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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
11,327125497 (4.08)282
Hannibal Lecter. The ultimate villain of modern fiction who scared the world silent. 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 . . . An instant classic of chilling psychological suspense . . . a critically acclaimed audio production of unforgettable intensity . . . From the tormenting words of the homicidal maniac Dr. Hannibal Lecter and the flesh-rending depravity of an elusive killer to the sheer courage of a young FBI novice, who risks her life to track him down and stop the bloodshed.… (more)
  1. 71
    Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (SastRe.O)
  2. 40
    Red Dragon by Thomas Harris (sturlington)
  3. 40
    Heartsick by Chelsea Cain (VictoriaPL)
  4. 30
    The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver (Becchanalia)
  5. 41
    The Alienist by Caleb Carr (karenlibrarian00)
  6. 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.
  7. 31
    Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain (VictoriaPL)
  8. 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.
  9. 10
    Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas (longway)
  10. 10
    Every Dead Thing by John Connolly (rayfink)
  11. 00
    The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid (Litrvixen)
    Litrvixen: A down-to-earth policewoman has to team up with a psychologist who can put himself in the mindset of the serial killers to a disturbing degree. Together they have to hunt a twisted serial killer.
  12. 23
    The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy (WildMaggie)
  13. 01
    Black Dahlia Avenger by Steve Hodel (bertilak)

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» See also 282 mentions

English (112)  Spanish (4)  Italian (2)  French (2)  Lithuanian (1)  Catalan (1)  Dutch (1)  Greek (1)  German (1)  All languages (125)
Showing 1-5 of 112 (next | show all)
“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."
(Or, "a big amarone" as in the novel.)
Thomas Harris's story of "The Silence of the Lambs" has always been a fascinating one for me, and I believe wholeheartedly that this is one of the most unique, most fascinating and most enthralling crime novels ever written (and rarely has any mystery/thriller been adapted to film so successfully). The 1991 film is one of my favorite films of all time, even though much of the praise must belong to Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, both of whom committed dedicated and convincing performances to Jonathan Demme's adaptation.

It has been more than half a year since I finally read this novel, but I don't think anything has had a similar impact on me ever since finishing the book. In general, one of the biggest problems I have with crime novels is that it is so easy for them to become procedural, to feel as if they were written according to a guide on how to write a crime novel. I have a lot of trouble relating to many of these novels, and even if the mystery is intriguing and keeps you turning the pages, it often comes at a disadvantages as characters, especially investigating ones, are in constant danger of remaining too shallow, too detached for the reader to really care about what ultimately happens to them. In Thomas Harris' novel, however, we have Clarice Starling, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Jack Crawford, Dr. Frederick Chilton, Buffalo Bill - all of them iconic and unforgettable characters in their own right. They become real persons between the binding holding together this book, and that's something many crime authors should always keep in mind while writing their novels, at least in my opinion.

Of course, it's hard to judge this book on its own. Stories surrounding Hannibal Lecter have been covered through five films (Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising) and a very successful three-season TV series, and everyone has formed a different mindset about Hannibal. We may see him in the form of Brian Cox from Manhunter, Mads Mikkelsen from the TV series or Gaspard Ulliel from Hannibal Rising, but undoubtedly the man who shaped this character and made him the icon he is nowadays was Anthony Hopkins, so much that the American Film Institute even selected him as the Number One Villain of All Time. Reading a novel after seeing one or even several treatments of the source material by filmmakers has always been quite a challenge for me, as it generally became quite difficult to see the book in its own right without being overruled by images from the adaptations which have burned themselves into my mind, but in the case of Thomas Harris' novel, for me it just added to the pleasure of getting to know these characters and their unique fates.

You may have realized that I don't even know what to write about the book anymore, to an extent that I started rambling about the different actors who portrayed this iconic character. That's simply because it left me speechless, even now, quite a long time after watching the movie and the TV show and just a few months after reading the novel. There is no doubt I will read "Red Dragon" and "Hannibal" as well (they are already resting on my shelves): just as there is no doubt that I can only assure everyone who hasn't read this yet that "The Silence of the Lambs" is the crime/thriller/mystery novel you were waiting for.

Slightly updated this review on 2022/06/02. Have to say that it's a perfect holiday read for me thanks to its fast pacing and the interesting characters. You don't need to think about what you're reading too much, but there's still a lot of fascinating insight to be derived from the novel. ( )
  Councillor3004 | Sep 1, 2022 |
Not a genre that I usually read, but I saw that The Silence of the Lambs was on a top ten favorites by David Foster Wallace. It was a little hard to believe, but then again, such a complete writer would have a wide knowledge of literature that includes popular fiction as well as the canon. Anyway, it is no surprise that the excellent movie we all know comes from what is a very well done novel in the genre. The characters are interesting because their motivation is logically explained (although sometimes insane/bizarre and sometimes a tad prone to cliche). I don't agree with the negative reviews that read transphobia, homophobia, or misogyny. This was written in the 1980s: Making Clarice the protagonist was both brilliant and way ahead of many conversations. I think the writer tried pretty hard to explain that "Buffalo Bill" had psychological issues not unrelated to, or a result of, or having anything to do with, transgender identity or homosexuality. ( )
  ProfH | Jul 25, 2022 |
Þrælspennandi og vel skrifaður krimmi. Hannibal Lecter varð sennilega frægasti morðingi kvikmyndasögunnar þegar sagan var kvikmynduð. Sá hvað eftir annað myndina fyrir mér er ég las bókina þótt árin séu mörg síðan ég sá hana. Mæli með þessari sem hafa gaman af glæpasögum. ( )
  SkuliSael | Apr 28, 2022 |
This book is one of those exceptionally rare cases where I can honestly say that the movie and book are quite equal in enjoyment, and, considering that the film is widely considered to be one of the greatest ever done, that is truly saying something. And, yes, I am one of those people who saw the movie YEARS ago, loved it, and only now finally got around to reading the book. My bad, truly.

Am I saying that the book is one of the best ever written? Well, no, but that's mostly because filmmaking and book writing are two very different things. And, on top of that, one will spend only a couple of hours watching the movie - while the book is required to keep one's interest for a great deal longer than that. Yet, suffice it to say, this is one of the very rare times where I read a book made into a movie and truly thought that it fully EARNED that distinction, as well as having the story and characters already in place to fully allow for such without massive overhauls being necessary.

Indeed, if you've seen the movie, the book is familiar - extremely familiar. Whole scenes and conversations are taken almost whole cloth from the book to be put into the movie. The characters are virtually identical, and the events match up rather closely. Thomas Harris truly gave the screenwriters pretty much all that they needed here.

So, what sets the book apart? When transforming a 400-page book into a two-hour-long movie, obviously a lot of cuts will be necessary. The characters have a bit more depth here, with background and details you don't get elsewhere, and there are events that are streamlined in the screenplay, etc.

Plus, I'm going to be honest - while Anthony Hopkins provided an absolutely unforgettable performance on-screen, nothing could ever quite match up to the images that play in your head whenever Hannibal Lecter comes into the scene in the book. It is a truly chilling dynamic, even with a rather less disturbing ending than that offered by the on-screen depiction of the story.

Is the book a MUST-see, if you've seen the movie? Honestly, probably not. The screen version is so well-done, you more than get the idea just by watching it. But, if you did enjoy the movie, or haven't seen it at all yet, this is definitely a defining crime thriller, which in many ways set the bar for so many that subsequently followed. Knowing this was first released in 1988, it is very easy to see the ways in which elements found here echo across so many later works even today. I couldn't put it down after I had started, even having seen the movie at least a hundred times, and am VERY glad I made the decision to give the book a try. Reading it was time very well spent. ( )
1 vote TiffanyAK | Jan 14, 2022 |
Ive never read this book before (I just noticed its #2 in the series? oops) or seen any of the movies, my only exposure to Hannibal Lector are the 2 episodes of Hannibal I watched before I got too grossed out by the meat, but with how often this story comes up in popular culture Im surprised by the fact Ive never seen discussion on how SHOCKINGLY TRANSPHOBIC the source material is... The book tries to get around this by saying the person depicted isnt a "real" trans person but when you have your character acting in all the ways a trans person might and you also make the person a disgusting serial killer thats transphobic. Im not going to get into the discussion on how theres no right way to be trans because I would end up defending a fictional character who wears human skin as clothing. I found the book kinda homophobic for similar reasons. The queer characters seem to all be dead, or evil and dead, and even if the intention wasn't malignant the result is the same. Its gross.

Also a lot of negative body talk and fat phobia? Im not really sure what to call it. The characters and narrator are fairly neutral towards the fact that these women (the serial killer victims) are fat but the way they are talked about and the way their weight just keeps getting brought up felt weird. Im gonna chalk it up to a male author and the time when the story was written. Maybe sizing in the 80's was different but I dont think a size 14 woman would actually be as big as the story seems to think she is.

I wont give this book a one star rating because following my own system I would not physically fight this book. I had a lot of problems with it but the actual serial killer hunt part was interesting and I appreciated the fact that Clarice saw the victims as people and emphasized with them. It had moments of genuine suspense and subtle touches that I enjoyed. I also do appreciate its role in popular culture and media and I feel Ive expanded my mental reference library by reading it. I just wish it could have done it without the transphobia. ( )
  mutantpudding | Dec 26, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 112 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (35 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Harris, Thomasprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dill, MarionTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jochmann, HansiNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lebailly, MoniqueTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leeb, SeepTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morris, FrankCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rambelli, RobertaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schurink-Vooren, EllyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Teschner, UveNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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"
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.
A census taker tried to quantify me once. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone.
I expect most psychiatrists have a patient or two they'd like to refer to me.
Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. I happened.
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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Hannibal Lecter. The ultimate villain of modern fiction who scared the world silent. 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 . . . An instant classic of chilling psychological suspense . . . a critically acclaimed audio production of unforgettable intensity . . . From the tormenting words of the homicidal maniac Dr. Hannibal Lecter and the flesh-rending depravity of an elusive killer to the sheer courage of a young FBI novice, who risks her life to track him down and stop the bloodshed.

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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...
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