Sunday, November 09, 2008

Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay

(pb; 2004: first book in the Dexter series)

From the back cover:

"Meet Dexter Morgan, a polite wolf in sheep's clothing. He's handsome and charming, but something in his past has made him abide by a different set of rules. He's a serial killer whose one golden rule makes him immensely likeable: he only kills bad people. And his job as a blood splatter expert for the Miami police department puts him in the perfect position to identify his victims. But when a series of brutal murders bearing a striking similarity to his own style start turning up, Dexter is caught between being flattered and being frightened -- of himself or some other fiend."


On Hole's 1994 album, Live Through This, Courtney Love sang "I fake it so well/I am beyond fake." Love might well have been singing about Dexter, an amiable serial killer who has a ghostly resemblance of a conscience, given his adherence to the "Harry Code" (the set of rules laid out by Dexter's adoptive father, Harry, on how to be a "good" person and still indulge the "Dark Passenger" that lurks in Dexter's head). Dexter, by his own admissions, seems to care about certain people around him -- namely his sister, Deborah (who's a cop, like Harry was), and Cody and Astor (son and daughter of Rita Bennett, the woman he's been dating for two years, for the sake of "cover").

This is a fast, difficult-to-set-down read. On the surface, given Dexter's relatively breezy tone, it'd be easy to pass this off as a pleasantly-written, hip serial-killer read. But it's more than that -- Dexter is a unique and memorable serial killer, who deserves to be remembered along with other top literary slashers like Patrick Bateman (American Psycho), Hannibal Lechter (Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, etc.) and others.

This is a slyly subversive work, challenging readers' comfortable notions about society, and the (possibly) true nature(s) of those who surround us -- especially friends and family members.

Superb, clever, burn-through read, with a chuckle-worthy end-line.

Followed by Dearly Devoted Dexter.

The Dexter book series (thus far, it numbers three novels) inspired a still-running Showtime/cable series, Dexter, which began airing on October 1, 2006. Michael C. Hall plays Dexter Morgan. Julie Benz plays Rita Bennett. Christina Robinson plays Astor. Preston Bailey plays Cody. Jennifer Carpenter plays Debra Morgan. James Remar plays Harry Morgan. Erik King plays Sergeant James Doakes (the cable-series equivalent of Sergeant Albert Doakes in the book series).

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