Friday, December 5, 2008

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is a 2004 novel by Jeff Lindsey. On first glance, it seems the same tired setup for a mystery series: our protagonist is a blood splatter technician for the Miami Police Department, who uses his wits to track down killers in his spare time. The twist is Dexter is a serial killer himself. As a way to better fit into society, he only murders those who “deserve” it, using inside knowledge of how a killer’s mind works to uncover them, capture them, and kill them (by dismembering them while still alive). He doesn’t due this out of any altruistic feelings, as he is incapable of almost any feelings, but out of obligation to the foster father who trained him to escape detection. He has been doing this for many years when a new serial killer hits Miami. His methods are similar to Dexter’s, and he seems to know who Dexter really is, so Dexter must find him out of self preservation as much as to satisfy the “Dark Passenger” which compels him to kill.Not a bad read. Certainly a new riff on the crimesolver front, having the “detective” as a serial killer (although I always thought this was the hidden plot behind Murder She Wrote. That woman sure turned up around a lot of murders.). There is quite a bit of humor in the book, although it is fairly subtle, and can fly by you if you’re aren’t paying close attention. The characters are fairly well developed, with Dexter being more sympathetic than you might imagine. His foster sister (“If I was capable of caring about anyone, I would care about her.”) provides a good, over-emotional counterpart to Dexter’s clinical detachment from life. The requisite nit-pick comes in the observation that when a crime scene is a hockey rink, there is much discussion as to whether the body is found at the home net or visitors net. Since teams switch nets between periods, few people refer to them that way. At least they don’t in the hockey hotbed of Alabama, maybe they do where there are people who pay attention to hockey other than just me. Overall, I’d give it a 7.0. A fun, quick read if the subject matter doesn’t creep you out too thoroughly. Darkly Dreaming Dexter has inspired two sequels, and a popular television series.

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