Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Look! Look Rick! Something not Slender Man related!

But it's kind of dark. And creepy. And I guess the Dark Passenger could be considered an eldritch horror...albeit a small and fairly harmless one, and oh let's just get on with the review.

Adorably enough, this series first came to my attention via TV Tropes. Oh, those wonderful, awesome TV Tropes! But I digress. The page was linked to "Serial-Killer Killer" which peaked my interest. I saw there were books, and there was a TV series. I decided, as usual, to go for the books first.

They’re really really addictive.

I read the first one in, oh, three days I believe. But not before Mom started jabbering about “Oh is it like in the TV series where the bad guy is ------?”

Thanks Mom!

But really, when you get down to it the twist ending was somewhat obvious, so I can only pick on her so much.

The basic premise is that Dexter, a mild-mannered blood spatter analyst with the Miami police department, also happens to be a serial killer. Who only goes after other serial killers. In fact, the very first chapter jumps right into the untimely (but cathartic) death of a pedophile. As the story progresses, Dexter reveals that he was adopted at a young age, and his foster father Harry soon knew that whatever had happened to him before had damaged him badly. (He figured this out shortly after the neighbor’s dog mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen again.) As a genre-savvy cop Harry knew that one day, no matter what, Dexter would start killing other people. So, he decided to train him to be a hunter of other hunters. He taught Dexter how to escape detection and gave Dexter a very strict code by which to judge his future victims, and Dexter himself seems happy enough to keep to that code.

Unfortunately, other “monsters” (as Dexter calls himself) do not have this code, and when one occasionally escapes the justice system, they do not escape Dexter. (A hilarious gag states that child killers do not stand a chance in Miami-if they manage to somehow escape the eponymous CSI unit, Dexter will catch them. Crossovers abound!)

So while Dexter goes about his merry dual life, something happens. A serial killer terrorizing Miami’s prostitutes starts leaving messages for Dexter. His sister (also PD), unaware of what he is, keeps badgering him for his “hunches” he gets about these mad killers (hunches he gets thanks to his “Dark Passenger”, the reptilian voice that giggles with glee over these sorts of things). To make it even worse, the lieutenant in charge of the case keeps hitting on him, a certain Sergeant Doakes seems aware of what he is, and he keeps having bizarre dreams. And, of course, he has to keep up appearances by dating of all things! Dexter frequently wonders how these terrible things keep happening to him.

All in all, it’s a fun read. I’ll admit the parts where he’s in full-on serial killer mode are, well, a touch disturbing. Apparently Jeff Lindsay did a decent job with the character, because real life serial killers say they understand him so well-then naturally go kill an innocent person, not thinking “huh, he only kills people like me…”. Ah, well. Lindsay actually references this in his latest book, but I will review that one later. However, most of the time, Dexter is merely in snark mode. His disconnect from humanity in general makes him a good vehicle for pointing out the foibles of others. It’s sort of like Ocean’s Eleven, where you’re rooting happily for the protagonists the whole way, then stop at the end and say, “Hey, waitaminute!!” I’m sure there are many, many Christian review websites out there that are practically fainting in horror over these books.

But what makes these books work is not “give in to your dark side…come to the Dexter side, we have donuts”, but rather that Dexter is pure catharsis. We all know the outrage and anger we feel when someone escapes justice. We all know the writhing disgust when we see a pedophile go free. Dexter is our way of living out that justice, albeit in a slightly creepy and dark manner. A regular protagonist could not go around madly slashing away. We would look on in horror! But someone compelled to kill, unable to resist those urges, turning those urges to a good use, is something different.

This works very well, so long as you are not a genre-blind serial killer who doesn’t understand that concept of “context”.

See. Nothing about Slender Man at all.



  1. Hey, I remember that episode. That was from "Mad Miskatonic Memories".

    1. I particularly enjoyed the story arc where Dexter got into a knife fight with Cthulu.

  2. Erica! I did'nt give anything important away! I can't wait til the 5th season comes out on dvd! And, I still have'nt read the book. Maybe I should do that...hmmm. Oh, and, btw, you & your brother are strange.....very strange. Lol!

    1. You only gave away the villain of the story. That's not important at all...

      We get our strangeness from you.

    2. I don't remember telling you who the evil bad guy was.... And I don't have a strange bone in my body....

    3. You did. You told me and when I complained you said "Oh well it's pretty obvious so that's not really that bad." But I have the jump on you, because I know how all the books end now and you don't. Muahahah!

  3. Blah! I shall find out. Mainly cause I read faster than you. So there!

  4. I suppose this means I'll have to time travel so I can read them before you....A Mother's job is never