Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris, is technically part of the universe that encompasses Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, though it takes place before either of those books. It introduces Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
My absolute favorite character is Will Graham, who is a brilliant profiler who can get into the heads of serial killers. This book kicked off a lifetime fascination with serial killers, and made me (for a long time) want to be an FBI profiler. Ultimately, I didn’t go that direction with my career, which part of me has always regretted.
Red Dragon is about a man who believes that every time he murders someone, he is moving toward becoming “The Great Red Dragon.” Will Graham is asked to come out of retirement to help the FBI catch him.
Will Graham is very good at his job, but he retired because connecting with the monsters in that way became too much for him. The price was too high. I’d never thought of people like him being tortured by their talent. It made me wonder what secrets people keep behind their masks of competence.
This may also be the first book I read where the bad guy is sympathetic, and even likable at times. Yes, he’s clearly insane. Yes, he’s dangerous. But he’s also tortured, complex, and has redeeming qualities. It made me want to understand bad guys.
I love a bad guy who’s just pure evil, but I also love ones who are multi-dimensional. Bad guys and good guys both have secrets and needs and whole other lives.
It’s a dark book, but if you enjoy this kind of thing and have never read it, it’s my favorite of the three.
“Fear comes with imagination, it’s a penalty, it’s the price of imagination.”
― Thomas Harris