Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Psychopathic destraction

Book: The Silence of the Lambs

Author: Thomas Harris

Published: 1988 (Yazoo, Inc)

Pages: 367

No, it hasn’t taken me like three weeks to read a paperback thriller. I blew through most of this over a weekend at home, where I become distracted from my official reading pile by all the books I decided to not take with me when I moved out. When I go back, I’ll start reading something to remember why I left it.

Sometimes I get caught up enough to bring it up here, which is what happened this time.

The police chase serial murder main plot line going on here is great. Tense, teased out so the reader knows just enough more than the feds to groan when they scoff at a weird (right) theory or head in the wrong direction. Short but thorough explanations about procedures and weapons that work well with third-person omnificent (and would be the stiltiest of all stilted in any other point of view). Convincing psychopaths and characters who are, if not fully rounded out, at least recognizable as real people.

Clarice Starling is within a centimeter of being a Mary Sue but gets away with instead having a relentless driving perfection that comes from a bad childhood. Harris almost gets away with his occasional lapses into poetic streams of consciousness and grandiose life pronouncements, too, but those lean just on the other side of ridiculous. He’s best at compiling evidence and stringing it out so its reveal becomes its own drama. And why the flips between present and past tense, usually during an explanation or description of setting? Those were confusing.

But kudos for letting Lector slip away. Of course he won’t get caught; he’s far smarter than anyone who was chasing him. The smart ones of them knew that.

I read it for the plot thrills and was rewarded thusly.     

Although--one more thing. My copy has a blurb from one Roald Dahl saying this is the best novel of the year. This does not compute. 

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