My Copy: 9780440242864 (image from bn.com)
This is definitely the shortest book of the bunch, and might be a bit confusing at times because of the pace, but is definitely a page-turner half-way through. I had to stay up til 2am to finish it because it wouldn’t leave me alone.
Hannibal Rising is about the early years of Hannibal Lecter, the only son of a Lithuanian count whose family flees their castle to go to the family hunting lodge to ride out the war. As they leave, the servants try to hide as many valuables as possible before they flee the German approach, but a mercenarial two-faced fighter named Grutas shows up with the Germans right behind, and he’s a ruthless killer. Grutas and Hannibal will cross paths before the war ends, and Grutas’ mercenary cronies will use the Lecter children–and others–for terrible reasons.
Hannibal has lost much of his memory between the time his sister was taken away by the men and the day Soviet tanks found him. He also lost his voice and endured hardship because of it until an uncle took him to Paris. We get glimpses of what Hannibal will become in his encounters with bullies at school and other places.
Paris provides a change for the better, and he works with a psychiatrist to try and regain what was lost, but there’s some worry about what will be discovered if he opens that door of his mind palace (which he’s learned how to build since he was small–very “Sherlock” there). He becomes attached to his uncle’s wife, Lady Murasaki, and the two form a bond thanks to their displacement from their homelands and love of learning. Eventually, though, the harsher world intrudes when a man insults Lady Murasaki and Hannibal fights him, and then is suspected of his murder. This puts Inspector Popil on his tail, who keeps his eye on the lad and one on Lady Murasaki as well. Popil learns more about Hannibal as time goes on, and when some of the stolen Lecter family artwork ends up in Paris, it opens a can of worms on Hannibal’s past and crossing paths with Grutas’ gang from the war.
Perhaps because Hannibal Rising is largely about Hannibal Lecter himself, there’s not a lot of jumping around to viewpoints and the descriptions aren’t as vivid as in Harris’ other works. Lecter’s pretty good at describing what he’s seeing and feeling enough as it is. The dialogue is rich as ever to read, especially with the poetic tendencies of Murasaki and Lecter. The second half of the book feels like an action movie script and events just went farther and farther. I had no idea where things were going to go, and how. I wondered if Popil would fabricate evidence or find some legit evidence against Hannibal and put him in prison a while. I wondered if Hannibal would remember the truth or not, and how that might affect him.
There was a lot going on, and it didn’t even have to be a Lecter book. This could’ve been a standalone book, but let’s face it, it’s Hannibal-freaking-Lecter. Why else would you read it?
But seriously, worth a read.