Gary Soneji entering the basement of the Washington D.C. home of Alex Cross and his family, whom he plans to murder. Then the prologue shifts to London where Mr. Smith, a serial killer, is dismembering the latest victim of murders he began in Cambridge, Mass., in 1993.

Cross, a widowed police detective raising two children with the help of his grandmother, is about starting to date his children’s school principal. Those relationships make him especially vulnerable now.

Cross and his partner kill Soneji in the tunnels under Grand Central Station.

Days later, Cross’s home is broken into, all members of his family beaten, and Cross himself battered so badly he’s not expected to live.

Who is the perp?

Is it possible Soneji didn’t die in the explosion? If he survived, why didn’t he kill everyone in Cross’s household?

Or did Soneji send a villian too softhearted to kill?

Readers of James Patterson’s previous three novels about Cross will follow the story easily. The rest of us must rely on the liner notes to untangle the relationship between the two serial killers.

What we eventually find is a formulaic, sex-and-violence tale for macho readers.

Cat & Mouse by James Patterson
Little, Brown. ©1997. 399 p.
1997 bestseller #9; my grade: C

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Loves Music, Loves to Dance

A high-heeled shoe stands in a puddle of bloodLoves Music, Loves to Dance explores the dark side of media-mediated dating 1990s.

Two college friends work in New York. Erin Kelley is recognized as a rising star among jewelry designers. Darcy Scott is carving a niche for herself as decorator for the budget-conscious.

The two women are helping a third friend, a TV producer, with research for a documentary by placing and responding to personal column ads and keeping notes on the experiences.

One Tuesday evening after she was to meet a guy from an ad, Erin disappears. Later, her body is found on an abandoned pier. She’s wearing her own shoe on one foot, a high-heeled dance shoe on the other.

A cop tells Vince D’Ambrosio, FBI investigator specializing in serial killers, about Darcy’s unsuccessful attempt to file a missing person report on Erin.

Vince springs into action, investigating red herrings Mary Higgins Clark has sprinkled through the novel like ice melt in January, missing the clue that practically stands up and yells, “CLUE.”

At least Clark has the sense not to pair Darcy off with Vince.

With its big print and lavish use of white space, Loves Music, Loves to Dance will occupy readers for a couple hours before they toddle off to an early bedtime.

Loves Music, Loves to Dance by Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster. ©1991. 319 p.
1991 bestseller #10; my grade: C

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni