Book Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Darkly Dreaming Dexter book cover

When I like a film or series that’s based on a book that I’ve never read before, I usually go out and buy the book. Dexter, the popular crime series that was based on the Dexter series of novels by Jeff Lindsay, was no exception.

Plot Overview

Dexter Morgan, a forensic blood spatter pattern analyst working for the Miami Metro Police Department, has a secret: he’s a serial killer who targets other murderers at the behest of an inner voice that he refers to as the “Dark Passenger”. Trained by his late adoptive father, a police officer named Harry Morgan, Dexter manages to hide his big secret and keep up the appearance of being “normal”. Deborah, Dexter’s adoptive sister, has clue about the darker side of her brother’s nature… which is quite ironic, given that Deborah herself is also a cop.

When a series of brutal murders targeting prostitutes occurs in Miami, Dexter becomes intrigued by the killer’s “artistic” kills, and his interest is piqued even further when the murderer begins to leave him cryptic messages. Though the killer always left his victims’ corpses drained of blood and therefore no need for a blood spatter specialist, Dexter often finds himself heading to the crime scene to admire the killer’s latest exploit.

Review

The books I read are usually limited to fantasy novels, children’s books, and some historical fiction, so Darkly Dreaming Dexter was a welcome break for me. Seeing as it’s something radically different from what I’ve read so far, however, makes it a bit hard for me to formulate a proper review for it.

So let me just start off by saying that I liked it. I found that strange because, aside from the fact that it doesn’t fall under the usual genres I read, I usually like stories that involve catching serial killers (like CSI, or Criminal Minds, Maureen Ash’s Templar Knight Mysteries series of novels, or even the MPD Psycho manga) – not stories that put the serial killer in the spotlight.

I like the way Dexter was characterized. As with the usual serial killer, he has poor social skills and lacks emotions to start with… but he learned how to mask these shortcomings with wit and charm. His commentary in this first-person narrative is somewhat dark and sometimes morbid, but even so, his humor still manages to crack me up.

The way the book was written seemed to draw me straight into the inner workings of Dexter’s mind. Somehow I “understood” why he was doing all of this, and why he turned out the way he did. It made me not want to put the book down just to see what happens to him next, and how he would react to it.

The weird thing is, despite the way Dexter as a character and as a narrator hooked me, the main storyline of the novel isn’t that impressive. There was just a “Luke, I am your father” feel to it that I found to be terribly cliche. The twist at the end of it, however, came as a bit of a surprise to me, and made me want to buy the next novel just to see the repercussions of the events in the first.

Final Verdict

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is a refreshing take on the fictional serial killer, where readers will find themselves drawn to the protagonist’s charms despite his fascination with blood and murder. The fast-paced and well-written narrative makes it hard to put the book down, regardless of the slightly cliche plot. A good read overall.

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