Saturday, February 04, 2006

Books: Darkly Dreaming Dexter • Jeff Lindsay

Genres: Mystery, serial killer, suspense, thriller
Published: July 20, 2004, by Doubleday
Verdict: &&&1/2

I hadn't read a serial killer novel since growing tired of John Sandford years ago, and here's what it took to lure me back: A novel about a serial killer who kills other serial killers. But it slices even deeper than that clever twist. Lindsay's prose is most penetrating when protagonist Dexter Morgan, a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Police Department, wrestles with the evil urges (his Dark Passenger, as he puts it) within and struggles to appear "human" in his interactions with others. The novel has impressed others, too: A Showtime drama is being developed from the Dexter stories (there's a second novel, Dearly Devoted Dexter), which are a natural fit for the CSI era. Morgan's foster father noticed his evil tendencies at a young age and, knowing his son could not resist the urge to kill, encouraged him to channel his energy into doing away with bad people. A horrible experience at an early age triggered his obsession with slicing his victims bloodlessly, and his chain gets seriously rattled when a new killer in town begins slicing up bodies in the same fashion and teasing Morgan with clues. At the same time, he's caught up in departmental politics, tugged in one direction by his sister, who's on the case and asking for his help while growing suspicious of him, and tugged in the other by a detective who hates his sister and has the hots for him. Even worse, his Dark Passenger wants to come out and play. The conclusion isn't quite as satisfying as the journey there, but the prose is consistently as sharp as Morgan's instruments of destruction, making this a pleasant dance with a devil.

// Currently reading // Cell • Stephen King

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