Hannibal (Harris novel)

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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
AuthorThomas Harris
Cover artistCraig DeCamps[1]
CountryUnited States
SeriesHannibal Lecter
GenreThriller, horror, gothic
PublisherDelacorte Press
Publication date
8 June 1999
Media typePrint (Hardback and Paperback)
Pages484 (first edition, hardback)
ISBN0-385-33487-7 (first edition, hardback)
Preceded byThe Silence of the Lambs 
Followed byHannibal Rising 

Hannibal is a novel by American author 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. Elements of the novel were incorporated into the second season of the NBC television series Hannibal, while the show's third season adapted the plot of the novel.


Seven years after the Buffalo Bill case, FBI agent Clarice Starling witnesses her career crumble around her. During a botched drug raid, Starling kills a meth dealer who was holding a baby. 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 tasks Starling with apprehending him. She meets with Barney, a former orderly of Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. When Barney asks Starling if she ever feared Lecter visiting her, she replied that she did not, as "he said he wouldn't".

Meanwhile, Mason Verger, a wealthy, sadistic pedophile whom Lecter disfigured during a therapy session years before, 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 reference to the lynchings of the Pazzi conspirators. After killing one of Verger's men, Lecter escapes to the United States, where he begins pursuing Starling.

The novel briefly touches upon Lecter's childhood, specifically the death of his younger sister, Mischa. The two were orphaned during World War II, and a group of deserters killed and ate Mischa, something that haunts Lecter.

Barney briefly works for Verger, meeting Verger's sister and bodyguard Margot, a lesbian bodybuilder whom Verger molested and raped as a child. Her father disinherited her after learning of her homosexuality. Margot, who is infertile, tells him that she works for her brother because she needs Mason's sperm to have a child with her partner, Judy Ingram, and inherit the Verger family fortune.

Verger's men capture Lecter, and Starling pursues them. When Starling catches up to Lecter, she is able to cut him free before succumbing to tranquilizer darts shot by one of Verger's men. The boars are unleashed by Lecter; they feed on the henchmen that Starling had already shot dead or incapacitated but ignore Lecter when they smell no fear on him. In the confusion, Lecter carries the unconscious Starling to safety and escapes. At the same time, Margot releases one of the henchmen and kills another, then obtains Mason's sperm by sodomizing him with a cattle prod and murders him by shoving his pet moray eel into his mouth. Lecter, who had briefly treated Margot after her brother abused her, had urged her to blame the murder on him, so she leaves a piece of Lecter's scalp at the scene.

Using a regimen of psychotropic drugs and behavioral therapy in the course of a series of therapy sessions, Lecter attempts to help Starling heal from her childhood trauma and her pent-up anger at the injustices of the world. One day, as a favor to Lecter, Margot Verger lures Krendler to a park where Lecter is waiting. Lecter is able to capture Krendler and proceeds to lobotomize him during a dinner in which he and Starling eat Krendler's prefrontal cortex before Lecter kills him. After the dinner, Starling partially undresses and offers one of her breasts to Lecter. Lecter goes down on a knee before Starling, accepting her offer. The two then become lovers and disappear together.

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


The ending was controversial and the reaction to the novel was mixed. 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 modern times, the other being The Exorcist.[2]

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."[3] Martin Amis was extremely critical of the book (having been impressed by Harris' earlier Lecter novels) and wrote that "Harris has become a serial murderer of English sentences, and Hannibal is a necropolis of prose."[4]

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




  1. ^ Craig DeCamps Random House staff cover designer
  2. ^ King, Stephen (13 June 1999). "Hannibal the cannibal". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  3. ^ de Lint, Charles (June 2000). "Books to look for". Fantasy & Science Fiction. Retrieved 2014-12-03.
  4. ^ p.240, The War Against Cliche (published 2000)
  5. ^ Travers, Ben (July 14, 2014). "'Hannibal' to Begin 'Red Dragon' Story in Season 3, with 'Silence of the Lambs' To Follow". Indiewire. Retrieved May 18, 2016.