Thursday, December 24, 2009

Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay

The first in the series. We meet Dexter, lovable serial killer, for the first time.

In some ways he is hardly lovable. Although Dex has learned from his foster father to channel his need to kill so that he only kills those "worth killing", he clearly enjoys the task and revels in the pain and blood attendant to it. He readily admits to having no conscience, no real feelings, to faking it.

Yet somehow we are with him. We sympathize with his needs and want him to stay out of harm's way. We don't want him caught. And after all, he is offing those who have no redeeming social (or other) value.

In this episode Dexter has dreams. He has, in the past, been blessed with dreamless deep sleep. But now he wakes with dreams that are disturbing, some of which seem to foretell the future or poke into another mind - or is it another mind? Dex is not sure where these thoughts come from. He is used to hearing from his "dark passenger", the urge that pushes him to kill. Are the dreams a part of that or something more?

The dreams tend to be related to recent murders. Murders of prostitutes where the body is cut neatly into pieces and where there is no blood. All of the blood has been drained from the bodies. When Dexter has his first view of one of these crime scenes he is dizzy with admiration. So perfect, these murders. Clean, precise, perfect. He doesn't spend any time feeling sorry for the prostitutes, even envies this murderer his freedom to kill innocent victims.

The dreams lead Dexter on and even help him find the murderer eventually. When he does, however, he faces the surprise of his life, and the choice of his life.

It is hard, in some ways, to read a book series after it has become a television series. Having seen the television series first I tend to think of the television characters first, comparing them to the upstart characters in the books, while of course the books came first. I wonder how I would have felt about the television series if I'd read the books first. For the two are different in many respects. It isn't surprising that the Dexter on television is nicer and less obsessed by blood and torture than the one in the book. I suspect the producers found that bloodthirsty version one that would be hard to sustain, week after week, without losing a large part of the audience. It is one thing to read of some actions and another to see them.

The book Dexter also has a slightly different sense of humor. They both joke, to themselves, about who Dexter really is and what he wants. The book version also deadpans comments about Miami that are, frankly, very funny. In fact, I may enjoy this aspect of the books most of all. The book Dex seems a little more real in some ways, more threatening. Neither is as frightening as any real serial killer, I suspect, however.

Dexter is surrounded by characters with the same names in both the books and the tv series, but the characters also differ here and there. I am finding the television characters more complex and interesting than those in the book. As I read more of the series I may revise my thoughts.

Note: Another book that would I would not normally review here. I usually knock out mystery reviews in bookcrossing only, with a few rare exceptions. This book, plus the second in the series, were lent to me, though, and have no bookcrossing registration.

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