Book Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter

You know how sometimes you read in the paper about some person accused of murder who gets away scot free? For whatever reason, either the case isn’t prosecuted, or heaven help us it is adjudicated and the jury cannot find them guilty. Don’t you ever think to yourself “someone will do us all a favor and take ’em out”? In real life that rarely, if ever happens. The acqitted person goes on a book tour or gets a reality TV show and we are all disgusted by the twist of fate that let them loose to potentially kill again. Well, in the book Darkly Dreaming Dexter, there is someone who does equalize the situation.

Thankfully, Dexter is just a character in a fiction novel, because he’s a bona fide psychopath. He has difficulty understanding people and social situations, he lacks deeper feelings like love and compassion, does not understand what motivates humans to do the things they do, and does not even consider himself human. He knows he is flawed, with a big empty spot where everyone else has a conscience. But Dexter hunts the bad guys. He is a serial killer, and a prolific one, taking out Miami’s garbage. He only kills the killers, though, and he must have proof of the ultimate badness of his quarry, otherwise, his code will not allow him to act.

You see, Dexter was raised and coached by a cop. His adoptive father Harry realized that Dexter was missing “that thing” other people have, and helped him to shape his need to kill into righteous vigilanteeism. Harry created a code, rules that would help Dexter survive in a world he did not understand; rules that would keep him out of the eye of the police and out of jail. Part of Dexter’s cover is to work for the police as a blood spatter analist.

The best predators hide in plain sight, and that is Dexter. He has learned, like many psychopaths before him, to play the role, say the witty sayings, and pretend to feel the feelings, that normal people expect. And while you might think Dexter is a bad guy himself, in this book, he is the “hero” protecting the city from those other murderers who cannot be proven guilty and preventing them from committing their heinous crimes again.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is the first in a series about Dexter and was the inspiration for the popular Showtime television drama “Dexter.” If you are a fan of the show, be prepared for the book to have its differences that might not make you happy. The key characters are there: Dexter, Deb, Angel Batista, LaGuerta, Doakes, Masuka; but they are the originals as imagined by Jeff Lindsay, not the screenwriters. Dexter himself is as weirdly lovable in the book as he is in the show, and that is part of the guilty pleasure. You feel like you really should not like him, but you just can’t help it.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is not terribly long, yet the pages turn at an enjoyable pace, drawing you through the story arc and toward a climactic ending that feels a tiny bit rushed. Did Lindsay come up against a deadline? I would have liked the ending to be developed a bit more, but otherwise this is a very good book. I will be seeking out the next installment soon.

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