Hannibal (novel)

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This article is about the novel. For other uses, see Hannibal (disambiguation).
Artwork of a vertical, rectangular box. The text and illustration look like they were chiseled out of silver. The background consist of red tiles shaded with different levels of black. On top, there is the author's name, Thomas Harris. Below, in the middle, there is the illustration of a dragon eating a man, styled as an ancient bas-relief. On the bottom, there is the title, Hannibal. Below the title there is a sentence that says, "A Novel by the Author of The Silence of the Lambs".
First edition cover
Author Thomas Harris
Country United States
Language English
Series Hannibal Lecter
Genre thriller, horror
Publisher Delacorte Press
Publication date
8 June 1999
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 484 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN ISBN 0-385-33487-7 (first edition, hardback)
OCLC 41315462
Preceded by The Silence of the Lambs
Followed by Hannibal Rising

Hannibal is a novel written by Thomas Harris, published in 1999. It is the third in his series featuring Dr. Hannibal Lecter and the second to feature FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling. The novel takes place seven years after the events of The Silence of the Lambs and deals with the intended revenge of one of Lecter's victims. It was adapted as a film of the same name in 2001, directed by Ridley Scott.


Seven years after the Buffalo Bill case, FBI agent Clarice Starling witnesses her career crumble around her. A drug raid goes wrong and Starling kills an armed meth dealer in self-defense: the dealer was carrying her own baby while shooting at Starling. Fugitive serial killer Hannibal Lecter, who has been living in Florence, Italy under an assumed name, sends her a letter of condolence and requests more information about her personal life. Desperate to catch Lecter, the FBI finds a use for Starling once again. She meets with Barney Matthews, former orderly of Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. He tells her how Lecter stated he would never go after her if he escaped.

Meanwhile, Mason Verger, a wealthy, sadistic pedophile who was left horribly disfigured after a "therapy session" with Lecter, plans to get revenge by feeding Lecter to wild boars, using Starling as bait. He is aided by corrupt Justice Department agent Paul Krendler, Starling's nemesis. Rinaldo Pazzi, a disgraced Italian detective, pursues Lecter in the interests of collecting Verger's bounty on him. However, Lecter disembowels and hangs Pazzi in the same manner as his ancestor. Lecter waves at a camera, the footage of which is later seen by Verger. Lecter kills one of Verger's men and escapes to the United States, where he begins pursuing Starling.

The novel briefly touches upon Lecter's childhood, specifically the death of his beloved younger sister, Mischa. The two were orphaned during World War II, and a group of German deserters found them on their family estate and took them prisoner. The Germans, after checking the limbs of both siblings, had taken Mischa away. Lecter later found some of Mischa's milk teeth in a stool pit used by the deserters, indicating to young Hannibal that they had killed and eaten his sister.

Barney briefly works for Verger, and gets acquainted with Verger's sister and bodyguard Margot, a lesbian bodybuilder whom Verger molested and raped as a child. Their friendship is briefly strained when he makes a pass at her, but they eventually reconcile, and Margot tells him that she stays in her hated brother's employment because she needs Mason's sperm to have a child with her partner, Judy.

Lecter is captured by Verger's men, and Starling pursues them, determined to bring Lecter in herself. One of Verger's men shoots her full of tranquilizer as she releases Lecter. The wild boars break through the barricade separating them from Lecter, but they lose interest in their intended prey when they smell no fear on him, instead going after Verger's men. In the confusion, Lecter carries the unconscious Starling to safety, and escapes with her. At the same time, Margot forcibly obtains Mason's sperm by sodomizing him with a cattle prod, and then kills him by shoving his pet Moray eel down his throat. Lecter, who had briefly treated Margot after her brother abused her, has urged her to blame the murder on him, which she does by leaving one of his hairs at the scene.

Using a regimen of psychotropic drugs and behavioral therapy, Lecter attempts to brainwash Starling, hoping to make her believe she is Mischa, returned to life. She ultimately proves too strong, however, and tells him that Mischa will have to live on within him. Lecter captures Krendler and lobotomizes him, and then he and Starling dine on Krendler's prefrontal cortex, sauteed with shallots, before Lecter kills him. The two then become lovers, and disappear together.

Three years later, Barney and his girlfriend go to Buenos Aires to see a Vermeer painting. At the opera, Barney spots Lecter and Starling; fearing for his life, he flees with his girlfriend.


Although the ending was controversial, reaction to the novel was generally very positive. Robert McCrum, writing in The Guardian, called it "the exquisite satisfaction of a truly great melodrama". Author Stephen King, a fan of the series, has said that he considers Hannibal to be one of the two most frightening popular novels of our time, the other being The Exorcist.[1]

Charles de Lint criticized Hannibal as a huge disappointment, citing "its disturbing subtexts, which . . . set [Lecter] up as a sympathetic character," and Harris' "twisting [Starling] so out of character simply to provide a 'shock' ending."[2]

The first printing of Hannibal was 1.3 million copies. It was the second highest bestselling novel in 1999.


  • Hannibal Lecter
  • Clarice Starling
  • Mason Verger
  • Margot Verger
  • Jack Crawford
  • Rinaldo Pazzi
  • Paul Krendler
  • Barney Matthews
  • Cordell
  • Oreste Pini
  • Dr. Doemling
  • Carlo Deogracias
  • Romula Cjesku
  • Gnocco
  • Ardelia Mapp
  • Evelda Drumgo


  1. ^ King, Stephen (13 June 1999). "Hannibal the cannibal". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-12-10. 
  2. ^ "Books to Look For". F&SF. January 2000.