The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs

by Thomas Harris

Paperback(25th Anniversary Edition)

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The twenty-fifth anniversary edition of the #1 New York Times bestselling classic, now with a note by author Thomas Harris revealing his inspiration for Hannibal Lecter.

A serial murderer known only by a grotesquely apt nickname—Buffalo Bill—is stalking particular 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 F.B.I. Academy, is surprised to be summoned by Jack Crawford, Chief of the Bureau's Behavioral Science section. Her assignment: to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist and grisly killer now kept under close watch in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Lecter's insight into the minds of murderers could help track and capture Buffalo Bill.

Smart and attractive, Starling is shaken to find herself in a strange, intense relationship with the acutely perceptive Lecter. His cryptic clues—about Buffalo Bill and about her—launch Clarice on a search that every reader will find startling, harrowing, and totally compelling.

An ingenious, masterfully written novel, The Silence of the Lambs is a classic of suspense and storytelling.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250048097
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/01/2013
Series: Hannibal Lecter Series , #2
Edition description: 25th Anniversary Edition
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 338,966
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

THOMAS HARRIS is the author of Black Sunday, Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and Hannibal Rising, all of which were national bestsellers.


Sag Harbor, New York, and Miami Beach, Florida

Date of Birth:

April 11, 1940

Place of Birth:

Jackson, Tennessee


B.A., Baylor University, 1964

Read an Excerpt




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.”

“I do.”

“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?”

“Not yet.”

“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?”

“Yes sir.”

“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.


Copyright © 1988 by Yazoo, Inc.

Author’s Note © 2013 by Yazoo Fabrications, Inc.

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The Silence of the Lambs (Hannibal Lecter Series #2) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 245 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous 18 days ago
Great quick read and very creepy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book but I almost think the movie was better on this one. There were some weird parts of the book that seemed to ramble.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book as much as I love the movie. 10/10 will read again and again and again.
hugh_ashton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Re-read this recently - I've had it for a long time. 4 1/2 stars, really. Don't know why not 5, but it's not a perfect book for some reason. The tense shifts from present to past rather disturbingly, but I quite like the God's Eye View ("Hannibal Lecter has six fingers on his left hand") which can add to the realism. There are some very gripping images and metaphors, and the characters are all realistic - hardly a cardboard cutout among them. I liked the trick of giving away the murderer's identity, but not his motive - that's difficult to do without losing the reader's interest.I enjoyed the movie, but the book is definitely better, despite Antony Hopkins' fine performance. I don't like the other Hannibal Lecter books, though, or the movies.
Scaryguy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Who can forget the movie? The book is better!
Woodcat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Still gets five stars but not as good as Red Dragon.
5hrdrive on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The two best crime novels I've ever read are The Day of the Jackal and The Silence of the Lambs. They are both absolutely riveting. I first read this about four years ago and decided to reread it to see if it gave me the same heart-wrenching sense of realism - oh boy does it. The real-time aspects of the chase are what make this stand out - and when the doorbell rings, well the real world just doesn't matter anymore. Wholeheartedly recommended - you won't be able to put it down.
BraveKelso on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent novel. Many crime novels with serial killer characters treat the serial killer as a malevolent presence, like something in a horror novel. Harris gives readers something different - an really evil human presence.
Borg-mx5 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Simply loved it. Characters were interesting and the mystery was not easily solved. Who could not love Hannibal Lechter?
Chellsway on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having seen the movie adaptation of "The Silence of the Lambs" several times it seemed at times that I could see the action on the pages of the book rather than just reading them. I cannot help but see Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling and it is the voice of Anthony Hopkins I hear when Hannibal Lecter speaks. While this may limit how I view the characters this does not detract at all from the book and I feel that in many ways the novel is superior and is still gripping despite my familiarity with the story.
theeclecticreview on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A book you can't put down. Hannibal Lecter is the epitome of an evil presence. Harris is a mastermind in suspense thrillers.
stephxsu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The movie version of this chilling tale is a classic, and Hannibal Lecter a legend among characters. Very few people, however, know about its origins as a bestselling paperback, albeit with just average writing.Clarice Starling is an agent in training at the FBI center in Quantico when her boss, Jack Crawford, enlists her help in profiling Hannibal Lecter, a gifted psychologist who killed nine people and ate their body parts. He¿s been in lockup for nine years now, but even behind a Plexiglas wall he is as observant and disconcerting as ever.Starling doesn¿t realize at first that Crawford wants her to crack Hannibal so that he would help in their most recent serial killer case, a guy nicknamed Buffalo Bill who killed large young women and skinned their bodies. Hannibal just about knows who the killer is and why he is doing it, but he chooses to dole out his knowledge in small amounts, striking a bargain with Starling: she¿d submit to his questions about her childhood in exchange for information on how to capture Buffalo Bill.Meanwhile, Buffalo Bill has captured the daughter of a senator and the clock is ticking as Starling races to piece together the identity and whereabouts of Buffalo Bill using her brains and Hannibal¿s insights. Will she be able to save Catherine Martin in time? And what will happen to Hannibal if he gets the opportunity to escape¿?This is one of the rare cases where I believe the movie is better than the book. Harris¿ writing is direct, with more telling than showing, it seems. It¿s a fascinating plot idea but not one that Harris really makes into a gripping, can¿t-put-the-book-down tale. Still, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS ranks solidly up there with the works of suspense masters Michael Crichton and John Grisham.
joririchardson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book grabbed my attention from the very first page, and I was almost unable to put it down. The immediately obvious complex, meticulously detailed descriptions and plot quality of this book are striking. It is the first of Thomas Harris' writing that I have read, and I was highly impressed.With its strong characters and plot development, suspense, and vivid style of writing, "The Silence of the Lambs" is a thrilling, eerie, and often disturbing work of literature.Harris has a remarkable talent for truly getting inside the heads of his lifelike characters. Clarice Starling is the main narrator, and the other most intricate, memorable character is, of course, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. I am greatly looking forward to reading the other books in the series that focus more on Hannibal, as he is the type of genius mastermind that only an actual real-life genius mastermind author could create.A strong, detailed, suspenseful, and chilling book. A classic of thrillers and suspense.Amazing!
etimme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed by this novel. I enjoyed Lecter's character immensely, of course, and also found satisfaction in following a young Clarice Starling, but personally felt that Harris's writing was very weak, which took away from the story for me. The way the author rushed the transitions between scenes and skipped from locale to locale left me dizzy and with no emotional attachment or concern for Starling, even as the book reached its climax with Clarice meeting Jame face to face but not knowing him.You know, what really struck me the most reading this book was how great of a job Hopkins did playing Lecter in the film adaptation. I will probably recommend the movie to people over the book going forward.I might revisit this author in the future to read this book's sequel, Hannibal, if only to see the radical change in endings between film and novel, which I just spoiled for myself on Wikipedia.
agnesmack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can't say that I had high expectations for this book, which turned out to be a good thing. I felt like I was reading an episode of Law & Order. There was zero in the way of character development. Sure, I knew what school the protagonist was going to and basic information about her room mate and a flashback here and there to her childhood. But overall, I didn't really get to know or care about the characters.I kept waiting for it to get scary but it really didn't do it for me. The tension wasn't built quite well enough for me, nor was the writing particularly interesting. In fact, I noted that there were 3 pages in a row where every single paragraph started with, "Starling..." (which is the main character's name). "Starling went to the bank.." "Starling thought long and hard, " Starling woke up and then walked around for awhile."Everyone was either good or bad, there was just basically no depth at all.Overall, I'm not impressed.
kyragtopgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of the movie, and I wanted to see what the book had in it that the movie left out. Other than a few minor details, (Hanibal actually killed Benjamin Raspel in the book), the movie is very true to the book.
Cats_Critters on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a serial killer with taste and manners. It's Dr. Hannibal Lecter, psychologist, chief, serial killer, and cannibal. Interesting combo right? To me he is the thing that holds the book together and makes you crave more. He leads Clarice Starling, a FBI agent to be, on the hunt for a killer who kills and skins his victims.I loved the movie and ended up tracking down all the books Red Dragon,The Silence of the Lambs,Hannibal, and Hannibal Rising. And Silence of the Lambs is the best of them all, but always makes me wonder why didn't we get a book about Hannibal Lecter when he was free and not on the run, as a psychologist and killer?
fothpaul on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really got through this quickly. Gripped me pretty quickly and couldn't wait to read the next part. I really enjoy the style and the story even though I knew what was going to happen having seen the film. Some terrifying parts as well, although I did not find Jame Gumb as disturbing as Francis Dolarhyde. WIll definitely complete the quadrilogy in the future.