This is steak trimmed of all fat. A tight little story wrapped with a bow. The perfect length for what it is: pure, unapologetic entertainment. With Cari Mora, Harris does what he does best—takes us on a spine-tingling, edge-of-your-seat ride steeped in intrigue and nail-biting suspense. You will not sleep. You will not eat. This book screams to be devoured in one sitting. Is this Harris’ most ambitious work? Naw, but it’s good. It’s different. It’s one of our best authors checking in after a long time on the bench, and I’m thrilled to report he hasn’t lost that edge with time. He’s been busy sharpening the blade.
...the heist story that makes up the bulk of Cari Mora is inventive and crisp, with a prose style that owes less to the floridness of the last two Hannibal novels than it does to the late and much-lamented Elmore Leonard ... Whether or not Harris ever consciously endorsed the anxieties expressed by the genre he created (he hasn’t granted an interview since the ’70s), Cari Mora represents a bid for a more liberal worldview. The novel makes multiple digs at the Trump administration’s immigration policies, and all of the good characters are people of color. (Hans-Peter is technically a Paraguayan national, suggesting that he’s descended from Nazis who fled to Latin America after World War II.) Sexuality still represents a monstrous threat and a potential source of corruption and danger, however; Harris’ fiction offers few depictions of nondestructive physical love.
The story is mostly a snooze: not so much The Silence of the Lambs as The Counting of the Sheep ... the novel plods along with a hodgepodge of macabre silliness ... Which is the central problem with Cari Mora. Despite all its ghastly goings-on, this creaky thriller constantly slips on banana peels of its own unintentional comedy ... Even Anthony Hopkins would strain to make this gory goofiness frightening ... A couple of sentimental side stories eventually lead off to nowhere ... Toward the end of the novel, a man-eating crocodile in Biscayne Bay suffers a small bout of indigestion while passing one of the gangsters he ate. Readers of Cari Mora are likely to suffer similar but wholly temporary discomfort.
Hans-Peter Schneider is every bit as silly and memorable as Hannibal Lecter ... right alongside the confectionary color of his villains, Harris is very much still a skilled and artfully restrained writer. Cari Mora is among other things a first-rate Florida thriller, reminiscent of the best of Randy Wayne White and James Hall, full of the weather and nature of Miami and the Keys (including a chapter told from a crocodile’s point of view), much of it described in clean, minimalist brush-strokes ... the first note sounded after a long silence, the first book to follow a phenomenon, and a conscious attempt to shed that phenomenon. No novel should have to shoulder such burdens, but Cari Mora, like its namesake, goes about its work without any fuss.
...the creator of Hannibal Lecter shows us he still knows how to send ice down our spines ... Harris builds the plot skillfully, with violence and betrayal punctuated by moments of calm and reminiscence. The contest for the gold turns into a fight for survival that rockets to the final pages. Cari Mora is a pulse-pounding thriller, and Cari is an engagingly badass character. But is Hans-Peter a next-gen Hannibal? Alas, no. He’s certainly dreadful, sadistic and relentless. But he just doesn’t have Lecter’s complexity and intelligence, his sophistication and startling contrasts[.]
I cannot say exactly what substance, and in how many units, would make Cari Mora consumable. All I can say is that I did it sober, and I regret it ... Without Harris’s extremely recognisable name hanging over proceedings, it would be hard to believe Cari Mora was the work of someone who has so much as read a novel, never mind written a blockbuster series ... Harris is liveliest when he’s furthest from straight thriller writing. In the descriptions of Miami’s ecology, Cari Mora ascends fleetingly to the level of diverting, and Cari Mora’s backstory, based on real-life case studies of children in combat, delivers some relatively vivid passages. The worst of the novel is the violence. Not because it’s notably unpleasant, but because it’s empty. Without a driving plot or memorable characters to give them weight, the death scenes are just ketchup sprayed on the page. The real three-pipe problem here is what happened to Harris–and his publisher.
Cari Mora is at its best as a sustained meditation on the ineffable extent of humankind’s capacity for brutality in the name of personal gain, especially when Harris homes in on the history of violence that brought Cari to the United States in the first place ... Harris acutely frames his characters as predators and prey, associating their behaviors to those of the hungry crocodiles and helpless pelicans that inhabit Biscayne Bay ... How these two perspectives clash, and are finally resolved, provides an ending more conventional than that of Hannibal, but nevertheless carries an irony befitting Harris’s ongoing consideration of how light and dark are often interchangeable.
Harris knows how to write memorable characters and stories. It doesn’t really matter that those characters and stories aren’t believable. His straightforward prose hurtles along, keeping you turning pages so fast you forget to question how over-the-top it all is ... For Thomas Harris fans, Cari Mora will be comfort food: whimsically brutal and odd and silly, lacking only Hannibal’s signature cannibalism. For those who’ve never read one of Harris’ novels, you can probably wait for the movie.
One thing that will be immediately apparent to readers is a radical change of style—Harris has adopted an unadorned mode of writing in the Hemingway vein. What we learn about the characters largely comes through what they do—and this brief novel (just over 300 pages in a large font) has no shortage of physical action. Eschewing the complex character-building of his earlier work, Harris delivers a narrative that is absolutely cut to the bone, and while Cari is a distinctive heroine, we are not invited to care about her to the extent that we became involved with Clarice ... [The villain] Schneider is a camper, less nuanced villain than Lecter, but just as vile ... Although Schneider is more than credible as a threat, one is left with the feeling that Harris is conserving his energy—Cari Mora is not as ambitious as any of the books in the author’s earlier sequence.
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 ... 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 ... 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.
It’s possibly ungrateful to note that the barely 300 pages of Harris’s new novel contain a fair bit of blank space, and that agonized perfectionism isn’t greatly in evidence ... his...prose [is] characterized by odd lapses in grammar and sense ... But Cari Mora, for its brevity and blemishes, is a tense heist thriller, plausibly grounded in coastal Florida and urban Colombia, and ... is a welcome departure from his narrow and numbing obsession with Lecter that still manages to provide some of the thrills and types desired from this long-awaited return. And it’s a novel that deserves a higher accolade—praise less inaudibly faint—than 'Harris’s best since The Silence of the Lambs' ... The character of Hans-Peter Schneider is crucial to the book’s nihilist undertone and its appeal to existing fans ... But this 'new monster' is really the old monster with a few tweaks, and the same dynamic characterizes his new heroine as well ... But perhaps Schneider’s comparative mediocrity is intentional, and Cari Mora isn’t a retread, however partial, of Harris’s greatest hits but a recantation of his worst excesses ... Other things that may have tired or repelled Harris readers have also been scaled back. The highfalutin literary stuff is gone. (He somehow gets by without a single epigraph.) ... Brimstone is jostled by jasmine, melodrama by pastoral, and the 'dark angels' of Hans-Peter Schneider’s nature offset by the coming of 'daylight' with which the novel ends.
Hans-Peter is a sociopath like another famous Harris villain, but he does not come close to the nuance and sophistication of Hannibal Lecter. Lecter has elements of his personality and behavior that elevate him above being a typical antagonist, while Hans-Peter has a lye machine and weapons. They are both monsters, but only one is truly terrifying ... Descriptions run between vague and excessively graphic. A couple of scenes will remind readers of the brain-eating scene from Hannibal. The writing veers between elegant and repulsive. Readers who are fans of Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs will be disappointed in Harris’ first novel to not feature Lecter since his debut in 1975. Ultimately this book will be remembered for its look at the Miami area amid carnage, greed, the plight of immigrants and survival.
It is a frustrating, inconsequential confection, one in which...fragments of its creator’s earlier brilliance occasionally gleam, rendering the rest more disappointing by comparison ... [The novel's villain Hans-Peter] Schneider...is a caricature, and nothing more ... Cari Mora herself, meanwhile, appears to continue Harris’s laudable tradition of placing strong female protagonists...at the core of his narratives, but she is given a backstory, albeit the strongest section of the book, in place of an inner life. The rest of the characters, if that’s the correct word for them, are mostly stock Latinos and Latinas, destined to be reduced to severed, disfigured, or exploded heads ... Cari Mora can only really be read as a black comedy; its strokes are too broad for any other interpretation ... The grotesqueness of the novel’s imagery—a half-consumed torso here, a burning skull there—owes much to Victorian stage melodrama and the gothic, but Cari Mora lacks what Flannery O’Connor termed the 'inner coherence' necessary for the successful appropriation of the latter ... Cari Mora is rarely dull, because the sensibility of its creator is too atypical for that, but it is careless and underwritten. The shallowness of its characterization means that its violence comes across as simple sadism ... if Cari Mora is a comedy, it is one in which the joke is on the reader.
Readers counting on finding the same miasmic intensity in Cari Mora as in the Hannibal quartet will be surprised by a novel often akin in mood to (and perhaps influenced by) Elmore Leonard’s south Florida black comedies such as Rum Punch and Get Shorty, and Carl Hiaasen’s zany satires on aspects of the Sunshine State. Cari is too sane and free of flaws to be a Hiaasen heroine, but she’s much closer to his Honey Santana or Erin Grant than she is to Clarice Starling ... As for Cari’s satanic enemy, after incongruously marooning him in a heist caper, Harris gives the understandable impression of not really knowing what to do with him: clearly Hans-Peter is intended as a rerun of Hannibal, but he’s more like a camped-up Bond villain and you never feel that the 78-year-old author’s heart is in it.
... a pale imitation of his own greatest success ... The novel seems permanently balanced on this edge between menace and black comedy, meaning it never quite achieves either ... the book contains the ghost of a different, far more interesting story that might have existed ... leaves you wondering what he might have written, if he hadn’t felt obliged to write something that reads like a knock-off Thomas Harris novel.