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


            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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After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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


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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