Sunday, July 27, 2008

27. Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Darkly Dreaming Dexter picture
I'm really not a big fan of serial killers as a literary genre. The first few times it was okay, I guess, but they always risk the temptation of self-indulgent, titillating sexual sadism and they usually succumb to it. Even worse, though, is the power creep. In real life, serial killers are screwed-up losers who eventually get caught because they generally aren't that smart. In order to make a serial killer book last, you have to have one who is really hard to catch. Since the detective is usually someone who is super smart, you have to make a super smart serial killer. Eventually, you get into Jeffrey Deaver territory where the serial killer is the smartest guy in the world and a Casey Ryback level ex special forces guy. They are more badass than the goofiest Pierce Brosnan Bond villain. At that point, it's just stupid. Yet, for whatever reason, ever since the overrated Silence of the Lambs, the crime genre in print and in film is inundated with serial killers.

Despite my lack of interest in the sub-genre, I did give the first Dexter novel a try. I had watched the first season of the television series and had quite enjoyed the concept. If you're not familiar, Dexter is a sociopath who was trained by his adoptive cop father to satisfy his murderous urges by hunting and killing only criminals. It's a clever idea because you get the cool technique, but done by a good guy against other bad guys that you want to die. It's kind of a procedural vengeance situation. I didn't totally love the series because it didn't spend enough time on Dexter getting the baddies. Instead, there was a lot of unresolved soap opera stuff. It was decently done, but in this case, wasn't satisfying the potential that I had hoped for. The real deal-breaker for me (and the reason I didn't bother with season 2) was the portrayal of the female characters. They were to a woman shown to be constantly stupid and irrational, especially his sister.

So, anyways, back to the book at hand. It is original and entertaining. Dexter is haunted by a serial killer whose skill and artistry blows him away. He also has to help his sister improve her reputation on the force (even though she is stupid, shrill and has no sense of politics; she really shouldn't be promoted). I really wasn't too engaged in the story, because it lies heavily on the serial killer as artist angle, which is boring. And the portrayal of the sister was not much better than the show. However, Dexter himself is quite funny, in his ironic asides and his backstory is engaging. I think I would have gotten into it more if I hadn't seen the tv series, as then it would have been all new.

So in summary, an okay light read, but I wouldn't bother unless you are really into serial killers and want to see a new twist.


Buzby said...

Thanks for the review, you have saved me a lot of time. The Dexter series has been on my radar of DVDs to buy but now I will pass. I agree with you on the serial killer sub-genre and would add that the serial killer mysteries often have annoyingly stupid covers and titles that prevent me from opening the book in the first place.

It is sad about how they objectify women in the book, now if only we could get rid of cheerleaders...

Jason L said...

Interesting that the book didn't step it up on the the show or visa versa.

meezly said...

I actually quite enjoyed season 1 & 2 of Dexter, despite some grating female characters. it was the clever dark humour that got me (and I like some serial killer stuff if it's done well).

sounds like the tv series captured this pretty well from the book, so I may have to borrow this from the biblioteque one day as well!

Crumbolst said...

Before you give up on the serial killer sub-genre I'd recommend John Fowle's first novel, The Collector. Also, Joyce Carol Oates' novella, Zombie. These two are really good.