by: Jeff Lindsay
Dexter is most well known for its 8-year stint on Showtime, and probably one of the most disappointing series finale and last few seasons ever, but the first 5 seasons of the show were exceptional. The magic of our serial killer with a sort of conscience began with the novel written by Jeff Lindsay. In his story, “Darkly Dreaming Dexter” the first season of the show is carefully outlined. Like the show, Dexter is a sociopathic serial killer, who feeds his murderous urges by only killing the “evildoer”. The book is wonderfully entertaining, but amongst what the show already displayed I was delighted to find multiple parallels between the vampires in Anne Rice novels and Dexter.
“I’m a very neat monster.”
Dexter is a blood splatter specialist for the Miami forensic department. But what the department doesn’t know is they have their very own serial killer right under their noses. At a young age, Dexter and his foster father recognized his urges to kill. As he came of age it became clear the murderous urges wouldn’t disappear. Dexter’s cop father taught him to utilize his talents against those whom the law had yet not caught or could not punish. By the time he was an adult, he was methodical. He had developed an almost musical routine and always saved himself a souvenir. A drop of blood from each victim.
“I’m quite sure more people fake an awful lot of everyday human contact. I just fake all of it.” -Dexter
What makes this book so remarkable and sets it apart from other books about serial killers is the narrative by Dexter himself. Not only is he charismatic, but not unlike Bundy he’s also handsome, likable, and quite funny. While the book certainly maintains a serious tone, it balances the lightness and darkness perfectly. One of the most engaging aspects is Dexter’s self-awareness of his own lifeless detachment to society. In some ways, it gives him an almost unbiased assessment of the world around him. As a reader, you get to be a voyeur of his thoughts, his own inner monologue and it’s engrossing.
I did not like this feeling of having feelings.
Comparing it to one of my beloved Anne Rice vampires is his likeness to that of my all-time favorite literary anti-hero Lestat de Lioncourt. He is more than aware of his evilness but embraces it in a way that not only makes the reader adore him but even love him. I seldom see characters so rich with charisma but by our measure of humanity are equally empty of emotion inside. This is not easy character work, creating the balancing act of the anti-hero. Unlike Rice, Lindsay works in almost a light humor that somehow balances out the darkness.
The mind picks some very bad times to take a walk doesn’t it?
The first time I read this was early on in the series of the show and found it wonderfully entertaining. Not unlike the show, it’s a fascinating character study begging the questions of morality and justice. Dexter is not just a vigilante doing good because he believes in it. He’s doing it because he must, and even because he enjoys it. My adoration of the serial killer genre is at its peak enjoyment here and well worth the read.