“Push yourself. Don't Settle. Just live well. Just LIVE.”
I ended up re-reading this book series because frankly I love Hannibal and I really wanted to review this third book in particular. Everybody knows or at least is familiar with the evil genius Hannibal Lecter whose psychopathic tendencies and love of fine arts made him such an intriguing character. He's an excellent cook too if one can ignore the fact that some of the ingredients might not be animal-derived (and I am not referring to vegetables of course).
Hannibal starts off seven years after Clarice Starling has found and killed Buffalo Bill, also know as Jame Gumb, who was skinning and murdering overweight women so as to make a skin for himself. A drug raid gone awry in which Clarice ends up killing Evelda Drumgo, heavily into dealing with meth, who's carrying her child causes the downfall of her career. Hannibal Lecter is watching this with the utmost curiosity and because he cannot help his infatuation decides to contact her.
I have followed with enthusiasm the course of your disgrace and public shaming. My own never bothered me except for the inconvenience of being incarcerated, but you may lack perspective.
He is unknowingly (or knowingly?) aiding Clarince by giving the FBI a use for her. She is reassigned to the Department of Behavioral Science and is supposed to catch him. The event of Hannibal contacting Clarice crosses her path with sadistic pedophile and former patient of our lovely doctor, Mr. Mason Verger. This particular scumbag is wealthy and desperate to find his mutilator. Can you guess who that is?
When feasible, I prefer to eat the rude.
Clarice doesn't know for sure but suspects that Mason has ulterior motives for catching Hannibal so she really wants to find him first. What is hidden from her eventually pushes her into the open arms of Dr. Lecter but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Mason Verger is helped by a corrupt FBI agent with a grudge on Starling, Paul Krendler. He might be sorry now that he is missing half of his brain. Anyway, Mason intends to feed Hannibal to wild boars and he will end up using Clarice as a bait. I almost couldn't wait for his plan to go awry and oh my, I was not disappointed.
But what is our favorite doctor up to? He lives in Florence, Italy under the name of Dr. Fell and is eager to explore his roots. Hannibal has somewhat retired from being a serial killer and wishes to be left in peace while indulging in Italian delicacies. Rinaldo Pazzi, a disgraced detective, effectively ruins Dr. Lecter's plans while attempting to catch him as he is very interested in collecting the bounty Mason Verger has put over Hannibal's head. You know how well that went for poor Pazzi...
Pazzi is hanged in a similar manner that his ancestor Francesco de Pazzi was and Hannibal waves to a camera that is filming him indicating to Verger that he is next. He even writes a letter to Mason as he is most probably a little bit pissed off that he has to leave Florence.
Forced to leave Italy, Hannibal goes back to USA as he realizes that he needs to tie some loose ends in order to start a new life. He can't keep away from Starling so he follows her in the woods where she trains, even breaks into her house and car - this is where it got confusing a bit. Hannibal must know by now that he is being followed by Verger's men, but does not attempt to do anything against him, his focus is solely on Clarice.
Starling's career is actually nonexistent at this point as Krendler frames her with the help of Mason Verger by telling she has warned Hannibal that he was in danger of being caught. Krendler does this fearing Starling might catch Lecter and ruin Verger's plan. Mason relies on the fact that Hannibal is somewhat infatuated with Starling and as her birthday is coming up, he might come out of hiding - which he does and Hannibal is caught while trying to smuggle into Starling's car a wine that is exactly as old as she is - so romantic by the way.
Long story short, Starling comes to the rescue of Hannibal as she figures it all out and is determined to bring him in herself but that doesn't go as planned either. She is shot with two tranquilizers but Hannibal carries Clarice to her car and they both travel to the house he bought.
What happened to the wild boars? Oh they totally go after Verger's men.
What happened to Verger? Oh well, he does have a nice sister whom he had traumatized when she was just a little girl. She goes under the name of Margot and is a former patient of Hannibal as well, now she's in desperate need of Mason's sperm as she was disinherited for being a lesbian; the only way she can have access to the wealth of her father is through a legal child of Mason Verger. While being held captive, Hannibal tips her off with how she can manage to both kill Mason, get the sperm and blame it all on him. She might have let him go if Clarice did not come to rescue the doctor.
We find out a bit about Hannibal's past in this book. We now know about Mischa, his little sister, who was killed and then eaten by a group of deserters while Hannibal was forced to watch helplessly. He hopes to fill the void that was left in him with Clarice as he tries to brainwash her into thinking she's Mischa. He does not succeed in doing so.
He captures Paul Krendler though and Clarice and him eat quite a bit of his brain. I was so satisfied, I really, really hated Paul Krendler. After this fascinating dinner they become lovers and that was just the cherry on top for me. I loved this book, it was really one of my all-time favorites, definitely the best of this tetralogy.
It was indeed confusing at times, but I think that was on purpose, leaving room for interpretation. Our genius doctor might have actually wanted to get caught knowing that Starling will figure things out and come after him. We will never know what was in Hannibal's head at that moment.
The lovers are sighted three years later at the opera in Buenos Aires and they seemed happy. That leaves us with just one question...
P.S. If you enjoy a bit of madness this book is definitely for you.