The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs

There's a killer on the loose who knows that beauty is only skin deep, and a trainee investigator who's trying to save her own hide. The only man that can help is locked in an asylum. But he's willing to put a brave face on - if it will help him escape....

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Title:The Silence of the Lambs
Author:Thomas Harris
Rating:
ISBN:0099446782
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Paperback
Number of Pages:338 pages

The Silence of the Lambs Reviews

  • Martine
    Jul 31, 2008

    Call me a freak, but I have a bit of a crush on Hannibal Lecter. He may be the scariest fuck out there (certainly scarier than the supposed monster of the book, Buffalo Bill), but he just oozes style and knowledge. In fact, he has so much style and knowledge that he doesn't come off as a ridiculous prick when he says things like, 'A census taker tried to quantify me once. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone'* or 'Can you smell his sweat? That peculiar goatish odour is trans-3-

    Call me a freak, but I have a bit of a crush on Hannibal Lecter. He may be the scariest fuck out there (certainly scarier than the supposed monster of the book, Buffalo Bill), but he just oozes style and knowledge. In fact, he has so much style and knowledge that he doesn't come off as a ridiculous prick when he says things like, 'A census taker tried to quantify me once. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone'* or 'Can you smell his sweat? That peculiar goatish odour is trans-3-methyl-2 hexenoic acid. Remember it, it's the smell of schizophrenia.' Quite the contrary -- he sounds

    saying these things. Sophisticated, even. In this and many other ways, Dr Lecter is so utterly fascinating that you'll still find yourself rooting for him after he has committed several heinous (but brilliant!) murders, hoping he'll stay out of the hands of the police and live out his life in freedom. Now that's quality writing for you.

    As you can probably tell from the above, I like

    , which is to say the book on which the movie was based. Except for the fact that Harris makes Clarice rather stupid** and that the dialogue in the book is a bit too clever and masculine for its own good***, it's a solid and exciting will-they-find-him-in-time-to-save-the-girl story -- a page-turner if ever there was one. The characters aren't terribly easy to identify with, but that's all right, because for one thing, they're

    (had I mentioned that yet?), and for another, they all have a clearly defined quest. They don't necessarily have the

    quest, but hey, that only serves to increase the tension.

    In some regards the book is better than the film. Remember those stupid anagrams from the movie? They're not in the book (except for the bilirubin one, which I actually quite like). The book makes its connections in a much more logical, less what-the-fuck?-ish way. It also has a more realistic romance, though not necessarily a better one. On the down side, I think Thomas Harris must have kicked himself for not having come up with the closing line of the film ('I'm having an old friend for dinner') himself. In my opinion, it's the best closing line in cinematic history, unmatched by the ending of the book. Still, it's a satisfying read. Very satisfying. As satisfying as the movie, and that's saying a fair bit.

    ......................

    * Yes, that's what he says in the book. Not 'a nice Chianti'. I've been reliably informed by those in the know (I myself do not actually drink wine) that Amarone and Chianti are not in fact the same thing. 'Chianti' does sound better than 'Amarone' in this line, doesn't it?

    ** In the book, Dr Lecter tells Clarice in one of their first interviews that Billy has kidnapped large-chested Catherine Martin because 'he wants a vest with tits on it'. He then goes on to say in their next meeting that 'Billy is making a girl suit out of real girls'. And despite these incredibly obvious clues (which cannot be rude jokes on Lecter's part as he's far too sophisticated to make such rude jokes) it takes Clarice, who is supposed to be

    intelligent, the entire rest of the book to figure out what it is that Billy wants from his victims. They wisely changed that in the movie, where Clarice doesn't have her entire quest spelled out for her right at the beginning.

    *** I've never met any women who speak to each other the way Clarice and Ardelia do. Then again, I've never met any brilliant FBI trainees, so what do I know? Perhaps they do speak to each other like that at Quantico. I guess I'll never find out. (Anyone out there have FBI-trained friends? Anyone? Bueller?)

  • Lightreads
    Dec 27, 2008

    I'm assuming this book was once shocking and groundbreaking. And okay, yes, eww with the eating people and the skinning. But also? Shut the fuck up, Thomas Harris. There are few things more obnoxious than a male author with a hard-on for his female protagonist. Worth reading for Hannibal the Cannibal, because I dig that abnormal psychology stuff, but did I mention the objectification? The sexism? The way the reader is never allowed to forget

    about gender? How every male she meets falls for the he

    I'm assuming this book was once shocking and groundbreaking. And okay, yes, eww with the eating people and the skinning. But also? Shut the fuck up, Thomas Harris. There are few things more obnoxious than a male author with a hard-on for his female protagonist. Worth reading for Hannibal the Cannibal, because I dig that abnormal psychology stuff, but did I mention the objectification? The sexism? The way the reader is never allowed to forget

    about gender? How every male she meets falls for the heroin? Yeah, as it turns out, the unnamed and hovering Harris narrator is by far the most hateful and creepy personality around, and that's including the aforementioned cannibal.

  • Stephen
    Feb 11, 2010

    Out of respect for Thomas Harris’s superb novel, I have decided that no pictures of

    will appear in this review. Thank you for your understanding.

    4.0 to 4.5 stars. Another one of those terrific situations where I saw the movie first (and loved it) and then eventually decided to read the book... and loved it too. Score!!! Now assuming that most people not suffering from the after-effects of severe head trauma know the basic plot concerning FBI trainee “

    Out of respect for Thomas Harris’s superb novel, I have decided that no pictures of

    will appear in this review. Thank you for your understanding.

    4.0 to 4.5 stars. Another one of those terrific situations where I saw the movie first (and loved it) and then eventually decided to read the book... and loved it too. Score!!! Now assuming that most people not suffering from the after-effects of severe head trauma know the basic plot concerning FBI trainee “

    ” Starling, while trying to kibosh a Psychotic Vera Wang wannabe named Buffalo Bill, starts an unconventional relationship with extreme culinary expert Dr. Hannibalicious Lecter, I thought I would give you my take on the whole movie wins/book wins debate.

    Please note that I am going to feel completely free to drop spoilers without warning from here on out so....recognize.

    1. First, I thought the movie’s treatment of Starling’s time on the Sheep and Horse farm was much better, probably in large part due to Jodie Foster really nailing the angst factor as she describes trying to save a spring lamb from slaughter (in the book it was horses being slaughtered that she was tripping about). Here the movie wins and I can still close my eyes and here Foster/Starling saying “the lambs were screaming” and “it was cold, so cold.” She made that scene her chew toy and it is a wonderful example of taking more and condensing it into a more powerful less.

    2. The End of the movie, Lecter stalking Dr. Chilton and ending his phone conversation with Starling by saying,

    YUM!!! One of my favorite lines/ideas from the movie and I was very bitter that it did not have an analog in the book. The Booest of Hoos on that.

    AND SURPRISINGLY...that is it for the movies clear superiority. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the movie and think they did much EXCEPTIONALLY well. However, I was shocked in reading the book that most the best parts in the movie (including Lecter, which shocked me) were handled equally effectively in the book. Thus, where I think it was a tie or too close to call, I have decided not to put it in one camp or another. With that said....on to the book.

    1. Need to start with Lector and this is a surprise because Sir Anthony made this role his like few people on movie history. However, I am not talking about what was in both the movie and the book as I think it is a push, to a slight edge to Mr. Hopkins. No, I am talking about the one AMAZING insight the book provides to the character. Namely, Lecter’s motivation is about “amusing himself.” This single thread running through the book makes Lecter a far darker, far more sinister character (which also explains why hollywood downplayed it to land Hopkins in the role). Walking away from the book, the reader has a much better sense of Lector as a conscience-lacking entity of pure evil, than we get from the movie. Kudos to Mr. Harris on that point.

    2. As good as Scott Glenn is in the movie, his character found way too much time on the editing room floor and the book truly develops well. His scene with the head of John Hopkins university is one that truly should have found a way on screen as I thought it was perfect.

    3. Jame

    Gumb (aka Buffalo Bill). As wonderfully icky as Ted Levine is in the movie, he comes across as just a nutso on screen with the naked “tuck” dance an the lotion commercials. Meanwhile, in lit land, Gumby is shown to be so....SAVAGE and calculating that all of the nutso stuff takes on a far more sinister aspect. I was deeply disturbed by the depiction of Gumb’s craft skills and the movie never hammered that home enough.

    Overall, I was deeply impressed with both the movie and book, but the book really gets the gold star for being able to work with my love of the movie and still blow me away. In closing, if you have only seen the movie, you should read the book and if you have only read the book, you should see the movie as it is deeply respectful of the source material. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

    P.S. I listened to the audio version read by Frank Muller and he was his usual perfection.

    P.P.S. I was fairly insulted that the movie makers felt the need to change Amarone to Chianti (in the famous fava beans scene) presumably because they didn't think the "audience" would get it. OUCH!!

  • Lou
    Aug 21, 2010

    I need to get round reading this, whats put me off is that the movie has been played on the TV so many times now Clarice and Lecter are quite vivid in my mind. I am sure the book has lot more to offer as Harris is one of my high ranking thriller writers.

    I need to get round reading this, whats put me off is that the movie has been played on the TV so many times now Clarice and Lecter are quite vivid in my mind. I am sure the book has lot more to offer as Harris is one of my high ranking thriller writers.

  • Alex ☣ Deranged KittyCat ☣
    Oct 11, 2012

    What more is there to say about this wonderful book that spawned an amazing movie?

    Hannibal Lecter is the absolute monster: ruthless, above morals, and charming at the same time. The way he acts, the way he talks, he truly is a predator. He traps you in his web and there's nothing you can do about it.

    He's not beautiful, mind you. No body perfection, no sparkling in the sun, yet he's irresistible.

  • Darth J
    Apr 01, 2013

    So, I read these books out of order. I started with

    (which gives better background and fleshes out the character of Lecter much more than the mess that was

    ), then read

    and finally this one.

    I just have such a deep respect and admiration for her (also, Jodie why didn't you come back for the sequel?? I mean, Moore was great but I don't like a break in continuity, nor do I like how they changed the ending of

    w

    So, I read these books out of order. I started with

    (which gives better background and fleshes out the character of Lecter much more than the mess that was

    ), then read

    and finally this one.

    I just have such a deep respect and admiration for her (also, Jodie why didn't you come back for the sequel?? I mean, Moore was great but I don't like a break in continuity, nor do I like how they changed the ending of

    where

    .

    I was about 12 when I read these books and what really resonated with me, more than the tête-à-têtes, was the sheer intelligence of both Starling and Lecter. Both equally formidable characters

    , Clarice and Hannibal are some of the most interesting characters that I've ever read about. Please, dear writers, learn from them.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Edward Lorn
    Apr 08, 2015

    Retro review time!

    Loved the movie, so I read the book. Liked the book enough to look into other Thomas Harris books. Read

    . Fucking loved it. And then it was all downhill after that.

    was okay. Never read

    , and it still holds zero draw for me.

    What I remember the most about

    is Clarice catching some spunk to the eye. That, above all else, is my most striking memory from this book. What's worse than a surprise money shot? A surprise money shot f

    Retro review time!

    Loved the movie, so I read the book. Liked the book enough to look into other Thomas Harris books. Read

    . Fucking loved it. And then it was all downhill after that.

    was okay. Never read

    , and it still holds zero draw for me.

    What I remember the most about

    is Clarice catching some spunk to the eye. That, above all else, is my most striking memory from this book. What's worse than a surprise money shot? A surprise money shot from a psycho. Bleck!

    The ending is probably the best part. Nerve-shattering fun.

    Thomas Harris is so good he takes seven years to write a book. Donna Tartt and Marisha Pessl do the same. Stephen King said in

    that he (the next quote is paraphrased) couldn't understand why someone would only do something every seven years when they were so damn good at it. This has no bearing on this book, but I like purposeless trivia, so there you have it.

    In summation: I figured I'd go back and review all these titles I read before I joined Goodreads (or before Goodreads even existed) because I wanna. Truly, that's the only reason. Because I wanna.

  • Ana
    Jun 28, 2015

    It rubs the lotion on its skin. It does this whenever it is told.

    This line will be forever etched in my memory! So creepy. And yet so memorable.

    The Silence of the Lambs is one of my favorite movies, by the way. It is a movie that I find deeply fascinating (I promise I'm not a serial killer). It never fails to give me chills. It's scary because it's realistic. Some the events of the film actually happened in real life. The novel is no less brilliant than the movie. Thomas Harris spent years res

    It rubs the lotion on its skin. It does this whenever it is told.

    This line will be forever etched in my memory! So creepy. And yet so memorable.

    The Silence of the Lambs is one of my favorite movies, by the way. It is a movie that I find deeply fascinating (I promise I'm not a serial killer). It never fails to give me chills. It's scary because it's realistic. Some the events of the film actually happened in real life. The novel is no less brilliant than the movie. Thomas Harris spent years researching the psychological profiles of serial killers. The book was inspired by the real-life relationship between criminology professor and profiler Robert Keppel and serial killer Ted Bundy. The Buffalo Bill character was actually a composite of three real-life killers: Ed Gein, Ted Bundy and Gary Heidnick. If that's not scary, I don't know what is.

    The book has a very strong dark, gothic feel to it. I could imagine myself as Clarice, walking down that cell corridor. You feel as though you're a character in the story. And that's not a place you want to be.

    Thomas Harris is a brilliant author. The Silence of the Lambs is one of the most gripping thrillers ever written. Same goes for its predecessor, Red Dragon. (The movie wasn't as good as the book. Forgive me Ralph Fiennes, my love!)

    I hadn't read Hannibal.

    What more can I say? The movie is awesome. The book is awesome. The characters are awesome. The plot is awesome. Everything is awesome. Except murdering people. No. Just, no. That's not awesome.

    P.S.

    I think the one on the right is so much scarier.

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  • Tristan
    Sep 14, 2015

    There always lies a certain degree of tragedy in reading the source material after having seen (multiple times) its expertly executed film adaptation. Besides the revelation of the plot

    There always lies a certain degree of tragedy in reading the source material after having seen (multiple times) its expertly executed film adaptation. Besides the revelation of the plot, the resulting contamination makes it mighty difficult to come up with one's own, unique interpretations of the characters. It slightly spoils the reading experience, since the element of surprise, the freshness is all but gone.

    This is especially true for Thomas Harris'

    , with its now iconic portrayals of Clarice Starling and Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter. As a thriller, it is by definition very much plot driven.

    For this reason, reading the book became more of a clinical procedure to me, trying to detect where there is a deviation in dialogue, which scenes were cut/expanded, which characters were more or less fleshed out, etc.. The viscerality which a novel of this type often aims to provoke, wasn't quite there as a result. I see why it's a very well-written thriller, but the emotional response just never quite managed to materialize.

    There was however a theme I spotted in this, which I strangely didn't pick up on before. After thinking it through, I found it's really a tale about parentship. More specifically, about which of the primary (almost archetypal) males in Starling's life at that time can claim her (an orphan) as his, which one has influenced, moulded her the most.

    First there is Crawford, the respectable, protective mentor figure, who tries to guide her through the pitfalls of her fledgling career in the FBI. Then we have Chilton. A rather sleazy, intellectually inferior asylum ward, who makes thinly veiled sexual advances towards Starling, and doesn't quite respect her in an official capacity. And finally, the fiendish Lecter, who seeks to corrupt (metaphorically devirginize?) her, to impart to her an esoteric knowledge about the inescapable darkness of the world and the human psyche. The dialogues between him and Starling are for that reason alone utterly fantastic.

    If this was my first encounter with Harris' world and characters, it most definitely would have been awarded a four or even five star rating. It truly is a great piece of crime thriller writing, and deserves all its praise. Unfortunately, it suffers from my early, intense exposure to the film adaptation, bringing the rating down a notch.

  • Jonathan Janz
    Jan 30, 2017

    Like the Coen Brothers were for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, the folks behind the film adaptation of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS were smart enough to recognize genius when they encountered it. And like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is a movie that lives up to its amazing source material. It's no wonder they are numbers three and two, respectively, on my list of favorite suspense films. If you're wondering about my first, it's JAWS, a movie that far exceeds the novel from which it was

    Like the Coen Brothers were for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, the folks behind the film adaptation of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS were smart enough to recognize genius when they encountered it. And like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is a movie that lives up to its amazing source material. It's no wonder they are numbers three and two, respectively, on my list of favorite suspense films. If you're wondering about my first, it's JAWS, a movie that far exceeds the novel from which it was adapted.

    But this review isn't about the movies. It's about the Thomas Harris novel. Because I need to go read HARRY POTTER to my youngest, I'll keep this succinct: Harris's book is one of the best horror/suspense novels ever written. It deserves every glowing word it has ever received and is well-nigh perfect in its composition and execution. Rarely has a book terrified me like this one did; rarely did a climax live up to its set-up the way this climax did.

    If you haven't read it, do. If you have read it, read it again.

    I certainly will be in the coming years.