Sunday, November 1, 2009

In Which Trai Reviews 'Darkly Dreaming Dexter'

And now for something completely different...

The Book: Darkly Dreaming Dexter (first in the Dexter Morgan series)

The Author: Jeff Lindsay

How I Found It: Was intrigued by the premise of a moral serial killer. No Showtime, so I couldn't watch the show, but decided to read the books.

The Review: Wow. Wowowowowowowowowwwwww.

I can't remember being this freaking blown away or surprised by a book in such a long time. I'm not a mystery kind of girl-- I don't know why, I just never really got into them. I do enjoy Kay Hooper's Bishop/SCU series, and I've been meaning to read more Sherlock Holmes, but dear God did this book grab me by the hair and refuse to let me go.

Since the show's been around since 2006 and the books since 2004, you probably know some semblance of the plot, but let me 'splain, as Inigo Montoya would say. At the age of three, Dexter was taken in by Harry Morgan, a cop on the Miami police force, after a traumatic event Dexter cannot remember. When Dexter begins to show signs of sociopathy in his early teens, Harry teaches him to control his urges, driven by Dexter's mental "Dark Passenger," and channel them constructively: by killing those who deserve it, usually other serial killers, and especially the ones who kill children.

The book would start questionably for some: Dexter hides in the back of a priest's car, half-strangles him with piano wire, and forces him to drive to an abandoned house. You'd think a priest would be an unlikely serial killer, until we see he's killed seven children. Dexter gives him his just desserts, takes a drop of his blood to put on a microscope slide, and then goes on his merry way once he disposes of the body and the car.

Things get complicated when Dexter, a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami PD with a foster sister who's working Vice but wants desperately to get into Homicide, learns that another serial killer is terrorizing the area. A serial killer who does not share his moral code-- but does share Dexter's unique style, which he actually does better than Dexter himself. Dexter is torn between his desire to 'play' the killer's twisted game and his "loyalty" to his foster sister in her efforts to stop the killer and get her transfer to Homicide.

I won't say anything more, but I can't say enough about how much I loved this book. I'm actually a bit disturbed by enjoying a book about and narrated by a sociopath, but at least I don't feel guilty after seeing how many others have before me. I definitely have to tip my hat to Jeff Lindsay, who must've done a hell of a writing job in order to get us to like a serial killer. (Although I think I'm a pushover; I felt for Eric Stoltz during the Grey's Anatomy serial killer arc, and I think my mom started to question my sanity.)

The book was surprisingly original-- a really interesting take on the Rear Window/Disturbia-esque device of the serial-killer-next-door, except here we're supposed to be rooting for the serial killer. It's hard not to. Dexter is witty, does a pretty passable job at imitating human emotions, and kills the people we want to see die.

The one thing I could have done without, though I know it's necessary, was the constant motif of "politics" in the police force-- the proper things to do and not do, as Dexter constantly reminds his sister, Deborah. It got a little tiring after a while, I will admit, and it was a little strange that Dexter was always, always smarter than everyone else. The device of LaGuerta being a completely and utterly incompetent cop was stretched just a little bit too far in the end.

However, those small quibbles don't take away from one of the most original books I've read in recent years. I ran out and got Dearly Devoted Dexter before I even finished, because I knew I wouldn't regret it.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is very, very, very highly recommended to anyone who's tired of cookie-cutter plots and characters, and anyone who enjoys dark comedy.

My next review, I'm not sure of. For something completely different from this, I might go with Dear John by Nicholas Sparks, since seeing the movie trailer reminded me I have the book sitting on my TBR pile. Until next time, dear readers!

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