With this stunning sequel to his 1981 blockbuster, Red Dragon, Harris (Black Sunday, 1975) seals his reputation as a thriller-master by delivering a deeply involving, blood-freezing tale of a young female F.B.I. trainee on the trail of a serial killer.
The premise of Red Dragon was its detective's ability to sympathize with the killer he sought. Here, Harris reverses thematic gears, finding an unbridgeable chasm between good and evil. On the side of light stand spunky heroine Candice Starling and her compassionate FBI boss, Jack Crawford; in the darkness dwell two indelible creations: rampaging serial killer ""Buffalo Bill""--so-nicknamed because he skins the women he kills--and homicidal genius Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a minor figure from Red Dragon here expanded into the very embodiment of self-knowing evil. With no clues to Bill's identity, a desperate Crawford sends Starling to the madhouse where Lecter, an expert on the criminally insane, is imprisoned. Will the insane psychologist help ferret out Bill? Yes, but at a price: Starling must reveal a personal secret for each sliver of advice, In a series of chilling meetings, Starling strips her psyche bare; Lecter responds by toying with her, feeding helpful but inconclusive clues. Meanwhile, Bill--a walking nightmare busy making a human suit out of the skins he harvests--kidnaps a congresswoman's daughter, dumping her into a pit in his basement. The congresswoman learns of Lecter's help and offers him a deal: identify Bill--a former patient of his--and Lector will be transferred to a room with a view. Sadistically, Lecter coughs up a false name--and then escapes during his transfer in an orgy of killing. As the clock winds down. Starling and Crawford race to find Bill--a race that culminates in an ultratense, violent confrontation between Starling and the madman in his lair--while Lecter connives to stay free; will he return to cast his long, black shadow in yet another sequel? A tour de force of suspense, dark and polished as onyx.
Lecter emerges as one of the great villains of thrillerdom, and this novel, likely to garner a huge readership, as one of the most gripping reads of the year.