Silence Of The Lambs Summary

Thomas Harris

Silence Of The Lambs

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Silence Of The Lambs Summary

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The Silence of the Lambs is a 1988 horror-suspense novel by American author Thomas Harris. It is the second novel featuring his most famous creation, the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter. Much like its prequel,Red Dragon, the novel features an FBI Agent forced to team up with the sadistic, charismatic Lecter to track down an even more dangerous serial killer. This time, FBI trainee Clarice Starling calls on Lecter for help stopping the murder spree of Buffalo Bill, a killer who targets women in a disturbing fashion. Although Lecter’s help does allow Starling to make headway in the case, his manipulative conversations with her start pulling her into his twisted world as Lecter plots his escape. The novel explores various themes including the nature of evil and the influence of trauma on the psyche. Considered a masterpiece of suspense and mystery writing, The Silence of the Lambs remains Harris’smost popular novel and has led to multiple sequels and spin-offs. In 1991, a film adaptation starring Anthony Hopkins as Lecter and Jodie Foster as Starling was released to critical acclaim and box office success. It remains the only suspense-horror movie to ever win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

As The Silence of the Lambs begins, FBI trainee Clarice Starling is pulled from her training at Quantico by high-ranking profiler Jack Crawford. He asks her to interview Hannibal Lecter, a former psychiatrist turned imprisoned cannibalistic serial killer, who Crawford believes might be able to provide some insight in the case of a serial killer nicknamed “Buffalo Bill,” who has been kidnapping, killing, and skinning women. Starling travels to Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where hospital director Frederick Chilton escorts her to Lecter’s cell. Although Lecter is initially polite to Starling, he quickly becomes impatient with her attempts at analyzing him, accusing her of “dissecting”him. He rebuffs her, but when she has bodily fluid thrown on her by another inmate, Lecter is offended and asks her back. He tells her to seek out an old patient of his, and his directions lead her to a storage shed where she finds a severed head with a sphinx moth lodged in its throat. Lecter tells her that the dead man is linked to Buffalo Bill, and he offers to help her profile Buffalo Bill if he is transferred to another hospital, away from the pompous and cruel Chilton.

The case becomes more urgent when Buffalo Bill kidnaps a US Senator’s daughter, Catherine Martin. Crawford authorizes Starling to agree to Lecter’s deal, not intending to follow through on the prison transfer once Bill is captured. Lecter is savvy and refuses the deal, instead demanding a quid pro quo from Starling. Hewill provide clues about Buffalo Bill, and Starling has to give him personal information. Starling tells Lecter about the murder of her father when she was a little girl. Chilton secretly records the information and reveals to Lecter that Starling was lying. He offers him a deal of his own, having Lecter flown to Memphis, Tennessee, where he taunts Catherine’s mother Sen. Martin and gives her fake information centering around the name “Louis Friend.” Starling figures out that the name is an anagram of “iron sulfide,” also known as fool’s gold. She tracks Lecter down at his new cell in Tennessee and asks him for the truth. Lecter refuses to give her any more information unless she continues their quid pro quo. She shares with Lecter a traumatic memory of being awoken by the sound of lambs being slaughtered on a relative’s farm. She still has nightmares about this, and Lecter speculates that she wants to save Catherine so the nightmares will stop. He gives her the files before sheis found by Chilton and escorted from the building. That night, Lecter tricks his guards, kills them, and escapes.

Lecter made annotations in the case files, and Starling is able to find out that Bill knew his first victim personally. She travels to the victim’s hometown and finds that Bill was originally a tailor and is trying to fashion a skin suit out of his victims. She contacts Crawford, but Crawford has already identified Bill as a man named Jame Gumb. Gumb once applied unsuccessfully for a sex-change operation and that drove him over the edge. While the house in Illinois that Crawford and his team enter is empty, Starling is able to trace Gumb to an assumed name in Ohio and finds his hideout. She pursues him into a massive basement, where she finds Catherine alive and trapped in a well. Gumb stalks Starling through the dark basement with night-vision goggles, but when he cocks his revolver, he gives away his position, and Starling shoots him dead. Later, Starling graduates from the FBI academy and receives a phone call from Lecter. He congratulates her and says he will not pursue her, asking her to do the same. She refuses, and Lecter hangs up, saying he is having an old friend for dinner. He begins following his old enemy Chilton as the book ends.

Thomas Harris is an American author, best known for his series of books starring Dr. Hannibal Lecter. He has released five novels—Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and prequel Hannibal Rising, as well as the earlier political suspense thriller Black Sunday. All five of his novels have been made into major motion pictures. He is considered one of the best American suspense writers, and his books have been cited as a major influence by popular writers, including Stephen King.