Newest Review: ... While I felt that I had not really missed out a lot by not reading the previous novels as the characterisation is good and there is plent... more
Detached Dexter is Dangerous.
Dexter by Design - Jeff Lindsay
Member Name: cha97mw
Dexter by Design - Jeff Lindsay
Advantages: A unique plot idea, quite deliciously dark
Disadvantages: hard to get into as Dexter is so lacking in emotion and is also quite sarcastic
I had heard of the TV show Dexter although I have never seen it. I became aware through reading reviews that this show was based upon a series of novels by author Jeff Lindsay, and when I came across him in the library I decided to check out the work and see if it was my sort of thing. I am normally a big fan of crime based fiction, so I mostly read books in this genre.
I find Dexter a bit of a strange character. He lives in Miami, and works for the Police Department as a blood analyist. He works closely with his sister Deborah who is a police Sargeant. Dexter is highly skilled at his job, although he keeps a very close secret. He has a little nightime 'hobby' of being a serial killer. He has a code of ethics though and has been brought up by his adoptive father Harry to only go after the bad guys. This makes it easy for him to find 'victims' because he has access to police information.
To complicate matters further, his sister, the cop, also has become aware of his little sideline, and she is left in a dilemna as to what she should do about it.
This is not the first novel in the series, so reading this as a first example of Lindsay's work is a hard one. While I felt that I had not really missed out a lot by not reading the previous novels as the characterisation is good and there is plenty of explanation of how we got to here in the story, I did find Dexter a very difficult character to like. He describes himself as having a Dark Passenger who is the bit of him that causes him to do the killing, but the way Dexter and the Dark Passenger are described is like seeing two people. Not quite schizophrenic as there is awareness of both characters and they kind of speak to each other, but it is an odd unusual viewpoint in written format.
Dexter is a person who is very unhuman. While he has the motions of being a normal person as he has a job and a family through marriage, he is also describing himself as devoid of emotion, watching things very detached and reacting how he thinks that he should be responding. He is often also quite sarcastic in his inner voice. As a style of writing, this took me a long time into the novel to get used to.
At the same time, the story has gruesome murders like you see in other novels, but it is not quite as strong on the forensic side as other authors like Kathy Reichs, so you need to rely more on the emotional side of it, but it is being told by someone who doesn't really register emotion.
The plot is quite surreal. There are some very strange bodies found in public locations in Miami. While investigating this Dexter witnesses an attack on his sister. This causes the Dark Passenger to want to settle the score. Only, he makes a couple of crucial mistakes, and this leads to him unleashing a nutter who is determined to make Dexter pay. Dexter is not as free as he would like to deal with this problem thanks to his new family commitments - he is just married, and has two step-kids he has to take care of so he is a bit out of sorts at not being able to act in his normal manner to sort out this problem. The result is a fairly interesting story that is not at all predictable.
While I can appreciate how well written this is, I would say that this is not a series I can enthuse about. It has its own merits in that it is an original plot idea, and it obviously transfers well to the TV show as it is popular and has run for several seasons. I did feel the awkward and almost autistic character of Dexter was hard to take in written format. I think the writer has skillfully written in quite a detached way on purpose, but I didn't take to it as much as other authors I have read.
By the end of the novel, I did begin to warm more to the style and characters as the plot began to draw together to its conclusion. I have also started reading the next novel in the series, so I wasn't completely put off by the style, I just found it hard work getting into it to appreciate it.
I think my problem is that crime novels fit neatly into categories. Those that are really scientific with high levels of detail of the autopsies and crime scenes. This type of book is my favourite. Then there are those that are less gorey but the plot is pacey and exciting till you work out who dunnit. Here you know from early on who did it, only you are not quite sure on the why. There is a token amount of gore, but nowhere near enough to satisfy my blood thirst and geekiness. The pace just doesn't seem to be quite right and I felt like I spent too much time in Dexter's head. I think this is unlike any work I've read before, and I am not sure whether to recommend it or not. I certainly did not feel like I had wasted time reading it, but I didn't feel thrilled or as entertained as I normally do by the genre.
I think I am going to follow this up by watching the TV series to see if I get it more then. Until then, I am not sure why it is so popular.
Summary: I think this might be one of the only cases where the TV show beats the book.