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The Silence of the Lambs Paperback – September 15, 1998

4.5 out of 5 stars 1,469 customer reviews
Book 2 of 4 in the Hannibal Lecter Series

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A medical examiner with a nightmare past must stop a killer who strikes too close to home. Learn More
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris, is even better than the successful movie. Like his earlier Red Dragon, the book takes us inside the world of professional criminal investigation. All the elements of a well-executed thriller are working here--driving suspense, compelling characters, inside information, publicity-hungry bureaucrats thwarting the search, and the clock ticking relentlessly down toward the death of another young woman. What enriches this well-told tale is the opportunity to live inside the minds of both the crime fighters and the criminals as each struggles in a prison of pain and seeks, sometimes violently, relief.

Clarice Starling, a precociously self-disciplined FBI trainee, is dispatched by her boss, Section Chief Jack Crawford, the FBI's most successful tracker of serial killers, to see whether she can learn anything useful from Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Lecter's a gifted psychopath whose nickname is "The Cannibal" because he likes to eat parts of his victims. Isolated by his crimes from all physical contact with the human race, he plays an enigmatic game of "Clue" with Starling, providing her with snippets of data that, if she is smart enough, will lead her to the criminal. Undaunted, she goes where the data takes her. As the tension mounts and the bureaucracy thwarts Starling at every turn, Crawford tells her, "Keep the information and freeze the feelings." Insulted, betrayed, and humiliated, Starling struggles to focus. If she can understand Lecter's final, ambiguous scrawl, she can find the killer. But can she figure it out in time? --Barbara Schlieper --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In this thrillingly effective follow-up to Harris's masterful 1981 suspense novel Red Dragon, the heroine is new, but the villain isn't: Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the evil genius who played a small but crucial role in the earlier novel, returns, to mesmerizing effect. When a serial killer known as Buffalo Bill (he kidnaps, slays and skins young women) begins a crosscountry rampage, FBI trainee Clarice Starling tries to interview Lecter, a psychiatrist whose brilliant insights into the criminally insane are matched only by his bloodlusthe's currently imprisoned for nine murders, and would like nothing more than the chance to kill again. Lecter, a vicious gamesman, will offer clues to the murderer's pattern only in exchange for information about Clarice, analyzing her with horrible accuracy from the barest details. When Bill strikes again, the agent begins to realize that Lecter may know much more, and races against time and two twisted minds. Harris understands the crafting of literary terror as very few writers do; readers who put themselves in his good, coldblooded hands will lose sleep, and demand a sequel. 200,000 first printing; $200,000 ad/promo; BOMC main selection.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (September 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312195265
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312195267
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,469 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on October 13, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Harris first rocketed up the bestseller lists with his excellent terrorism thriller Black Sunday. His antihero Hannibal the Cannibal exploded into the public consciousness after Jonathan Demme's excellent movie version of Silence of the Lambs (1991) came out, with Anthony Hopkins brilliant creepy performance as Lecter. And, of course, fans and Hollywood have had an anxious 11 year wait for Harris to finally publish a sequel. But many people may not realize that Hannibal Lecter first appeared, albeit in a cameo role, in the novel Red Dragon and in Michael Mann's capable movie version, Manhunter (1986). If you've missed this book, I urge you to try it; in many ways it is Harris's best work.
FBI Special Will Graham has retired to Sugar Loaf Key, FL with his new wife Molly and her son Willie. Retired because of his nearly fatal encounter with a linoleum knife wielding Hannibal Lecter, whose capture he was responsible for, and because of the emotional troubles that have accompanied his ability to develop an almost extrasensory empathy for such killers, such that he has trouble purging their feelings from his own psyche. His peaceful idyll is disrupted when his old boss, Jack Crawford, shows up and asks for his help in catching The Tooth Fairy, a serial killer who is notorious for the tooth marks he leaves and for dicing his victims with shards of broken mirrors. Reluctantly agreeing to join the chase, Graham decides, in order to recapture the mindset that has made him so eerily effective in prior cases, to visit Hannibal Lecter in the Chesapeake State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. There the administrator, Dr. Frederick Chilton, shares an anecdote about Hannibal that demonstrates just how horrible he is:
"On the afternoon of July 8, 1976, Dr.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I doubt that anyone would argue the fact that this is the best of Harris's books, though RED DRAGON and BLACK SUNDAY are excellent, too. Any would-be author should read any of these as textbook examples displaying how "brevity of description" --as opposed to long drawn-out descriptions of a person or place in a scene--can be so powerful. For instance, Clarice Starling is simply described in her own thougths as someone who "knew she could look allright without primping" and that left you with the image of a great-looking female protagonist. Harris, and lesser known but equally as talented fellow Mississippi author Charles Wilson are two of the best I've ever read at being able to pull this "brevity" off. In fact, the above mentioned books of Harris, along with Wilson's GAME PLAN, DONOR, and NIGHTWATCHER, are among the most visual books I've ever read, without boring you with "too-much" description to get that effect. By the way, for those who loved SILENCE in particular, and haven't read Wilson, they should try NIGHTWATCHER for a read very similar to SILENCE in its story line and fear factor, with possibly better laid-out character development in NIGHTWATCHER--but hey, all of them top notch reads.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Having seen the movie adaptation of "The Silence of the Lambs" several times, it seemed at times that I could see the action on the pages of the book rather than just reading them. I cannot help but see Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling and it is the voice of Anthony Hopkins I hear when Hannibal Lecter speaks. While this may limit how I view the characters, this does not detract at all from the book and I feel that in many ways, the novel is superior and is still gripping despite my familiarity with the story.
Clarice Starling is in training at the FBI Academy. She is a star student in the Behavioral Sciences Division when the Department Chief, Jack Crawford, calls her into his office and gives her a job. She is to interview one Dr Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter in order to help get into the mind of a serial killer. There is an open case with a serial killer who has been nicknamed "Buffalo Bill", and Dr. Lecter may be the only chance to solve the case without there being many more murders. Starling is only a trainee, and this may be why Lecter is actually willing to speak to Starling about Buffalo Bill, though he is always holding something back.
Lecter is a villain of extreme intellect and this comes through in his dialogue. Like "Red Dragon", Dr. Lecter is not the central villain and the story does not revolve specifically around him (though he has a larger role this time around). Lecter does play a pivotal role because without him, the story cannot move forward. We never truly get into the psyche of Jame Gumb (not as much as we did with Frances Dolorhyde in "Red Dragon"), and it seems as if most of his actions happen off camera.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read Hannibal first. That was probably a mistake, but if you did the same thing, make sure you pick up a copy of Red Dragon. This novel by Thomas Harris is the best, in my opinion, of the three "Hannibal Lecter" books. Will Graham is a profiler that is brought on the case of the Tooth Fairy, a serial murderer killing entire families. This is what makes the book so good. Even though the murders in Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal are gruesome, it isn't as though most of us really worry about a death like that. But the fear of someone breaking into your home, which is supposed to be a haven, and murdering not only you but also the people you love the most--that is a real fear that many share.
One of the great things in this book, as opposed to SotL, is how we get in the head of the killer. We learn about his childhood not in a dossier or a debriefing but from his own memories. In the end, the killer is conflicted, torn between fulfilling what he believes is his destiny and doing what he knows is right, and I was actually able to empathize with him because of the suberb characterization.
I am a stickler for research. This book is well researched. Nothing sticks out as wrong, everything advances the plot, and the subplots, like the relationship between Will and his wife Molly, only enhance the read. I guarantee you will not be able to put this book down, this is not a leisurely read. I thought the movies of Red Dragon (called Manhunter) and Silence of the Lambs were excellent, and I'm looking forward to Hannibal, but the books can't be beat.
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