Monday, May 19, 2008

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay (Doubleday, 2004) 288 pages

This book, the first in the series, I find to be more poetic than the second which is odd. It's as if Jeff Lindsay (who is actually the crime writer Jeffry P. Freundlich) was trying to write in a more literary manner initially. Perhaps the second novel was written in a hurry to capitalize on the success of the first. And that success has been substantial. There are two more books coming up ...

Freundlich is an interesting guy, married to Hilary Hemingway, Hemingway's niece (yes - that Hemingway). She is Ernest's brother Leicester Hemingway's daughter and a writer herself as well as a producer and screenwriter.

Dexter, the serial killer who only kills killers, has become a sort of cult hero and the books have been made into an amazing TV series produced by Showtime.

It begins with the ritualized torture and murder of a priest who specialized in killing orphan children. Even lapsed Catholic that I am, I found this hard to take but irresistible to keep from reading. What a premise! The writer makes it hard to dislike Dexter's killing of the priest no matter how reprehensible it really is. He has done vile, unspeakable things, repeatedly. It makes you uncomfortable to think you understand Dexter's position, that you have these feelings of vigilantism withinyou. This is what makes it so effective as a piece of writing.

Some differences between the series and book: Dexter's character, largely due, I think, to the talents of Michael C. Hall, appears more nuanced. Hall captures the voice of Dexter perfectly but we feel more compassion for Dexter in the series. He is complicated, conflicted in the series, and at times genuinely sympathetic. He is not handsome as the book asserts but nerdy attractive, "lab rat attractive" I guess you would say (with a slightly creepy edge).

Dexter's realization of how he was found by his foster father Harry Morgan, a cop, at a crime scene unfolds more carefully and suspensefully in the series. His relations with his foster sister Deb Morgan, also a cop, seem more nuanced - true he wavers between trying to care about her and actually caring.

Sgt. Doakes, his nemesis on the Miami police force who senses that Dexter is hiding something comes off as a cold, relentless pit bull in the book but is given more texture in the series. He has a lover who is murdered, he has a family whom he loves (two sisters and a mother), he has a shady history that explains his hardness, his toughness.

Lt. LaGuerta is frostier, nastier and get her comeuppance in the book. Angel who is a nebulous entity in the book (and is actually referred to as "Angel-no-relation" is flesh and blood in the series: a good cop, honest, lusty with a wandering eye and knack for picking the wrong women.

As the book came to an end I felt a bit overwhelmed with the graphic nature of the book. The ugliness of what had transpired. The premise was truly original but the writing was mediocre. I thought will this book endure? Would I read it again? No. But as series? Yes it might be a classic.


Anonymous said...

I would say Micheal C. Hall is more attractive than I visualized.

A Lit Chick said...

Yes ... :)