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The Silence Of The Lambs by Thomas Harris
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The Silence Of The Lambs (1988)

by Thomas Harris

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Hannibal Lecter Series (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,20582382 (4.08)185
  1. 50
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  5. 20
    The Red Scream by Mary Willis Walker (myshelves)
    myshelves: I found this Edgar-winning novel about a serial killer more chilling than Harris's novels.
  6. 31
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  7. 10
    The Letter of the Law by Tim Green (dara85)
    dara85: The creepy nature of the killer and the sexual tension between he and Casey.
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  10. 22
    The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy (WildMaggie)
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English (75)  French (2)  Spanish (2)  Lithuanian (1)  Catalan (1)  German (1)  All languages (82)
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The novel opens with Clarice Starling, a young FBI trainee, being asked to carry out an errand by Jack Crawford, the head of the FBI division that draws up psychological profiles of serial killers. Starling is asked to present a questionnaire to brilliant former forensic psychiatrist turned cannibalistic psychopath, Hannibal Lecter. Lecter is serving nine consecutive life sentences in a Maryland mental institution for his murders.

We also learn of Jack Crawford's hunt for a serial killer dubbed "Buffalo Bill", whose modus operandi involves kidnapping overweight women, starving them for about a week initially then killing and skinning them, before dumping the bodies in nearby rivers. The nickname was started by Kansas City Police Homicide Division, as a joke that "he likes to skin his humps."

When Bill's sixth victim is found in West Virginia, Starling helps Crawford perform the autopsy. Starling finds a moth pupa in the throat of the victim, and just as Lecter predicted, she has been scalped. Diamond-shaped patches of skin have also been taken from her shoulders. Autopsy reports, furthermore, indicate that Bill killed her within four days of her capture, much faster than his earlier victims. On the basis of Lecter's prediction, Starling believes that he knows who Buffalo Bill really is. She also asks why she was sent to fish for information on Buffalo Bill without being told she was doing so; Crawford explains that, if she had had an agenda, Lecter would never have spoken up.

Starling takes the pupa to the Smithsonian, where it is eventually identified as the Black Witch moth, which would not naturally occur where the victim was found.

In Tennessee, Catherine Baker Martin, the daughter of Senator Ruth Martin, is kidnapped. Within six hours, her blouse is found on the roadside, slit up the back: Buffalo Bill's calling card. Crawford is advised that no less than the President of the United States has expressed "intense interest" in the case, and that a successful rescue is preferable. Crawford estimates they have three days before Catherine is killed.

After Starling leaves, Lecter reminisces on the past, recalling a conversation with Benjamin Raspail. Raspail, during that therapy session, explained Klaus's death at the hands of Raspail's jealous former lover, Jame Gumb, who then used Klaus's skin to make an apron. Raspail also revealed that Gumb had an epiphany upon watching a moth hatch. Lecter's pleasant ruminations are interrupted when Chilton steps in. A listening device allowed him to record Starling's conversation, and Chilton has found out that Crawford's deal is a lie. He offers one of his own: If Lecter reveals Buffalo Bill's identity, he will indeed get a transfer to another asylum, but only if Chilton gets credit for getting the information from him. Lecter insists that he'll only give the information to Senator Martin in person, in Tennessee. Chilton agrees. Unknown to Chilton, Lecter has previously hidden under his tongue a paperclip and some parts of a pen, both of which were mistakenly given to by untrained orderlies during his stay at the asylum. He later fashions the pen pieces and paperclip into an improvised lockpick, which he would later use to pick his handcuff locks.

In Tennessee, Lecter toys with Senator Martin briefly, enjoying the woman's anguish, but eventually gives her some information about Buffalo Bill: his name is William "Billy" Rubin, and he has suffered from elephant ivory anthrax, a knifemaker's disease. He also provides an accurate physical description. The information is a red herring: bilirubin is a pigment in human bile and a chief coloring agent in human excrement, which the forensic lab compare to the color of Chilton's hair.

Shortly after this, Lecter manages to escape by killing off his captors and eviscerating them, using the face of one as a mask to fool paramedics. Starling continues her search for Buffalo Bill, eventually tracking him down.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Harris is a master story-teller and this is a fast-paced thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Not sure of the date I read it but it was quite a while ago. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 3, 2016 |
One of the best books I've ever read. Hannibal Lecter is arguably the most ingenious and horrifying villains of all time and Clarice Starling has to walk that fine line between believing and admiring a murderer and keeping such a monster at an arms length. Incredible! ( )
  biggs1399 | Jan 19, 2016 |
I read quite some time ago.... I remember it was very scary. Yikes. Great book. ( )
  CrystalW | Dec 15, 2015 |
I read quite some time ago.... I remember it was very scary. Yikes. Great book. ( )
  CrystalW | Dec 15, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Harris, Thomasprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rambelli, RobertaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? --1 Corinthians
Need I look upon a death's head in a ring, that have one in my face? -- John Donne, "Devotions"
Dedication
To the memory of my father.
First words
Behavioral Science, the FBI section that deals with serial murder, is on the bottom floor of the Academy building at Quantico, half-buried in the earth.
Quotations
A census taker tried to quantify me once. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
WorldCat has ISBN 9024542871 for both Lelijk eendje [The Ugly Duckling] by Iris Johansen AND De schreeuw van het lam [The Silence of the Lambs] by Thomas Harris.
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
HANNIBAL LECTER.
THE ULTIMATE VILLAIN OF MODERN FICTION.
A young FBI trainee. An evil genius locked away for unspeakable crimes. A plunge into the darkest chambers of a psychopath's mind-- in the deadly search for a serial killer...
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312924585, Mass Market Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:35 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

FBI Academy trainee Clarice Starling hopes that Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a criminally insane psychiatrist imprisoned in a Boston hospital, can lead her to the serial killer known only as Buffalo Bill.

» see all 12 descriptions

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