on December 12, 2005
Jeff Lindsay's Dexter is serial-killer-slash-detective, a tortured soul who works as a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami police department. Dexter has trained himself only to kill other serial killers, which gives Dexter a veneer of creepy heroism. In "Dearly Devoted Dexter," Dexter is on the hunt for a villain once betrayed by fellow members of a former Special Forces team, a criminal who actually leaves his victims alive (but, yikes, limbless lipless earless noseless), after kidnapping them and carving them up bit by bit.
Lindsay's Dexter narrates his own story; in combination with Dexter's easy-going friendly manner and his strangely "good-guy" motivations (catch the villain), this leads the reader to be on Dexter's side, to see things through his eyes, so to speak.
So occasionally while reading this book I would suddenly realize I was rooting for someone who would give Hannibal Lecter a run for his money, and a cold shiver would run down my spine. Very sneaky, Mr. Lindsay! If you like getting creeped out, in true horror-movie fashion, this will definitely suit you. On the other hand, if you couldn't bear "Silence of the Lambs," you'd best run away from Dexter before he gets inside your head....brrrrr....
on September 26, 2005
Dexter leads a double life as both a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Police Department and a serial killer who discretely dispatches only other demonic evildoers. He's back from his first story, "Darkly Dreaming Dexter," for more dastardly dealings. This time, he finds himself under suspicion by Police Sergeant Doakes. Dexter can't help feeling that Doakes is as much a monster as he is, and that monsters recognize their own kind. When Doakes begins a constant surveillance that prevents Dexter from heeding the call of his Dark Passenger, he spends an uncomfortable amount of time with his girlfriend Rita and her two kids in an effort to appear domestic. To his chagrin, he is becoming a bit too normal for his own liking. Luckily, he is conscripted by his police detective sister to help investigate a new rash of grotesque serial killings that give even a monster like Dexter pause. When the killer absconds with Doakes, Dexter feels an obligation to help his sister track down the killer, even if, by saving Doakes, he will be forced to remain trapped in a life of normalcy.
I wondered if author Jeff Lindsay would be able to pull off another novel about the endearingly inhuman Dexter without reverting to telling the same story twice. He did an admirable job doing just that. As in his first story, Lindsay combines humor along with Dexter's dispassionate acknowledgment as an unfeeling monster. But this time, he provides several fresh new facets to Dexter's personality: first his new role as a reluctant domesticated man, and second his innate understanding of, and gentleness with, children. This short book is a quick and entertaining read. I recommend it for its innovative depiction of a murderous psychopath that a reader can actually like and root for.
Dexter Morgan is a serial killer confounded by compunction distilled in his delicate youth by a devoted foster father who saw him for what he was and sought to protect him from the probing police. The Code of Harry is the creed that commits Dexter to allow his Dark Passenger to dissect and dismember only the deserving - pedophiles, murderers - before leading them slowly into death.
Okay...enough of my feeble attempt at replicating Jeff Lindsay's lively alliterative style. But if you found the above paragraph remotely entertaining, you're sure to find Lindsay's skilled pen far more enjoyable. His "positively prancing prose", as I referred to it in my reviews of Darkly Dreaming Dexter, makes the book a joy to read. Even more fascinating is that we're in Dexter's head the entire time, as Dexter himself is the narrator.
For an emotionless killer, Dexter has a great sense of humor and his cold detachment from everyday life makes his insights into the human psyche even more amusing and telling. For example, "I have always felt that it was preferable to think with my brain, rather than with certain other wrinkled parts located slightly south. I mean, seriously, don't people ever *see* themselves, staggering around drooling and mooning, all weepy-eyed and weak-kneed and rendered completely idiotic over something even animals have enough to sense to finish quickly so that they can get on with more sensible pursuits, like finding fresh meat?"
In "Dearly Devoted Dexter", Sergeant Doakes, who Dexter believes has seen the emptiness inside of him, follows Dexter everywhere and "sits on him". Frustrated in his pursuit of a pedophile to feed his Dark Passenger, Dexter tries to live out a more normal existence, which is part of the Code of Harry - blend in. To do so, he starts to spend more time with his girlfriend Rita. After all, what's more normal than a guy having a girlfriend? He even puts on hearty good-night kisses as part of his show to Doakes - although Dexter knows he isn't fooling him.
A particularly twisted sociopath makes an appearance, and even Dexter is impressed with the technique. That made for a good scene: he stood admiring what was left of the newcomer's work while the majority of the Miami police force was vomiting last week's pizza. This new nut has ties to Washington, El Salvador, and Tito Fuentes - good luck putting that puzzle together! When someone from Washington that's bigger than the "feds" arrives to take over the case, Dexter's foster sister Deborah falls for him, and her involvement in the case (which realistically should be minimal) increases. This means that so does Dexter's (whose involvement, as a lab tech, should be Zero). Deb relies on Dexter for help, and while Dexter has difficulty understanding why he should be bothered, he always gives in when she reminds him that he is family.
Dexter claims constantly that he is not human, yet in a flashback we see him emotionally wrought over Harry's death, and while he is loathe to admit it, he feels something with his sister as well. To give you another insight into Dexter's twisted mind, this occurs after Dexter and Deb find themselves in their car, upside down, under water. "A real human being might have thought of his drowning sister much sooner, but really, let's be fair, one can only expect so much from an imitation...But although I was not really reluctant to rush to the rescue, I couldn't help thinking that we were asking a bit much of Dutifully Dashing Dexter this evening, weren't we?"
The police procedural aspects are virtually nonexistent here. If that's all you enjoy in crime fiction, you probably won't want to add this to your list. And Lindsay stretches things a bit - homicidal sociopaths turn up a bit too often for my taste, and Dexter, a mild mannered lab tech, has far too much to do with a rather terrifying investigation than is believable. But if you like the idea of a story told from the POV of a serial sociopath with a conscience and a killer sense of humor, wit, and insight, you can't go wrong with this. You'll find yourself laughing aloud and genuinely liking Dexter. Lindsay doesn't spend much time on Dexter's deviousness, which is wise, because if we saw Dexter at play, we couldn't possibly like him. But with this distance, as Entertainment Weekly said, Dexter is "maybe the first serial killer who unabashedly solicits our love." Both books in the series have come in at under 300 pages, so they're a light easy read.
on December 17, 2006
Things are looking up for Dexter Morgan, blood-splatter analyst and secret serial killer. Thanks to the events of the first novel, his sister Deb is a detective in homicide. His pseudo-girlfriend continues to be just what he needs to keep his cover as a normal person. And he's stumbled on to a child murderer that desperately needs the kind of attention that only Dexter can provide. The one dark spot is Sgt. Doakes, a homicide detective who "knows" Dexter for what he is, even he can't prove it.
But that changes one morning when the victim of unspeakable torture is discovered, his limbs, tongue, genitals and eyelids systematically removed, but left alive. Dexter and Deb are recruited into an investigation by the federal government to hunt the culprit, known only as "Dr. Danco", a man who once worked for the government during one of its sordid wars in Latin America; a man who has perfected his method for torturing people for decades. And one of his targets is Doakes. But why should Dexter care?
It's the rare sequel that is an improvement over its progenitor. Jeff Lindsay's "Dearly Devoted Dexter" is such a sequel. Dexter is a little more polished as a character, a little more likeable and consistent. While he still remains distant from his sister and his girlfriend, all while putting the airs of a devoted loved one, his relationship with his girlfriend's children is more concrete, suggesting true warmth and sincerity on Dexter's part. The possibility that Dexter might actually more to offer than his ability to know and kill other creatures like him defines the character as something more than simply a literary curiosity.
More importantly, the plot is stronger in this second book, as the antagonist sharply better defined and the stakes for the protagonists are clearer earlier on, with a resolution that is logical and comprehendible. The images of this cold blooded torturer casually removing body parts from his victims, leaving an insane, barking stump of a human being are chilling, creating solidly gripping and suspenseful tale. The tension is heightened when it becomes clear that even the highly trained intelligence officers tracking Dr. Danco aren't necessarily equipped to capture him, leaving the reader to wonder what good Dexter might do.
Lindsay has a definite sense for dialog and character development. In the two books he's published thus far, Lindsay has demonstrated that he has the potential to write some truly great works of fiction for his Dexter character. I eagerly await future volumes in this series.
on August 7, 2006
When Lindsay's first Dexter novel came out, I reviewed it and give it generally good marks except for the characterization of Dexter's sister Deborah. I also noted that the conceit of having Dexter only kill those who deserved it stacked the deck a little but overall the book was interesting and well-written, as well as one of the few books written from the perspective of a criminal.
This new Dexter novel is actually a bit of an improvement over the first one. The character of Deborah has been toned down a little though she is still a bit too shrill and bossy for my taste. But Lindsay has come up with a way to make the story different and this time around Dexter's inner musings are even more humorous than in the first novel.
The story is fairly slight and only reaches novel size due to the subplot about Dexter's romantic entanglement, which is a bit far-fetched. But he does use it to introduce the possibility of having Dexter mentor another future serial killer, a turn of events that may be off-putting to some readers.
Dexter is not for all tastes; the man is clearly insane and has an appetite for violence. He's the kind of sociopath that any normal person would want to see put away forever. But it is a credit to Lindsay's skill as a writer that we can enjoy the book while hoping we never run into Dexter in a dark alley.
I'm not sure where Lindsay can take the character; the whole concept seems limiting. But the book was an enjoyable read if not for everyone.
on July 27, 2005
Miami-Dade police forensics lab blood spatter analyst Dexter "the Avenger" Morgan obsesses in euphoria when he slices and dices a person, but he also is selective in who he carves up choosing the dregs of society, and psychopaths especially serial killers. He recently notched number forty, homicidal pedophile photographer Steve Reiker and eagerly awaits his next victim.
A serial slicer Danco apparently leisurely over a few weeks surgically removes extremities from his victims who he keeps alive as he slowly mutilates them one body part at a time. When a still alive Salvadoran Manuel Borges is found, he has no body part hanging off his torso; the medical examiner estates he underwent at least a month of torture as some of the slits left by the carved off body part healed. Dexter admires this newcomer to the slice and dice game, but also decides to stop this rival although some DC outsider Kyle Chutsky claims lead until he is abducted and loses a finger with more to follow. Now Dexter goes hunting to find the killer.
As with DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER, DEARLY DEVOTED DEXTER is a wild macabre perhaps insane South Florida police procedural starring a psychopathic hero who enjoys the finer things in life, eviscerating serial killers. How crazy Dexter is comes out loud clear when unlike his peers and his adversary in the police department who are horrified by Danco's work, the Avenger recognizes a fellow artisan albeit one that he must stop. Readers expecting a High Noon showdown between two professional slashers will enjoy the duel when it occurs but will wait for quite a while as Dexter the sleuth investigates.
This is the second Dexter novel. Although it can stand alone, I advise reading its predecessor, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, first.
Dexter is a great character - a serial killer who works for the Miami Police Department. He is just not any serial killer, however. Thanks to his cop foster father, he serially kills only for truth, justice and the American Way. His victims are only serial killers. Since he can think like a serial killer, he as natural ability to track the worst of criminals.
The "bad" serial killer in this book vivisects his victims in such an outlandishly grotesque manner that only the humorous nature of Dexter saves this book from being overly, well, gross.
Dexter is very humorous. His viewpoints on life and other characters are brutally honest - as only someone without human emotion can be. Those viewpoints are expressed in an engaging partly tongue in cheek manner. Dexter considers himself to be an infallible analyst of "real" humans. His off-base analyses, though, occasionally put him in very humorous situations. There is a scene with his girlfriend that is laugh-out-loud funny.
Although the Dexter character is one of the more interesting you will encounter, this book also has a very good plot - as well as a very very evil target for Dexter.
Also, a reader will be amazed at how many alliterative descriptions for Dexter Mr. Lindsay can up with!
This is highly recommended, but I think a reader would be well-served to read its predecessor first to appreciate the depth of Dexter.
on July 22, 2005
I never seem to like a writing style that starts a book by asking "how did this happen" or "Why Me?"
But when dear dark Dexter asks how, I want to know. Indeed, the tale of what could make the dark passenger seated comfortably in the crocodile brain of Dexter change it's behavior is a really good one. Jeff Lindsay makes me comfortable immediately with the idea that a serial killer can be a good guy. He does this very simply, he tells me that "Children are important." Clearly a child will never have a special play date with our darkly devoted Dexter.
This book is an excellent read. There is some repetitiveness that all authors seem to fall into when they bring a character forward from one book to the next. Those of us who are already aquatinted with Dexter might mentally tap a fingernail. But that is a fleeting feeling.
Lindsay develops a nemesis for Dexter that is intimidating, and a foe that seems even more inhuman than Dexter. In this book, he creates an elegant solution to Dexter's Sergeant Doakes problem. Dexter also finds kindred sprits and begins to yearn to pass on the Harry Rules he so carefully lives by.
I hope that this means that there will be a third book about Dexter. It would be a shame if this were the last moonlight dance of the dark passenger.
on April 7, 2012
I appreciate the character. Dexter is one of the unique ideas in modern fiction. I appreciate the writing style, which makes the character (who is not human on the inside) appear human to us the reader, so it's not a Hannibal Lechter book.
On the other hand, there is almost no character development for anybody but Dexter, everyone else is hollow. There is little plot development, and the pieces that are weaved together so well on television are all present, but not taken advantage of.
The TV Dexter is actually better, which is shocking to me. That happens once in a thousand years. The characters are better, the plots are better, the whole structure is better in the re-modeled TV version.
So i recommend reading only book 1, not this one, and buying the DVD's.
This is not a book for the weak of stomach! The only thing that makes this book, and the first one, work and at all readable is the skill of the writer, and that's saying a lot. Dexter is a fascinating character, although I do get a bit tired of being continually reminded that he's not normal. There were some humorous scenes, which are skillfully included to make the other portions less horrific. However, this book was not as well done as the first; there were serious flaws with the plot and the ending was too predictable. Still, while I hope Mr. Lindsay's editor takes a stronger hand with his next book, I shall be waiting for it with a degree of guilt and morbid curiosity.