Hannibal open seven years after the Silence of the Lambs. Clarice Starling, now a full FBI agent, is on a drug bust with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the D.C. police, and the Drug Enforcement Agency. They're bringing in a woman who is running a meth factory and who Clarice has arrested previously.
The bust goes bad. Clarice, who is a champion pistol shooter, ends up killing the woman. Unfortunately, the woman was carrying her infant in a sling and used the child as a shield. Clarice was able to kill her without harming the child, but the TV news clips don't show the woman firing. Her family files suit and someone's head must roll to appease public opinion.
In the midst of all this turmoil, Clarice receives a letter. She recognizes the handwriting--it's from Hannibal Lecter who has been silent for these seven years. His letter alternately taunts and comforts Clarice and reignites the search for Hannibal.
The FBI, however, isn't the only entity looking for Hannibal. His sixth victim, Mason Verger, has been looking for him and is offering a reward. Because of the attack, Mason is bedridden and a paraplegic and, with nearly unlimited wealth, revenging himself on Hannibal has become his reason for living. Mason has his contacts within the FBI and knows what they know, usually before they do.
Hannibal, in the meantime, is now living in Florence, Italy, and is a curator, the previous one having mysteriously disappeared. His appearance has been altered during his stay in Brazil, including the amputation of the sixth finger on his left hand. He is content until a local police inspector begins to suspect who "Dr. Fell" really is. However, greed gets the better of the good inspector and he tries to capture "Dr. Fell" outside normal police channels, with disastrous consequences.
Thus Hannibal finds himself back in the Eastern United States and his seduction of Clarice Starling begins.
During the course of the story,the author, Thomas Harris, gives us some insight to Hannibal Lecter, clues as to how he became the monster he is. We also see more of what makes Clarice Starling tick and her frustration at being thwarted from rising in the ranks of the FBI. But I never felt any real sympathy for either of them as people. Mason Verger is absolutely evil--there are no redeeming qualities about him at all. His sister is hardly better. In fact, the character I thought was most fleshed out was the Italian police inspector: his motives for his actions were clear and plausible. The rest of them--eh, not so much.
I admit I have not read Silence of the Lambs and there might have been some important information about the characters there. Or Red Dragon, which I believe is the first book about Hannibal Lecter.
The ending was a let down.
Fortunately, I bought this copy at a Used Book Sale at my local library, so I'm not out full price. :)
Content Warning! Hannibal is still a cannibal. Graphic descriptions of what Hannibal does to his victims and of Mason Verger's physical state. Also graphic descriptions of what Mason does to his victims. Lots of morally unsavory characters as well.
On the March Hare scale: 2 out of 5 Golden Bookmarks
crossposted at The Mad Tea Party