The Silence of the Lambsby Thomas Harris
A serial murderer known only by a grotesquely apt nickname--Buffalo Bill--is stalking women. He has a purpose, but no one can fathom it, for the bodies are discovered in different states. Clarice Starling, a young trainee at the FBI Academy, is surprised to be summoned by Jack Crawford, chief of the Bureau's Behavioral Science section. Her assignment: to interview
A serial murderer known only by a grotesquely apt nickname--Buffalo Bill--is stalking women. He has a purpose, but no one can fathom it, for the bodies are discovered in different states. Clarice Starling, a young trainee at the FBI Academy, is surprised to be summoned by Jack Crawford, chief of the Bureau's Behavioral Science section. Her assignment: to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter--Hannibal the Cannibal--who is kept under close watch in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
Dr. Lecter is a former psychiatrist with a grisly history, unusual tastes, and an intense curiosity about the darker corners of the mind. His intimate understanding of the killer and of Clarice herself form the core of Thomas Harris' The Silence of the Lambs--and ingenious, masterfully written book and an unforgettable classic of suspense fiction.
“Razor-sharp entertainment, beautifully constructed and brilliantly written. Thrillers don't come any better than this.” Clive Barker
“A virtual textbook on the craft of suspense, a masterwork of sheer momentum that rockets seamlessly toward its climax…Harris is quite simply the best suspense novelist working today.” The Washington Post
“A psychological thriller so deftly woven and gripping that a reader can hardly get through one sentence fast enough to discover what's in the next.” Associated Press
“Superb!...Harris's chilling story lowers the reader's blood temperature by several degrees.” The New York Times
“A thriller to out-thrill all thrillers…impossible to put down!” Detroit News
“A real roller coaster, full of hairpin turns, sickening descents and sudden accelerations.” New York Newsday
“A spine-tingling, vastly entertaining crime story…[by] a master of suspense…ingeniously macabre.” Boston Herald
“It's marvelous, the best book I've read for a very long time…It is infinitely superior to any novel published this year.” Roald Dahl
“The Silence of the Lambs will haunt for a long time; Harris places his clues and his carnage with precision.” Philadelphia Inquirer
“As remarkable as its predecessor…some of the most powerful and entertaining fiction of our time!” The Washington Post
“Fast-paced…intriguing…exciting!” Chicago Tribune
“Without a doubt, [Harris is] one of the most powerful writers of suspense fiction today!” Milwaukee Journal
“Harris has once again hit us in the solar plexus. This is, in fact, a better read than Red Dragon, which is all you need to know…A page-turner, one of those books that, once picked up, becomes immediately addictive.” Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The plot unreels rapidly…Hooks the reader and keeps the tension taut until the end.” Portland Oregonian
“I read the first sentence of this book, threw up my hands and then stayed up all night to finish. It didn't matter, I've scarcely slept since.” Liz Smith
“One of the most gripping reads of the year.” Kirkus Reviews
“Thrilling effective…Harris understands the crafting of literary terror as very few writers do; readers who put themselves in his good, cold-blooded hands will lose sleep and demand a sequel.” Publishers Weekly
“Intelligent, fast-paced…Hard to put down.” Library Journal
“Beautifully written.” San Francisco Chronicle
Read an Excerpt
The Silence of the Lambs
By Thomas Harris
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1988 Yazoo, Inc.
All rights reserved.
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. Clarice Starling reached it flushed after a fast walk from Hogan's Alley on the firing range. She had grass in her hair and grass stains on her FBI Academy windbreaker from diving to the ground under fire in an arrest problem on the range.
No one was in the outer office, so she fluffed briefly by her reflection in the glass doors. She knew she could look all right without primping. Her hands smelled of gunsmoke, but there was no time to wash — Section Chief Crawford's summons had said now.
She found Jack Crawford alone in the cluttered suite of offices. He was standing at someone else's desk talking on the telephone and she had a chance to look him over for the first time in a year. What she saw disturbed her.
Normally, Crawford looked like a fit, middle-aged engineer who might have paid his way through college playing baseball — a crafty catcher, tough when he blocked the plate. Now he was thin, his shirt collar was too big, and he had dark puffs under his reddened eyes. Everyone who could read the papers knew Behavioral Science section was catching hell. Starling hoped Crawford wasn't on the juice. That seemed most unlikely here.
Crawford ended his telephone conversation with a sharp "No." He took her file from under his arm and opened it.
"Starling, Clarice M., good morning," he said.
"Hello." Her smile was only polite.
"Nothing's wrong. I hope the call didn't spook you."
"No." Not totally true, Starling thought.
"Your instructors tell me you're doing well, top quarter of the class."
"I hope so, they haven't posted anything."
"I ask them from time to time."
That surprised Starling; she had written Crawford off as a two-faced recruiting sergeant son of a bitch.
She had met Special Agent Crawford when he was a guest lecturer at the University of Virginia. The quality of his criminology seminars was a factor in her coming to the Bureau. She wrote him a note when she qualified for the Academy, but he never replied, and for the three months she had been a trainee at Quantico, he had ignored her.
Starling came from people who do not ask for favors or press for friendship, but she was puzzled and regretful at Crawford's behavior. Now, in his presence, she liked him again, she was sorry to note.
Clearly something was wrong with him. There was a peculiar cleverness in Crawford, aside from his intelligence, and Starling had first noticed it in his color sense and the textures of his clothing, even within the FBI-clone standards of agent dress. Now he was neat but drab, as though he were molting.
"A job came up and I thought about you," he said. "It's not really a job, it's more of an interesting errand. Push Berry's stuff off that chair and sit down. You put down here that you want to come directly to Behavioral Science when you get through with the Academy."
"You have a lot of forensics, but no law enforcement background. We look for six years, minimum."
"My father was a marshal, I know the life."
Crawford smiled a little. "What you do have is a double major in psychology and criminology, and how many summers working in a mental health center — two?"
"Your counselor's license, is it current?"
"It's good for two more years. I got it before you had the seminar at UVA — before I decided to do this."
"You got stuck in the hiring freeze."
Starling nodded. "I was lucky though — I found out in time to qualify as a Forensic Fellow. Then I could work in the lab until the Academy had an opening."
"You wrote to me about coming here, didn't you, and I don't think I answered — I know I didn't. I should have."
"You've had plenty else to do."
"Do you know about VI-CAP?"
"I know it's the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. The Law Enforcement Bulletin says you're working on a database, but you aren't operational yet."
Crawford nodded. "We've developed a questionnaire. It applies to all the known serial murderers in modern times." He handed her a thick sheaf of papers in a flimsy binding. "There's a section for investigators, and one for surviving victims, if any. The blue is for the killer to answer if he will, and the pink is a series of questions an examiner asks the killer, getting his reactions as well as his answers. It's a lot of paperwork."
Paperwork. Clarice Starling's self-interest snuffled ahead like a keen beagle. She smelled a job offer coming — probably the drudgery of feeding raw data into a new computer system. It was tempting to get into Behavioral Science in any capacity she could, but she knew what happens to a woman if she's ever pegged as a secretary — it sticks until the end of time. A choice was coming, and she wanted to choose well.
Crawford was waiting for something — he must have asked her a question. Starling had to scramble to recall it:
"What tests have you given? Minnesota Multiphasic, ever? Rorschach?"
"Yes, MMPI, never Rorschach," she said. "I've done Thematic Apperception and I've given children Bender-Gestalt."
"Do you spook easily, Starling?"
"See, we've tried to interview and examine all the thirty-two known serial murderers we have in custody, to build up a database for psychological profiling in unsolved cases. Most of them went along with it — I think they're driven to show off, a lot of them. Twenty-seven were willing to cooperate. Four on death row with appeals pending clammed up, understandably. But the one we want the most, we haven't been able to get. I want you to go after him tomorrow in the asylum."
Clarice Starling felt a glad knocking in her chest and some apprehension too.
"Who's the subject?"
"The psychiatrist — Dr. Hannibal Lecter," Crawford said.
A brief silence follows the name, always, in any civilized gathering.
Starling looked at Crawford steadily, but she was too still. "Hannibal the Cannibal," she said.
"Yes, well — Okay, right. I'm glad of the chance, but you have to know I'm wondering — why me?"
"Mainly because you're available," Crawford said. "I don't expect him to cooperate. He's already refused, but it was through an intermediary — the director of the hospital. I have to be able to say our qualified examiner went to him and asked him personally. There are reasons that don't concern you. I don't have anybody left in this section to do it."
"You're jammed — Buffalo Bill — and the things in Nevada," Starling said.
"You got it. It's the old story — not enough warm bodies."
"You said tomorrow — you're in a hurry. Any bearing on a current case?"
"No. I wish there were."
"If he balks on me, do you still want a psychological evaluation?"
"No. I'm waist-deep in inaccessible-patient evaluations of Dr. Lecter and they're all different."
Crawford shook two vitamin C tablets into his palm, and mixed an Alka-Seltzer at the water cooler to wash them down. "It's ridiculous, you know; Lecter's a psychiatrist and he writes for the psychiatric journals himself — extraordinary stuff — but it's never about his own little anomalies. He pretended to go along with the hospital director, Chilton, once in some tests — sitting around with a blood-pressure cuff on his penis, looking at wreck pictures — then Lecter published first what he'd learned about Chilton and made a fool out of him. He responds to serious correspondence from psychiatric students in fields unrelated to his case, and that's all he does. If he won't talk to you, I just want straight reporting. How does he look, how does his cell look, what's he doing. Local color, so to speak. Watch out for the press going in and coming out. Not the real press, the supermarket press. They love Lecter even better than Prince Andrew."
"Didn't a sleazo magazine offer him fifty thousand dollars for some recipes? I seem to remember that," Starling said.
Crawford nodded. "I'm pretty sure the National Tattler has bought somebody inside the hospital and they may know you're coming after I make the appointment."
Crawford leaned forward until he faced her at a distance of two feet. She watched his half-glasses blur the bags under his eyes. He had gargled recently with Listerine.
"Now. I want your full attention, Starling. Are you listening to me?"
"Be very careful with Hannibal Lecter. Dr. Chilton, the head of the mental hospital, will go over the physical procedure you use to deal with him. Don't deviate from it. Do not deviate from it one iota for any reason. If Lecter talks to you at all, he'll just be trying to find out about you. It's the kind of curiosity that makes a snake look in a bird's nest. We both know you have to back-and-forth a little in interviews, but you tell him no specifics about yourself. You don't want any of your personal facts in his head. You know what he did to Will Graham."
"I read about it when it happened."
"He gutted Will with a linoleum knife when Will caught up with him. It's a wonder Will didn't die. Remember the Red Dragon? Lecter turned Francis Dolarhyde onto Will and his family. Will's face looks like damn Picasso drew him, thanks to Lecter. He tore a nurse up in the asylum. Do your job, just don't ever forget what he is."
"And what's that? Do you know?"
"I know he's a monster. Beyond that, nobody can say for sure. Maybe you'll find out; I didn't pick you out of a hat, Starling. You asked me a couple of interesting questions when I was at UVA. The Director will see your own report over your signature — if it's clear and tight and organized. I decide that. And I will have it by 0900 Sunday. Okay, Starling, carry on in the prescribed manner."
Crawford smiled at her, but his eyes were dead.CHAPTER 2
Dr. Frederick Chilton, fifty-eight, administrator of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, has a long, wide desk upon which there are no hard or sharp objects. Some of the staff call it "the moat." Other staff members don't know what the word moat means. Dr. Chilton remained seated behind his desk when Clarice Starling came into his office.
"We've had a lot of detectives here, but I can't remember one so attractive," Chilton said without getting up.
Starling knew without thinking about it that the shine on his extended hand was lanolin from patting his hair. She let go before he did.
"It is Miss Sterling, isn't it?"
"It's Starling, Doctor, with an a. Thank you for your time."
"So the FBI is going to the girls like everything else, ha, ha." He added the tobacco smile he uses to separate his sentences.
"The Bureau's improving, Dr. Chilton. It certainly is."
"Will you be in Baltimore for several days? You know, you can have just as good a time here as you can in Washington or New York, if you know the town."
She looked away to spare herself his smile and knew at once that he had registered her distaste. "I'm sure it's a great town, but my instructions are to see Dr. Lecter and report back this afternoon."
"Is there someplace I could call you in Washington for a follow-up, later on?"
"Of course. It's kind of you to think of it. Special Agent Jack Crawford's in charge of this project, and you can always reach me through him."
"I see," Chilton said. His cheeks, mottled with pink, clashed with the improbable red-brown of his coif. "Give me your identification, please." He let her remain standing through his leisurely examination of her ID card. Then he handed it back and rose. "This won't take much time. Come along."
"I understood you'd brief me, Dr. Chilton," Starling said.
"I can do that while we walk." He came around his desk, looking at his watch. "I have a lunch in half an hour."
Dammit, she should have read him better, quicker. He might not be a total jerk. He might know something useful. It wouldn't have hurt her to simper once, even if she wasn't good at it.
"Dr. Chilton, I have an appointment with you now. It was set at your convenience, when you could give me some time. Things could come up during the interview — I may need to go over some of his responses with you."
"I really, really doubt it. Oh, I need to make a telephone call before we go. I'll catch up with you in the outer office."
"I'd like to leave my coat and umbrella here."
"Out there," Chilton said. "Give them to Alan in the outer office. He'll put them away."
Alan wore the pajamalike garment issued to the inmates. He was wiping out ashtrays with the tail of his shirt.
He rolled his tongue around in his cheek as he took Starling's coat.
"Thank you," she said.
"You're more than welcome. How often do you shit?" Alan asked.
"What did you say?"
"Does it come out lo-o-o-o-nnng?"
"I'll hang these somewhere myself."
"You don't have anything in the way — you can bend over and watch it come out and see if it changes color when the air hits it, do you do that? Does it look like you have a big brown tail?" He wouldn't let go of the coat.
"Dr. Chilton wants you in his office, right now," Starling said.
"No I don't," Dr. Chilton said. "Put the coat in the closet, Alan, and don't get it out while we're gone. Do it. I had a full-time office girl, but the cutbacks robbed me of her. Now the girl who let you in types three hours a day, and then I have Alan. Where are all the office girls, Miss Starling?" His spectacles flashed at her. "Are you armed?"
"No, I'm not armed."
"May I see your purse and briefcase?"
"You saw my credentials."
"And they say you're a student. Let me see your things, please."
* * *
Clarice Starling flinched as the first of the heavy steel gates clashed shut behind her and the bolt shot home. Chilton walked slightly ahead, down the green institutional corridor in an atmosphere of Lysol and distant slammings. Starling was angry at herself for letting Chilton put his hand in her purse and briefcase, and she stepped hard on the anger so that she could concentrate. It was all right. She felt her control solid beneath her, like a good gravel bottom in a fast current.
"Lecter's a considerable nuisance," Chilton said over his shoulder. "It takes an orderly at least ten minutes a day to remove the staples from the publications he receives. We tried to eliminate or reduce his subscriptions, but he wrote a brief and the court overruled us. The volume of his personal mail used to be enormous. Thankfully, it's dwindled since he's been overshadowed by other creatures in the news. For a while it seemed that every little student doing a master's thesis in psychology wanted something from Lecter in it. The medical journals still publish him, but it's just for the freak value of his byline."
"He did a good piece on surgical addiction in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, I thought," Starling said.
"You did, did you? We tried to study Lecter. We thought, 'Here's an opportunity to make a landmark study'— it's so rare to get one alive."
"A pure sociopath, that's obviously what he is. But he's impenetrable, much too sophisticated for the standard tests. And, my, does he hate us. He thinks I'm his nemesis. Crawford's very clever — isn't he? — using you on Lecter."
"How do you mean, Dr. Chilton?"
"A young woman to 'turn him on,' I believe you call it. I don't believe Lecter's seen a woman in several years — he may have gotten a glimpse of one of the cleaning people. We generally keep women out of there. They're trouble in detention."
Well fuck off, Chilton. "I graduated from the University of Virginia with honors, Doctor. It's not a charm school."
"Then you should be able to remember the rules: Do not reach through the bars, do not touch the bars. You pass him nothing but soft paper. No pens, no pencils. He has his own felt-tipped pens some of the time. The paper you pass him must be free of staples, paper clips, or pins. Items are only passed to him through the sliding food carrier. Items come back out through the sliding food carrier. No exceptions. Do not accept anything he attempts to hold out to you through the barrier. Do you understand me?"
They had passed through two more gates and left the natural light behind. Now they were beyond the wards where inmates can mix together, down in the region where there can be no windows and no mixing. The hallway lights are covered with heavy grids, like the lights in the engine rooms of ships. Dr. Chilton paused beneath one. When their footfalls stopped, Starling could hear somewhere beyond the wall the ragged end of a voice ruined by shouting.
Excerpted from The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. Copyright © 1988 Yazoo, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Thomas Harris is the author of Black Sunday, Red Dragon, and Hannibal.
Thomas Harris is the author of best-selling novels including The Silence of the Lambs, Black Sunday, Red Dragon, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising.
- Sag Harbor, New York, and Miami Beach, Florida
- Date of Birth:
- April 11, 1940
- Place of Birth:
- Jackson, Tennessee
- B.A., Baylor University, 1964
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Probably the best book i have ever read. Nice and suspensful with a large handful of creepy. It is an interesting way to look at criminal profiling from the view of Agent Clarice Starling. A great book to read in the middle of the night. Highly recommend. The movie is really good also.
This tale set the standard, and made Thomas Harris the standard-bearer of a new type of 'genre', if we must catagorize it, the edge-of-your-seat excitement novel which was at once a thriller, horror story, suspense novel, psychological drama, police/crime story, being none and all of these at the same time. Mr. Harris has created for us two of the most memorable characters in all of fiction of any description or from any country. It is this trilogy, and this tale in particular, that makes me sad for the people who have only seen the films, even as good as they are, and as brilliant as the performances of Sir Anthony, Jodie Foster, and Julianne Moore are. What I mean is the incredible three-dimensionality of both characters. They are not just the two-dimensional boogieman and the (generically used term) pure-blooded hero with spotless life and thoughts, and nothing but aye-jay-squared-away in thoughts, words, and deeds. These are two people, both suffering from the mental pain of their past tragedies, who have gone in opposite directions in their lives. Strangely enough (and this is, admittedly, pure opinion on my part) they are both on the same mission. S/A Starling hunts a killer who operates under his own private code; a vigilante hunting down ghosts because those he truly would delight in killing are, in all probability, long gone. Starling is a green but gifted investigator whose talents her senior, SAC Jack Crawford, eagerly makes use of, mostly because he has seen them before. Then there is Starling herself, who seems at first to be determined to feel what society says she should feel - dread, fear, loathing. The Doctor appears to follow his own established path of grab 'em, make applesauce of their minds, and drop them in a convenient gutter. Both of them are taken by surprise; their collaboration works so very well in tracking down the perp of a terrible series of crimes, but their minds also meet on a higher plane neither has experienced before. The doctor learns great respect for this 'kid' and her rapier that is quite capable of meeting his stroke for stroke. The investigator finds an admitted killer, but also what she didn't expect, and which is so perfectly portrayed in that first glimpse of Anthony Hopkins in the film. A soft-spoken, cultured gentleman who can cut you with a word, he is honorable when he realizes that here is another mind sharp enough to parry his most personal slashes at her self-esteem, and her ethics are strong enough to fend off the less-honorable who tempt her to betray a trust because that trust comes from 'the monster.' Ultimately, Starling's greatest sin is to walk away from this encounter intact, memtally and physically, and (horror of horrors!) is actually stronger and more confident for having done so. I will wager any amount or item in one soundly confident prediction: this tale, and these characters will stand the test of time alongside the characters of Jane Ayre, Treasure Island, In Cold Blood and Poe's 'Murders of the Rue Morgue' in the storied history of fictional crime. Paul Krendler's real-life portrayer in 'Hannibal' said in an interview around the tenth anniversary of 'Silence' on the movie screen that he was so amazed that people were doing doctoral dissertations on SOTL and the whole Starling-Lecter phenomenon. I'm not. Not one bit. Hi from Texas and happy reading!
This book was absolutely amazing. The details are unbelievable, the characters are realistic, and it's a good thriller. I enjoyed it immensly and recomend to any one! This is a must read classic!
This novel is about a young FBI trainee, Clarice Starling, ¿teaming up¿ with a man in complete isolation who is known best for his psychiatric career, as well as his habit of murdering and ingesting his victims. With advice from this observant criminal, Starling is able to catch a dangerous serial murderer and rescue a young woman from what was sure to be her awful demise. This novel was a great and somewhat challenging read. I give it 5 stars for the outstanding vocabulary that filled my mind with pictures as I read.
How could I give this any less than five stars? Read it in just one day because I simply couldn't put it down. Now, I want to read it a second time to savor it. I read this before I read Red Dragon, but it didn't make Red Dragon any less great when I then read it. I don't give five stars to many books, but this one rates it.
The Silence of the Lambs is as well written as it is grisly and macabre. Harris describes Lecter's character and persona with diligence and madness. Starling's learned but inexperienced character is the equal to Hannibal's cultured and intellectual vanity. A handbook for many for examples of the mind of a true sociopath. His use of symbolism with the Death's Head Moth is also a common example of how many 'complicated' killers use to represent themselves or as their calling card.
This book is one of my all time favorites. The writing is well done and the characters have a grasp on you that's hard to shake.
One of my favorite looks into the nature of some of the worst type of human beings.
Over all suspense filled book page after page
Amazing book, well written, excellent read! Thomas Harris is a wonderful storyteller and you'll love this book for it's detail, imagination and suspense!
Loved this book i have already read it many times just to see what i may have missed before
I know everyone goes on about how much they loved Hannibal in this book, but I absolutely fell for Starling. Her inner voice came across very clear and strong while painting a very realistic view of her interactions with those around her. She's not painted as a hyper-masculine version of a woman, but her strength of will and character still come across very well, IMO.
The book was amazing! It was a also a really good movie
One of my favorites