But these differences mask a deeper similarity, which emerges from every review:  the status of monstrous Dr. Hannibal...

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HANNIBAL

            You don’t have to get very far into Hannibal, the novel in which Thomas Harris finally brings back literature’s most distinguished cannibal, to be reminded of Star Wars.  You don’t have to wait for Harris’s made-for-the-movies action sequences, like the abortive opening drug bust that puts FBI agent Clarice Starling on the hot seat, or the grisly set pieces that will keep the special effects people working nights, like the climactic sequence in which the tenth through fourteenth victims die impossibly cinematic deaths.  You don’t even have to know about the novel’s $10 million movie sale to Dino de Laurentiis.  No, all you have to recognize is Hannibal’s position as the literary world’s answer to Star Wars, the summer’s other pre-sold property, the one title that had bookstores across America opening at midnight so that they could feed customer frenzy the moment it was officially published on June 8.

            Of course, Hannibal isn’t in the same galaxy as Star Wars when it comes to publicity.  Probably suspecting that they weren’t going to crack even $50 million in sales during the opening weekend, Delacorte released the novel without any bookstore posters or any interviews by the famously reclusive Harris or any advance review copies, except presumably to Stephen King, who aptly noted that his 21-gun salute in the NYTBR could have been boiled down to three words:  “HERE IT IS.”

            But these differences mask a deeper similarity, which emerges from every review:  the status of monstrous Dr. Hannibal Lecter as a brand name as reliable as the Jedi Knights, capable of moving mountains of product while silencing all critical questions but one:  Does this installment measure up to the earlier ones?  It would be easy to conclude simply that it doesn’t – that the serial-killer genre Harris revitalized has evidently left its audience so jaded that Harris feels he can’t compete without literalizing the psychological horrors of Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs at every step, though his baroque new approach to the genre is always provocative, and his audacious epilogue casts his hero, and the whole Lecter saga, in a challenging new light.  But it might be worth a moment to ask why the one question everybody’s asking of his new work is whether it delivers the old Lecter recipe we know and love.  That’s a fair question to ask about an outer-space fairy tale like Star Wars, but you have to wonder about audiences who found Hannibal Lecter’s earlier appearances so harrowing that they want to be harrowed again by the same character in exactly the same way.  Now that’s brand loyalty.

Pub Date: July 6, 1999

ISBN: 0-385-29929-X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

Patterson's thrillers (Virgin, 1980; Black Market, 1986) have plummeted in quality since his promising debut in The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)—with this latest being the sorriest yet: a clanky and witless policer about a criminal mastermind and the cop sworn to take him down. Aside from watching sympathetic homicide dick John ("Stef") Stefanovich comeing to terms with a wheelchair-bound life—legacy of a shotgun blast to the back by drug-and-gun-running archfiend Alexandre St.-Germain—the major interest here lies in marvelling at the author's trashing of fiction convention. The whopper comes early: although St.-Germain is explicity described as being machine-gunned to death by three vigilante cops in a swank brothel (". . .a submachine gun blast nearly ripped off the head of Alexandre St.-Germain"; "The mobster's head and most of his neck had been savaged by the machine-gun volley. The body looked desecrated. . ."), before you know it this latter-day Moriarty is stepping unscathed out of an airplane. What gives? Authorial cheating, that's what—thinly glossed over with some mumbling later on about a "body double." Not that St.-Germain's ersatz death generated much suspense anyway, with subsequent action focusing on, among other items, the gory killings of assorted mob bosses by one of the vigilante cops, and Stef's viewing of pornographic tapes confiscated from that brothel. But readers generous enough to plod on will get to read about the newly Lazarus-ized St.-Germain's crass efforts to revitalize and consolidate the world's crime syndicates ("the Midnight Club"), Stef's predictable tumble for a sexy true-crime writer, and how (isn't one miracle enough for Patterson?) at book's end Stef walks again and gets to embrace a rogue cop who's murdered several people. Ironsides with a badge and a lobotomy.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1988

ISBN: 0446676411

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988

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