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

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Brown, Dan. The Da Vinci Code (2003).

February 22, 2007

“Teabring held up his right hand and feigned a courtroom oath. ‘Your honour, forgive an eccentric old knight his foolish prejudice for the British court system. I realize I should have called the French authorities, but I’m a snob and do not trust those laissez-faire French to prosecute properly. This man almost murdered me. Yes, I made a rash decision forcing my manservant to help me bring him to England, but I was under great stress. Mea culpa. Mea Culpa.'”

I think that I may be the last literate person on Earth to read this novel, but upon having completed it I shall now add to the din of conversation that surrounds it and makes it a meme of the early 2000s.

Dan Brown weaves a tale that is at once poorly written, well researched and impossible to lay aside about an American college professor named Robert Langdon who teamed up with a french Cryptologist named Sophie Neveu in order that they may solve the secret codes left by the Priory of Sion that lead to the Holy Grail. This treasure hunt has been masterminded by Jacques Saunière who is Neveu’s Grandfather and the Grandmaster of the Priory of Scion, a secret society who reputedly protects the grail). He leaves the initial codes as his last words so that the Grail won’t be lost due to the fact that all the top members of the Priory have been murdered in one night. Pressure is added to this little romp by the fact that Langdon is the prime suspect in the murders. The pair must find the key stone which leads to the grail, and then search out the grail itself. In the process they meet up with Sir Leigh Teabing who is a proffesional Grail hunter, and their only ticket out of France.

There is quite a bit of controversy about this book due to the way it tells the story of the grail. Instead of being the actual chalice that Christ drank from, the grail consists of the tomb of Mary Magdelene and numerous documents which supposedly reveal the true teachings of Christ and reveal a devotion to the sacred feminine. The facts of this story, according to the story line in the book, have been covered up by the Catholic Church in order to sustain its own patriarchal rule over religion. As you might guess the implications of such a thing being true would be crippling for Christianity to say the least, thus an outburst occured as Christian leaders spoke against the book as if it were attempting to be a nonfiction piece of writing. Of course all this is neither here nor there as my intention is to address the legal implications that can be found in the book.

The Da Vinci Code has numerous points of law, but probably the most visible is Brown’s treatment International Law. International Law themes run through out the story, and Brown deals with a couple of different aspects. Primarily, the reader will find aspects of international law and the enforcement of national criminal laws (this is distinct of course from International Criminal Law). One of the first plays made by the French police is blocking off the street to the US embassy in order to keep Langdon away from it, because – due to the workings of International Law – that piece of earth is United States property “and those who stand on it are subject to the same laws and protections as they would encounter standing in the United States.” If Langdon Makes it there Fance must request extradition. The extradition process is discussed but working the other way. Fache “locked horns regularly” with the US ambassador over “shared affairs of state.” This is because the US embacy would intervene on behalf of US citizens accused of crimes in France and extradite them back to the United States where they would recieve “nothing more than a slap on the wrist.” (Aside: yes that is two cliches that I found in one paragraph of the book and now I have two cliches in one paragraph of my blog oh the horror, the horror). If he doesn’t get to the embassy he could spend weeks in jail while the French Government and the American Governement fight it out over where the case should be tried. The key, though, is getting there, as Sophie points out “[c]all your embassy right now, and they are going to tell you to avoid further damage and turn yourself over to Fache. Then they’ll promise to pursue diplomatic channels to get you a fair trial.” In other words you have to get there to be within that jurisdiction.

International law themes are also found in the arena of air law. Teabing has a private plane with the correct credentials to allow him to fly between France and England without dealing with the usual cutoms and immigration officials. However, when he takes off in the middle of the night with and unsceduled unlogged flight it is “highly illegal.” Teabing then decides he will bribe the customs official that does come to the plane. Sophie reminds him that he has transported a hostage over international lines which is “serious.” “So are my lawyers,” he replies. He then goes on to fake his own courtroom defense which is somewhere between duress and mercy. The airfield that he is landing at has customs official that will overlook the importing of some organic foods because “[m]any customs laws were absurd.” Teabing when he gets to the airport denies a police search for the lack of a search warrant, but I think this could be a legal mistake as the plane hasn’t cleared customs yet and would therefore be subject to being searched (but theat is a gut reaction I haven’t researched). Also, the English don’t interrogate the French pilot due to some sort of jurisdictional problem. Aringarosa also manages to get international air law broken when he bribes his pilot to change course for London.

There are further references to this theme that have more to do with the enforcement mechanisms that make enforcement of these crimes possible, especially in the European arena where being a transborder criminal is quite easy. There is a particular reference to the European law that requires passports to be shown at hotel check-in. This law allows interpol to quickly search and find people staying in hotels.

Criminal Procedure and investigation plays a small role in the beginning of the book when Saunierre uses blood as a way to get the police to use a specific forensic investigation procedure that would involve the ultraviolet lights (as seen on CSI). Evidentiary law comes into play as Langdon insists that there is no evidence to connect him with the murder but Sophie says otherwise. While Langdon is thinking that he needs a lawyer Sophie points out that “[i]n France, the laws protect the police, not criminals.” It is interesting that at this point Brown shows us difference between the American concept of law and the French concept. Langdon wants a lawyer, but he obviously is thinking of an American lawyer, but in France’s non-adversarial system a lawyer’s functions for his client a extremely different. Evidence again comes in to play with the investigation at Teabing’s house wherein he has gone to great lengths to not link himself to his crimes i.e. putting the listening post in an area he cannot actually access.

Privacy laws are referenced when they are at the Depository Bank of Zurich. The safety deposit boxes within are protected by these privacy laws to keep the police from randomly inspecting the goods within. Furthermore, because the boxes are attached to numbers and not names police are effectively precluded from getting search warrants for the boxes, thus theives often use the bank as a place to keep stolen goods. While profitable for the bank this system is not without its problems: “The bank had enough battles with law enforcement over the privacy rights of their clients without proof that some of them were criminals.”

There aren’t many lawyers in the book (besides the references already noted). There is a short scene in which the Secretarius Vaticana makes an appearance, he is “the overlord of all legal matters within Vatican City.” Teabring makes reference to his lawyers, once saying “My lawyers will fricassee your testicles for breakfast. And if you dare board my plane without a warrant, your spleen will follow.”

There are references to different aspects of church law, also, including an embarrassing trial of an Opus Dei member, Robert Hanssen, who was a spy and a sexual deviant. The trial itself isn’t Church related but it helps to add to the motives of the Church in the book. The new Pope is seeking to soften Church law, and Bishop Aringarosa notes “that previous tempering of Church law – the Vatican II fiasco – had left a devastating legacy.” It is this softening of church law has been what has led to the Vatican drawing up “legal papers” to separate Opus Dei from the modern church. Modern canon law isn’t all that is mentioned though. The reader will find a reference to a Papal Bull of Innocent II declaring the Knights Templar “a law unto themselves.” Also, Opus Dei’s tenants are referred to as “third century laws.”

Finally, it should be noted that Dan Brown found himself in Court in England in a Copyright suit with the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail suit.

The Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown