"Cari Mora," by Thomas Harris. (Photo: Grand Central Publishing)
Step aside Hannibal Lecter… for now. In his first nightmarish thriller in 13 years, “The Silence of the Lambs” author Thomas Harris has created a new murderous psychopath who will further make you wonder just how messed up this world can be.
“Cari Mora” (Grand Central Publishing, 320 pp. ★★★ out of four) introduces the villainous Hans-Peter Schneider, a “flesh peddler” who abducts young women and surgically removes their vital organs to sell to his rich international clientele. Fine, there’s more: This German-accented, Paraguayan madman loves to sit naked (he’s genetically hairless) in a shower, sing-songing his parents’ dying pleas, while watching his churning, see-through “liquid cremation machine” dissolve his victims’ bodies.
Thankfully, this fiend has more on his mind than flushing his victims’ gelatinous remains down the toilet – specifically, $25 million in cartel gold. Set in Miami Beach with detours in Colombia, this page-turner begins intensely, builds in suspense then executes a high-action finale (which you will see coming, just not how).
The plot pits likable desperadoes against cartel crazies and Hans-Peter’s maniacal scum in a murderous race to grab the gold that’s hidden in a booby-trapped container beneath the patio of a waterfront mansion on Biscayne Bay.
Enter Cari Mora. The moment Hans-Peter first focuses his binoculars on the tube-topped title character as she is care-taking the mansion, their collision course begins. Cari is young, gorgeous and formidable. Physically and mentally scarred after years among Colombia’s revolutionaries as an abducted child-soldier, she has known monsters before. She also knows how to handle herself – and an AK-47.
But all she wants is to become a veterinarian, live in a small Miami immigrant neighborhood, and help her cousin Julieta care for their dementia-impaired Aunt Jasmin – without fear of being deported. Before you even starting rooting for Cari, you already have fallen for her.
Meanwhile, weirdness awaits on nearly every page. Rented for movie productions, the mansion is filled with leftover monster mannequins and porno props. Thoughts of sex with corpses come up more than once. A deadly creature lurks beneath the patio. Lowlifes incapable of morality or remorse populate these pages.
Author Thomas Harris. (Photo: Robin Hill)
Harris writes in cinematic takes and doesn’t waste words. A former Associated Press crime-beat reporter, Harris is a meticulous researcher with eye for wicked detail. Do you know why you should never eat South American faux escargot? Or that crocodiles can’t chew, so they stash creatures in underwater larder to decompose and soften?
The author cut his literary teeth on Hannibal cannibalism; that hunger continues in “Cari Mora,” though not the main course. Hans-Peter is a literary cousin of Hannibal Lecter, but he is no Hannibal Lecter. At last sighting (“Hannibal Rising,” 2006), Lecter is a charming gourmet, oenophile and likably repulsive man of genius. Hans-Peter is only repulsive.
If nightmares aren’t your dream come true, Harris’ latest literary madness may not be your plate of kidneys and liver. But it’s a good, fiendish read.
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