More of “Dexter”: Reading as a Writer

How do I describe the craving I’ve felt for Dexter Morgan’s sardonic voice?  I have no “Dark Passenger,” but if I did, it would be the source of my craving, I’m sure….(smile)  So perhaps Jeff Lindsay’s “Dexter” novels appeal to that part of me (and everyone else?) that finds a human, funny, average guy but reasonably intelligent anti-hero fun.  The last time I wrote about Dexter, it was about Lindsay’s inaugural novel.  Since then, I’ve read the next three novels in the series, most recently two and three, Dexter in the Dark and Dexter by Design, respectively.

In these two novels, Dexter’s personal life progresses into wedded bliss as his professional life takes an interesting turn that could expose him to being caught.  His relationship with Rita’s children also progresses in a direction I never saw coming, and is nicely developed over the course of the two novels.  Lindsay has stuck to the first person point of view (bravo!) which means the reader knows only what Dexter knows, sees, experiences.  There were a couple times I saw something in Lindsay’s description that took Dexter a page or two to see, but that’s hardly a quibble.  The first person POV heightens suspense and places the reader into the “I” too, creating an intimate relationship with the POV character, i.e. Dexter Morgan.  Lindsay also develop’s Miami’s personality more, especially regarding driving and traffic in this city.  And finally, I love that the novels are so completely different from the cable TV series so it feels like I get even more of Dexter between seasons of the show.

Ah, so much to love about these books!  It doesn’t seem fair that I could have any quibbles with them.  But as Dexter reminds himself, and the reader, often, life is unfair.

In Dexter in the Dark, the serial killer the Miami police, and Dexter, are hunting follows a ritual of burning his victims, beheading them, then posing their bodies topped with a ceramic bull’s head.  An interesting tidbit of serial killer profiling — serial killers tend not to use fire and burning to kill because it denies them the up close and personal pleasure they get from the act of taking a life.  So this serial killer is quite the anomaly.  He also scares Dexter’s “Dark Passenger” into hiding.  Up until this book, this aspect of Dexter has been a part of his personality, but in this book, it becomes separated without any negative results to Dexter — except he’s lost his edge in understanding the serial killer mind.  The answer to Dexter’s questions about his “Dark Passenger,” when it comes, truly disappointed me.  ****SPOILER ALERT!****  Rather than developing the “Dark Passenger” as a product of dissociation during the psychological trauma Dexter suffered as a small child, Lindsay chooses to make it something like a dark spirit that inhabits the minds of traumatized people and is a threat to the followers of the ancient god Moloch.  Such a disappointment!  Dexter has now entered the realm of the supernatural!  I would have been fine with the Moloch followers doing their thing; however, Dexter is such an interesting character that I think he deserves much better, deeper psychological development.

It was with that thought that I began Dexter by Design.   The killer in this story again likes to provide stylized bodies and staged crime scenes.  Lindsay never really explains the reason for this, except that the bodies had been stolen from the county morgue so murder had not been involved.  The story takes a sharp left turn about halfway through after Dexter takes his revenge on the man he believes stabbed Deborah.  From that point, the story returns to a real serial killer story, sort of.  *****SPOILER ALERT!*****  The killer has really only one target, a character we all know and love in the series.  My quibbles are: Dexter is far too, too inept as an investigator, not to mention as a defender.  Lindsay gave him sharp skills for surveillance, investigation and murder in the other stories, and it just wasn’t good enough that Dexter says operating during daylight makes him weak and stumble all over the place.  His little Cuban adventure with Kyle Chutsky struck me as brilliant and believable.  The ending, however, fell flat for me primarily because Dexter was TOO stupid.  Was this because his “Dark Passenger” was little in evidence in this novel?  My last quibble regards Rita — with marriage, Rita has become almost a blitering idiot and Dexter no longer tries to figure her out.  She’s also far too understanding of his behavior.  There could be some interesting sparks and character development possibilities between them but Rita needs rehabilitation for that to happen.

I look forward to the fifth novel in the series, Dexter is Delicious, and to the release of the fifth season of the TV series on DVD.  For all those out there who enjoy a fun anti-hero, I still recommend Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter novels highly…..


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