Silence of the lambs: review

The Silence of the Lambs. Thomas Harris’most wildly acclaimed book. Everyone told me to read it. I did. Did I like?

Let’s find out:

To start with this book you need to know of three characters:

  • Hannibal Lecter: he is a mastermind psychiatrist using his knowledge of the psyche in a psychopathic manner. A cannibal, a criminal, an insight into every human monster’s mind. Locked in a security mental asylum. Clarice Starling, the trainee agent uses Lecter’s clues and often times manipulations in the case to find Buffalo Bill and put an end to his murdering.
  • Buffalo Bill: who the FBI is chasing. Transsexual. Wants to dress himself up in the bodies of his victims. Kills and time is running out.
  • Clarice Starling: a pretty trainee agent, sent to Lecter to charm him into giving information. Part of bureau’s behavioural sciences unit.

Jack Crawford, Starling’s FBI mentor picks her to seduce Lecter into revealing information about Buffalo bill. Through high pressure situations and cutting dialogue Lecter talks to Starling honestly but in riddles. All of this is adding pressure on her while she is not the most accepted among the rest of the team, being a trainee and a woman. Bill’s most heart-grabbing victim was the daughter of U.S. Senator Ruth Martin, Catherine Martin. Using her “feminine” perspective and Lecter’s advice (which sometimes puts them into the wrong direction), Clarice breaks into the dungeon basement and saves the day.

I love the interaction between Lecter and Starling. It’s so tense. It feels real. The quickness, the wit and the little release of feeling that would slip out when Starling showed signs of being warm, human and not statue was so gripping. Lecter is a mass serial killer, but he is not a danger to Starling physically because of his location between the bars. Yet he manages to threaten her from afar. He likes her, manipulates her and teases her for weakness. His sinister thoughts are much more compelling than Buffalo Bills throughout this novel. His genialness is more exciting to read.

I would have enjoyed this novel more if there was more interaction between them, and less of the FBI team having meaningless interaction that try to spark feeling. Maybe I’m cold or something, but the way they talk to each other just did not faze me at all. Their desire with the case seemed detached and only Clarice displayed a bit of passion. But her passion was more linked to proving herself to the team. She, the person who is supposed to be the protagonist and the hero, didn’t grab my heart or my brain. This made the entire novel quite difficult to read.

I think Harris’ described her, but didn’t invite me as a reader in to her story. I have only ever found one FBI novel interesting in the past. Most special crime investigation in novels bores me and the idea of “advanced technology” interweaved with law enforcement is also not incredibly appealing to me. I feel like these novels focus more on the thrill and less on the emotion, it seems detached and dehumanized. In a novel like Silence of the Lambs, which focuses so much between the villain and the protagonist, the villain and the person who is distressed- I would love more of who Catherine’s and Clarice’s struggle depicted.

It wasn’t until halfway through the book that Catherine Martin even gets abducted. The only part that makes your bones chill is her emotion, her fear, her humanity-, which apparently is played out very well in the movie but kind of, glanced over in the book. It was simple, clinical and desensitized. Described and left it at that. It was only a few short passages about her.

My final complaint about this novel is the lack of explanation of this “transsexual” concept that seems to take over Buffalo Bill’s identity and create this desire to kill everyone. I don’t necessarily think it’s discriminatory- just poorly explained and didn’t give a sensitive topic justice by its brevity and abruptness. I think this all due to the lack of Bill’s back-story and again a block of entry for the reader. From the people who I’ve talked to this is all part of “the chase” as the reader and the desire to know more, but for me it was a turn off. Unlike the book that I just reviewed that I liked because all the ends were tied up- maybe I am just not thrilled by lack of depth.

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