Harris, Thomas. Hannibal Rising (2006)

May 22, 2007

hannibalrising“It’s a juvenile crime, Etienne, a crime of passion. I don’t want a conviction, I want him declared insane. In an asylum they can study him and try to find out what he is.”

We should have seen it coming. With the horrendous ending that Thomas Harris gave to Hannibal (luckily rectified in the movie), why would he bother to give Lector a beginning that was worthwhile? I read one reviewer that said that Harris had “gone gay” for Hannibal. I disagree, if he had he might have bothered to write this book with some tender loving care instead of making it read like an “I’m drunk and need money” read (not that I know if Harris is even prone to drinking, but that is what it reads like . . . comparable to Ringo Starr in Shining Time Station.)

Hannibal Rising tells the story of a young Hannibal Lector and his journey from a priviledged child prodigy in Lithuania to his college days in Paris with his Japanese aunt, Lady Murasaki. The story lacks the psychological intrigue that made the previous novels in the series such gripping books. We learn that Lector is twisted due to the fact that his sister was eaten by starving war criminals and . . . and well thats it. I’m not saying that this wouldn’t be traumatic, but it is a hardly adequate explanation for Lector’s perverted predilictions. The book leaves the reader empty in that it is all story and no development, and thats what the reader of this book wants: the development of the monster. Instead, Harris shields Lector within Lector’s own mind. We learn how he gets his skills, but not why he exercises them after his gains vengeance for his young sisters death.

The legal thrust of the book is mainly in the realm of International Law and specifically International Criminal Law in post World War II Europe. Once the war enters the storyline the reader is treated to a series of war crimes committed by a group of pseudo German soldiers or Hilfswillige. For instance at one point Grutas (the antagonist) and his band of merry bad guys go looting disguised as the Red Cross. They also carry a barrage of false documents in order to seem like legal operatives to whomever they may encounter. Of course their war crime of eating Hannibal’s sister is included in the series of atrocities they commit.

Soon after the war ends and the post war era begins, there are references to the War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg. The first of which is a newspaper headline runs “Doctors Indicted at Nuremberg.” Then the reader meets Inspector Popil who delivered evidence at Nuremberg. Popil, as an investigator of war crimes, comes to the small French village to investigate the murder of the butcher that Hannibal kills. He comes because the butcher was suspected of war crimes and these “do not end with the war.” Popil investigates these because he lost his own family in the war. Later it is revealed that Hannibal is hunting (in vengeance) a few war criminals who were charged in absentia at Nuremberg. The result is that there is a conflict of sorts between Hannibal’s substantive justice and Popil’s formal justice. Popil wants to see these men go through the proper channels to recieve punishment. Hannibal, on the other hand, simply wants to see them punished.

The book also deals with crimes of art theft in the post war period. Specifically, a painting that Hannibal’s family owned appears on the market. According to the book it must be exhibited so anyone with a ownership rights my make a claim. When the art is confiscated, Inspector Popil demands the invoice and the Arts and Monuments advisory that is “required” to be on the premisis. The investigator and Hannibal then set a trap for the person that owns the mate to the painting. This man attempts to get Hannibal to sell to him due to the backlog of hearings (created under article 46 of the 1907 Hague Convention) that could keep Hannibal from actually getting ownership until he is an adult.

There are also aspects of general criminal law represented in the book. After Hannibal’s first violent outbreak he is questioned by the French Police. There is false testimony presented to try and protect Hannibal, but the commander is more concerned with protecting Hannibal himself. Thus he takes Hannibal into a jail cell and tells him, “Use judgement and you will never occupy a cell like this.”

Hannibal is later arrested, there is very little evidence against as pointed out by the prosecutor and he secures his release based on good behavior and good references. Hannibal’s incarceration is interesting because it helps to display a bit of the Lector character. He doesn’t feel guilt because he feels that his murders are completely justified. However, there is a gap in his thinking. Because he will kill if there is an attempt to bring him to justice. These enforcement officers are by all means innocent, yet they also recieve his retributive justice. This is the main failing in Hannibal’s thinking. This isn’t fleshed out in the book at all, but just something that occurred to me.

Later in the book, when Hannibal is in medical school, he must get death sentenced inmates to donate their bodies to science. To do this he must get them to sign a release. In probably the best few moments of the book, he must negotiate this deal with an inmate who acts as the lawyer for his client (a pile of clothing). The negotiation ends with the prisoner donating his body for a dose of laudanum before the execution. Inspector Popil is there and doesn’t want it administered because he feels that it diminishes the actual punishment that has been sentenced. Popil, “believe[s] in consequences.” In reality though the inspector wants one last chance to interrogate the prisoner about Klaus Barbie.

This is also a small question of Tax Law. When Hannibal’s uncle dies his chateau must be auctioned off in order to pay for the death taxes that have been levied. Since Lady Murasaki’s “resident status” comes into question with the death of her husband the tax collector cannot accept her sureties.

There is a bit of animal law also. We find out that the law of importation of insects in the “new republic” was “fuzzy” from a cricket dealer, and there is an ordinance against serving a local bird called an ortolan, that “came and went.”

Thomas Harris


Brown, Dan. Angels and Demons (2000).

May 17, 2007

“‘I guess lawyers haven’t evolved much over the centuries.’

‘Neither have sharks.'”

I have read another Dan Brown book. It must be that I am a glutton for punishment. Really I blame my wife, both of these books have found their way into our home and been carelessly left on the shelf, and I (due to mild OCD) have been compelled to pick them up and read them. Oh, the injustice.

Angels and Demons is a prequel to The Davinci Code and despite having some terrible plot holes and a simply ridiculous ending is, in my opinion, a better book (note: this doesn’t say much…its like saying that Jeffery Dahmer was a better serial killer than Jack the Ripper – they were both awful). It has a more flow and more a more action. Even the stakes are a little higher as it has Robert Langdon rushing about Rome trying to keep cardinals from being murdered and the Vatican from being destroyed (compare to the loss of some documents no one will ever read). But let us not kid ourselves it is essentially the same book as its progeny.

It does a have a smattering of all sorts of law in it, but no continuous themes of any sort, so (for those of you that care) here it all is set out quite haphazardly. It should be noted that these are the representations of law in the book and Mr. Brown isn’t exactly known for his historical research.

Air and Space Law – When Langdon is initially swept up into this crazy mess, he boards a space plane (the Boeing X-33) that took him up to 60,000 feet, but according to the pilot if they’d been going to Tokyo it would have gone up a mile. The legal question is one of International Space Law and the delimitation of space. The unresolved issue of where space begins has been kicked around since the sixties and the two competing views on making the determination are one that is based on the function of the craft and one that is based on a set altitude. This craft could go into a space where it would be unclear whether space law or aviation law applied. Furthermore due to its hopping around the world, it could become quite muddled as to what state is the launching state for purposes of the liability convention.

Later in the novel, Langdon must convince a pilot that Vatican Air Law could be ignored due to the circumstances.

Immigration Law – Langdon is able to bypass a passport check in Switzerland due to a “standing agreement with the Swiss government” that CERN has. He then gets into Italy and the Vatican the same way. Brown doesn’t tell us how he gets home.

Natural Law – Brown’s plot device of starting his books with a dead father, has a man who saw physics as “God’s natural law” killed.

Church and State – Maximillian Kohler, when discussing the tension between science and religion, notes that “half the schools [in the United States] are not allowed to teach evolution.”

Religious Law and Canon Law – Langdon, when asked about his religious beliefs, states that he struggles with religion because all the competing religions require adherence to a “code.” Non-compliance is of course the punishment of hell. He doesn’t think that God would “rule” that way. This highlights the idea of God as a law giver and a ruler, which defines God in mans political terminology.

Canon Law is where the book really shines (legally speaking, otherwise it doesn’t really shine at all). The entirity of the novel occurs during a Vatican Conclave to elect a new Pope. Brown goes into detail about the process. The “protocols,” according to the Swiss Guard commander, Olivetti, “are holy – not subject to modification.” These protocols require, according to the book that the Cardinal that is elected must be in the room at the time of the vote, once closed the conclave cannot be opened except to remove the ill or to admit late cardinals, and that only Cardinals are eligible for the job (although a Vatican scholar at the end of the book declares that a noncardinal can be elected by adoration according to ancient Vatican Electoral Laws). Of course later one of the cardinals moves to set aside the protocols as “man’s laws.”

Langdon and Vittoria can’t get anywhere with Olivetti so they request to see the chamberlain. As an interesting point of Law, when the Pope, head of state of the Vatican, dies “complete autonomous power” is transferred to the Pope’s personal assistant until the new pope is elected. The chamberlain later tells Olivetti that “by law” he is in charge. Langdon later uses this to his advantage to get into the Vatican archives which can only be done by either written decree from the Vatican Librarian or by Papal Mandate. Since the chamberlain holds that position he can deliver the mandate.

Brown also discusses what happens upon the popes death. Traditionally, the Chamberlain confirms the death by checking the Pope’s pulse and calling the Pope’s name three times. There is no autopsy “by law.” This is because the Pope’s body is seen as holy and shouldn’t be violated for forensic curiosity. However, the tomb is reopened in the novel due to a command from the chamberlain who feels that the law must be violated in order to preserve the Church.

Also of note is that Langdon has to search through the documents of the “Galileo Affair,” “the longest and most expensive legal proceedings in Vatican history.” We later find out the Galileo’s “legal trouble” began when he described planetary movement as eliptical (which differed from the Church’s view of circular).

There is reference to Rome in the 1600s when churches were, by law, the tallest buildings. And also that when an artist created art under the patronage of popes back then that the work automatically became property of the Vatican.

Law and Economics – Langdon gives an account of the masonic and illuminati symbology found on the United States $1 bill. He attributes this to Vice President Henry Wallace who was a high ranking Mason and would have had Illuminati ties. Wallace told Roosevelt that the Latin Novus Ordo Seclorum meant New Deal, Roosevelt accepted that because he was also a Mason. I always knew something trippy was going on on that bill.

Later the book reveals that President Woodrow Wilson gave radio broadcasts that warned of the Illuminati control over the U.S. Banking System.

Vatican Law – Throughout the book Langdon deals with the Swiss Guard who are both the police force and the military of the Vatican City. Initially they are very concerned with the Vatican dress code because Vittoria, the girl in the book, is wearing shorts (that’s a no no at the Vatican in case you are wondering).

One of the BBC journalists that gets involved, is asked to hand over film by the Swiss Guard. She claims that under Article 12 of the Free Press Act the film is property of the BBC. I don’t know if the free press act is International, British, or Italian, but it makes no difference as the Swiss Guard retorts that due to the holy doctrine governing the Vatican that she is subject to search and seizure. This teaches you not to mess with the Swiss Guard no matter how fru fru they look in that outfit.

English Law – It is mentioned that Churchill once said that “if English spies had infiltrated the Nazis to the degree the Illuminati had infiltrated English Parliment, the war would have been over in one month.”

It then turns to the 1998 decree by the Parliment Committee Chair, Chris Mullin, that all members of parliment who were Masons must declare their affiliation. This decree eventually applied to Judges and Police Officers (all three branches of government there). This was in response to “concern that secret factions within the Masons exerted considerable control over political and financial systems.”

Italian Law – The young Chamberlain, at 16, was obliged by Italian law to serve two years in reserve military training. He chose to do this even though he could have avoided his duties by going ahead and entering seminary.

Angels & Demons
Dan Brown