Darkly Dreaming Dexter (Dexter #1) by Jeff Lindsay (Doubleday, 2004, 304pp.)
Dexter Morgan has always been different, and not in the “anti-social high school outcast” kind of way, either. No, Dexter’s kind of “different” is, unfortunately, more of the “hears voices that tell him to kill” variety. That’s right. Dexter Morgan is a serial killer, a man incapable of feeling emotion like a real human being and driven to murder by “the Dark Passenger,” a mysterious presence that lives in his brain. Fortunately for the rest of us, he’s much more interested in carving up child killers than helpless women. What drives him down this particular avenue—to target other killers, instead of the innocent—is thanks to his policeman foster father, Harry, who has taken a rather unconventional stance on the matter. Instead of the old “If you can’t fix ’em, institutionalize ’em” approach, Harry has instead advised Dexter to aim his destructive energies at those who “deserve” it: a predatory priest who preys on children and a noxious nurse who intentionally overdoses her patients on morphine, just to name a few. With this advice in hand, Dexter prides himself not only on pretending to be “normal,” (just your average, mild-mannered but charming blood spatter expert for the Miami police force), but also on his true, cold, calculating nature. But what happens when he starts making some very human mistakes?
What Lindsay has wrought here is a great, fresh twist on the police procedural genre, with a wonderfully sardonic narrator with a wonderfully elegant way with words. Sadly, the ending is the weakest link in this otherwise unique, quirky novel. It comes rather abruptly and contains some revelations that, although very interesting to say the least, feel a tad bit forced. In this case, however, this shouldn’t be seen as too much of a hindrance. Turns out there’s several more adventures in store for Dexter, which certainly gives the author some room for improvement. For those mild-mannered readers who like the occasional romp on the ghastlier side of life (permitting that it’s within comfortable distance of your armchair) get ready for some good ol’ psychopathic fun.
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