Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Dexter Devotee

Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay (Vintage Books, 2005) 292 pp.

Into a girl’s life a little trash must fall … Okay, I admit it. It’s not all high art and classic lit. I do have a passion for noir – film, literature, pulp fiction – and this book satisfies that perverse need. It is the second in the series (of which there are currently three).

The name Dexter Morgan may not be known to you but it should be because he is the main character of Dexter, a terrific TV series from Showtime with Michael C. Hall based on this so-so book with an ingenious twist: the “likable” serial killer, a vigilante, who only kills other killers.

Dexter is a crime scene investigator, a blood splatter expert, working for the Miami Police. He has learned to channel his lust for killing with the aid of his father Harry Morgan, a cop, who adopted Dexter after rescuing him from a horrific crime scene. To say more would spoil the plot.

The book opens with one of the most disturbing instances of an assault on a human being that I have ever read, so horrific, that I am relieved it never made it to the series in such a literal way (the plot surfaces somewhat in the series but in a modified, toned down form).

Dexter’s sister, Deb Morgan, is also a cop. In this novel she becomes involved with Kyle Chutsky, a fed, who becomes the victim of a serial killer's designs whom he is sent to investigate. She enlists Dexter's help to recover him. The killer is an ex-special ops cop gone AWOL who worked in El Salvador with Chutsky and one of the Morgans' fellow cop, a Sgt. Doakes, played menacingly by Eric King. Doakes is the only one who is suspicious of Dexter.

Dexter is always accompanied emotionally by the "Dark Passenger", the alter ego that kills and offers a running commentary on what transpires. I could do with a little less of the pithy remarks by the Dark Passenger and his repeated assertions that he feels nothing.

The Dexter character in the TV series is more morally complex, more intriguing. He does feel something for the people around him: Rita, his girlfriend, and her children; his sister and his father Harry. Michael C. Hall, formerly with the equally original TV series Six Feet Under invests a certain charm in the character that I think is largely absent from the book. Dexter, the character in the book, is extremely fascinating but not, I think, that likable.

It's very difficult to put down and a breeze to get through. I say, park it in neutral mentally and just go with it! On to book one (which I should have read first) ...

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