Review: Cari Mora by Thomas Harris

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★★

Grand Central Publishing | 2019

Opening Hook: German sausage.

Main Character: Lisbeth Salander on Ambien.

Plot Twisty-ness: Twisted into boring knots.


I can’t believe I waited 13 years for the author who inspired my love of writing and reading and serial killers, to reenter my life only put me to fucking sleep.

I’m so sorry Mr. Harris, but girl what is you doing?

After such an extended hiatus, one would think the brilliant creator of Hannibal Lecter – arguably the greatest villain of all time – had come out from hibernation because he had a story that just needed to be written and shared.

After reading the blurb, I thought that was clearly the case here because the summary is straight fire so I needed this book immediately! ASAP. Pronto. Gimme!

Beneath an unoccupied Miami Beach mansion that used to belong to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, there is rumoured to be millions of dollars worth of gold. Two men are in a race to get to the gold first. Don Ernesto, a Colombian mob boss, and Hans-Peter Schneider, a depraved “business” man who kills women and sells their body parts to wealthy buyers to satisfy whatever their particular sexual fetish is.

Cari Mora is a US immigrant and the caretaker for the mansion. A former child soldier, Cari has no idea there is literal treasure hidden under the house that is filled with slasher-movie props and “sex furniture.” But to Ernesto and Hans-Peter, Cari is in the way and needs to go.

Okay, so that’s basically an amazing sounding story. It’s got everything, hidden treasure, dead drug lords, the mafia, a heroine who is vying for the title of the newest Badass Female in Fiction, sex furniture and a demented body parts smuggler who really enjoys the murder-y part of his work.

So, please, take a moment to register my utter shock and heartbreak that this book was boring AF.

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The only decent chapter was one told from the perspective of an alligator that was having digestive issues after eating a person. And honestly, that chapter made no sense in context with the rest of the novel and shouldn’t have even been included. So, honestly, wtf?

I can’t believe the author who brought characters like Clarice Starling into existence could so completely miss the mark with the characters in this novel.

Cari could have been a really amazing protagonist, but she’s not given much to do. The plot dodges and drags around her and for a while, I was curious what her purpose even was. There are some clunky flashbacks to her past in Colombia that was meant to create an emotional, fleshed-out space for her, but those moments were so sterile in delivery that they failed to connect. Really all character development and tether to the plot is tenuous at best and non-existent at worst. And considering the book is named after her that’s no bueno.

The intention was to have her be a badass – I’ve seen a couple of reviewers compare her to Lisbeth Salander, and I can see it. Cari is tough and damaged. She knows how to kill, how to survive. But Lisbeth shined because her motives and personality were vibrant and visceral, and she was so sharp in her dialogue and actions. Cari has the basics, but the execution is a flop. It’s like she’s an outline of a character and the author forgot to finish writing her.

And let’s talk about Hans-Peter Dingleberry-whatever.

He’s the main Big Bad of the story and what a hollow, shallow disappointment that is. I don’t mean that in comparison to Hannibal. I’m putting that aside. Hans-Peter is lame as shit all on his very own. Try as he might, Hans never achieves becoming terrifying. Maybe it’s partly because he keeps singing German limericks, I don’t know, but he was a cartoon that might as well have been leaving ACME traps for Cari. Instead of creating tension and a palpable sense of danger, I found that he brought the feeling in the novel down to a level that was basically goofy.

He wasn’t scary. He wasn’t even really very clear in his psychopathy. Okay, he killed his popsicle-parents, but what else is going on here? Why Hans? WHY?

My opinion comes down to this: only one person has ever done a villain named Hans correctly, so don’t even bother, honestly.

alan rickman my hunt GIF

Some other quick points: There were too many characters in this novel and they were 100% not required and only served to muddy up the plot waters.

The pacing of this was so goddamn sedate you might as well stick it in a pill bottle and prescribe it to insomnia sufferers.

The plot itself, while ballin’ in a summary blurb, was actually very linear and didn’t involve anything that could be described as climactic or unexpected. But at the same time, the narrative is complicated and hard to follow? And also totally uninteresting?? So, I guess props for confusing me with how this is possible.

I don’t understand how Thomas Harris could actually be the author behind this novel. What is happening?! I blame Trump. It’s this goddamn multi-verse we slipped into in 2016 where nothing makes sense and Nazi are chillin’.

I’m about to go all Annie Wilkes up in here.

kathy bates misery GIF

I love Thomas Harris dearly, and that’s why this is getting two stars instead of one.

But, it’s a straight up mess.

🔪🔪🔪


From the creator of Hannibal Lecter and The Silence of the Lambscomes a story of evil, greed, and the consequences of dark obsession.

Twenty-five million dollars in cartel gold lies hidden beneath a mansion on the Miami Beach waterfront. Ruthless men have tracked it for years. Leading the pack is Hans-Peter Schneider. Driven by unspeakable appetites, he makes a living fleshing out the violent fantasies of other, richer men. 

Cari Mora, caretaker of the house, has escaped from the violence in her native country. She stays in Miami on a wobbly Temporary Protected Status, subject to the iron whim of ICE. She works at many jobs to survive. Beautiful, marked by war, Cari catches the eye of Hans-Peter as he closes in on the treasure. But Cari Mora has surprising skills, and her will to survive has been tested before.

Monsters lurk in the crevices between male desire and female survival. No other writer in the last century has conjured those monsters with more terrifying brilliance than Thomas Harris. Cari Mora, his sixth novel, is the long-awaited return of an American master.

3 thoughts on “Review: Cari Mora by Thomas Harris

  1. I am totally with you in waiting thirteen years!! I get that a villain as amazing as Hannibal Lecter can’t just be reproduced, but really CM was pretty poor. I even took the low reviews I read ahead of time with a grain of salt, but like yours, they were undeniably spot on. Such a raving disappointment, I couldn’t even finish it. The Hannibal Lecter books are some of my favorite books of all time and this one fell so incredibly short of the high I set for Harris.

    Liked by 1 person

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