Sunday, January 29, 2012

Serial Killer Sunday - Red Dragon Review

My favorite fictional serial killer is Hannibal Lecter. This was  his debut, Thomas Harris' Red Dragon.

Red Dragon  
Author: Thomas Harris
Publisher: Berkley (reprint, originally Dell)
American release date: January 6, 2009
Format/Genre/Length: Novel/Thriller/464 pages
Publisher/Industry Age Rating: NR
Overall Personal Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Similar series or titles to check out: Silence of the LambsHannibalHannibal Rising

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what FBI agent Jack Crawford wants of Will Graham—especially with the headlines blaring about the two murders; one in Atlanta, the other in Birmingham. More than enough reason for Crawford to come down to Florida, to get the consultant’s take on the killer. The choice of locale is deliberate—when he shows Will the photos of the deceased families, children included, he can’t help but contrast that with his own wife and stepson. How can he refuse to help catch someone who hurts children?


Will hasn’t been with the FBI since before he met Molly, leaving the Bureau after his unfortunate encounter with a particular serial killer by the name of Hannibal Lecter—an encounter he almost didn’t survive. Nonetheless, and against Molly’s wishes, he agrees to help the FBI find the killer the media has dubbed the Tooth Fairy. First he travels to Atlanta, to the house the Leeds family had lived in. Everything is still in place, waiting for them, as if expecting them home at any moment. Will looks at their life, in situ, trying to piece together what happened to them so he can determine what sort of person did this and create a profile for the FBI to use in order to look for him.

It’s the little things that speak to him, cause him to ask questions. He tries to make sense of the bloodstains, figure out what happened when. Why did the killer move the family around? Was there a purpose to his madness? And by any chance when he did, did he leave a fingerprint behind?

The murders each took place during the full moon, which surely isn’t coincidence, and which means they only have less than a month til the next one. Before the next full moon, they not only have to figure out who this guy is but who his next victims will be, before it’s too late. Will gets more and more engrossed in the chase, while somewhere in the Midwest a man is planning his next move—and his Becoming. Will decides he needs to consult with someone, the only person he knows that can shed some light on this killer—Dr. Hannibal Lecter himself. Will this encounter end better than the last one? And will the good doctor deign to cooperate?

Add to the mix a sleazy tabloid reporter with a penchant for stirring the shit so it hits the fan, and a killer with a deep seated admiration for Dr. Lecter—you’ve got a sure fire recipe for death and mayhem!


In this first volume of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal series, we get a glimpse of his extraordinary character, Dr. Lecter. I think he is undoubtedly one of the greatest characters ever created, with a great deal of depth and far more to him than meets the eye. There are things we won’t even learn about him in this volume; it’s just a teaser for what comes later. This book is Will Graham’s story and how he deals with having met Hannibal in the past and his need to consult him in the present. It’s about his desire to preserve his way of life balanced against the desire to save innocent lives from a deranged madman. Which side will win?

It’s brilliantly written, fast paced and well executed. The character of Francis Dolarhyde is well drawn, and not above eliciting sympathy for what he cannot help. His unraveling is fascinating to behold—and he does not go down alone.

This is a must read introduction to the world of Hannibal Lecter—it sets the stage and sets it well for what comes after. Not to be missed at any price.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Winter Demon volume 4 Review

Winter Demon, Volume 4   
Author:  Yamila Abraham
Distributor:  Yaoi Press
American release date:  2008
Format/Genre:  Manga/Yaoi
Publisher/Industry Age Rating:  Mature
Overall Personal Rating:  ★★★★
Similar series or titles to check out:   9th Sleep

Ever since Lord Ryuuto took mortal form to help Doctor Takuma heal the soliders, they have been growing closer, even though the timid Doctor will go no further than kisses with the demon.  He is so afraid of what will happen, that he tries to keep his last patient as long as he can, but Ryuuto dismisses him, so now they are alone, other than for Takuma's ill sister.  Their solitude is broken by the approach of a demon- it's Fuyu, bearing Hakuin in his arms, begging the doctor to please heal him.  And as Takuma does so, two couples are left to take the measure of one another, to observe - to watch and to learn, one couple from the other.


Takuma observes the tender relationship between Fuyu and Hakuin and wonders can he and Ryuuto have the same thing?  Fuyu, aware now of the purification of himself that has been practiced by Hakuin without his knowledge, wants to ascertain that even without it, he would love and cherish the monk.  Both demons have fears of losing themselves somehow by being less demonic, and both fear hurting the ones they care about.

Ryuuoto and Fuyu have a demon to demon talk, and Ryuuoto decides to try the purification thing.  But somehow it doesn't go quite as planned.  And Fuyu has Hakuin cease with his purification treatments- with its own backlash.  To further muddy the waters, Priest Shidan informs Fuyu that he really needs to service Figaru - he has this once a month need to be sexed up thing going on.  But Fuyu, who is happy in Hakuin's love, doesn't want to mess with that.  Although, now that he's not purified, things aren't running quite as smoothly as before.

Will Figaru be the monkey wrench that bolluxes everything up, or the savior that is just what everybody needs?


And now we complete our journey in this fourth volume of Winter Demon.  There is a great deal going on here, much to think about, lessons in love that everyone can take to heart and consider.  If there is an underlying theme here, I think it is that of partnership - one person cannot do and be everything for another, but together, the sum is greater than the individual parts.  Fuyu, when he loses Hakuin's purification, is not himself, but when he has it, the two of them have it all.  It has to be the purity of their love that makes it so, not just the spell itself.  And after all, is that such a bad thing?  Takuma and Ryuuto too must face their own personal demons, and learn from them - Takuma learns trust, and Ryuuto learns temperance, and taking it slow and easy.  Together, I think they can make it.  If Ryuuto can explain the Figaru thing, that is.

The last volume of the series is a very satisfactory one, leaving you to bid a fond farewell to these two couples, with great hopes for their future together.  If you've read this far, for heaven's sake, don't stop now.  This is a gotta read volume.  If you're just starting, go back to the beginning, or you'll miss out on a great journey.  I still am not totally enamored of the artwork, but I've gotten used to it, and although it doesn't showcase the writing as well as I'd wish, it's adequate for what it's meant to do.  For after all, the story's the thing.  And the story is well told.  So simply enjoy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Serial Killer Sunday: Double Dexter Review

 Double Dexter  
Author: Jeff Lindsay
Publisher: Doubleday
American release date: October 18, 2011
Format/Genre/Length: Novel/Horror/352 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Dexter Morgan is very meticulous and very good at what he does, making sure to follow the Code of Harry in picking whom to focus his attentions on. Steve Valentine certainly fits the mandatory profile—subhuman, pedophilic killer of innocent boys. He never sees it coming. Dexter has planned everything to the nth degree for Valentine’s demise. What he hasn’t counted on is being witnessed in the act.


From the moment that Dexter realizes he’s been spied on, things in his life take a downward spiral. A policeman has been found dead—completely bludgeoned to death, horrifically so, the killer apparently having broken every bone in his body while he was still alive. The corpse is virtually unrecognizable, until Deborah manages to identify him by his bald spot. Rita is acting strangely, even for Rita, and Dexter notices she’s drinking a lot of wine. And giving him strange looks for no apparent reason. Astor needs and receives braces, and proceeds to moan about them every chance she gets. And Brian begins carting the family around on real estate tours, as Rita is convinced that they need a bigger home. And yet she finds problems with every single house they look at. And her cooking, the staple of Dexter’s existence, is becoming more and more non-existent.

Can things get any worse? 

Yes, and they do. Dexter is determined to discover the identity of his unwanted witness, especially once the guy in question begins to taunt him with the knowledge of his actions. According to Dexter’s instincts, this guy’s gotta go, but he has to find him first. When Dexter unexpectedly becomes a suspect in the continuing cop killers, he has no one to turn to—Doakes is hot on his case, along with his newest bestest buddy, Detective Hood.

When did Dexter’s life get so complicated? Can he bring it all back to normal again, before he’s indicted and convicted for murders he didn’t actually commit?


Another fine entry in the Dexter Morgan series. I still think it’s a shame that the Showtime series diverged from the books, because I like having brother Brian around at times, and Rita too. This time we find Dexter less than in charge of the situation, and getting a little bit flustered, revealing more of his human side. But being Dexter, we can’t help but know that he’ll find a way out of it somehow. Even if he has to ask for help to do it.

One thing that bothered me in this, and kept my attention long after it was necessary, was the issue with Astor and the braces. She didn’t want them, abhorred the idea of having a mouth full of metal, which is understandable, especially in a child of her age. But I kept asking myself—why don’t they get her invisible braces? Plastic ones? Braces have come a long way since the days of the metal monsters, and Dexter takes place in modern times. It’s a minor point, I know, and the only reason I can see for it is to make Astor crankier, but I kept asking myself: Why metal braces? And I still have no idea.

If you’re enjoying the series, you’ll like this addition to it. And if you like to read more about serial killers, give Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter books a try. They’re sure to please.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Serial Killer Sunday

I admit to having a certain fascination with serial killers, both actual and fictional, and so I've decided to indulge that interest in these pages on certain Sundays, and share it with you all. I just learned today that plans are under way to film The Devil in the White City, and to place Leonardo di Caprio in the leading role of H.H. Holmes. Rather karmic for me, having utilized Mr. Di Caprio's name in one of my stories - Leonardo di Caprio is a Vampire. My interest was doubly piqued as I was already familiar with the story of H.H. Holmes, so I'lll start with him as the first serial killer that I intend to look at.

H.H. Holmes was born Herman Webster Mudgett in 1861, moving from his native New Hampshire to Chicago, Illinois, to the suburb of Englewood. He became involved in a drug store there, and when the owner died, he ingratiated himself to his widow. She disappeared. He bought the lot across the street and built a boarding house. He was in the right place at the right time for the 1893 Exposition. Many people needed a place to stay, much as the visitors to the St. Louis World's Fair would in 1904, and it was not uncommon for people to rent out rooms in their houses.

The difference here was that H.H. Holmes had a very unusual house. And the people who stayed there were never seen alive again. He counted on their transience, and the fact that no one knew where they were to cover up his deeds. The house itself, known as the Murder House, was very unusual, his own design. Hallways that went nowhere, and secret entrances and compartments. 

Besides being America's first serial killer, Holmes was also a bigamist, marrying women without benefit of divorcing the ones before.  I saw a fascinating film about him on Netflix,  This is filmmaker's John Borowski's site, containing a lot of information on Holmes as well as his film. It is well worth watching.

There is also a book, Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson, the one they're making into the film with  Leonardo di Caprio. I have yet to read it, but it's on my request list at the library, and is available at Amazon

I will keep you apprised regarding the film as I learn more about it, and will review the book after I read it.

Until next time, take care!

♥ Julie and Sui