So I live on Mars. Shoot me. I've never seen a single episode of Dexter - the TV show. The truth is, I don't watch TV. Almost at all. So, when I heard a review of Jeff Lindsay's novel Dexter In The Dark (the third and, so far, latest in the series) on the BBC books podcast, I had no idea what they were on about, but it sounded interesting. So I decided against seeing the show first, picked up the books and read them.
The three novels, namely Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Dearly Devoted Dexter and Dexter In The Dark, were a pretty cool reading experience. Dexter from the title is a forensic blood spatter analyst by day, and a righteous serial killer by night. Childhood trauma has rendered him a psychopath with an inner voice that he refers to as The Dark Passenger. Every once in a while, when the moon is full, the Dark Passenger urges Dexter to kill. However, there are rules, set by his foster dad Harry, who used to be a cop. Dexter is only allowed to kill people who he is absolutely sure have gotten away with murder.
The other notable characters include Dexter's sister Deborah, his girlfriend Rita, and her two children - Astor and Cody. Oh, and Miami, where the books take place. Yes, using a place as one of the protagonists is nothing new, but I like it nevertheless.
In each novel Lindsay manages to come up with brilliant plots, gruesome but innovative murder ideas and a bit of new insight into Dexter's psyche.
The style is playful, with a lot of alliteration, puns and wry remarks, which is a winning combination paired with the narration of the emotionally impaired main protagonist who has almost no understanding of basic human behavioral patterns.
Lindsay does sometimes natter about the Dark Passenger for too long, so although these are pretty short novels, they could have been a bit tighter. Also, you will need to suspend your disbelief at times, as almost every other person in these books is recognized by Dexter as a fellow psychopath (in the novels they can see each other for what they really are, no matter how well they fake being normal). Another thing that bothered me was the unfortunate generalization that anyone who suffers extreme psychological trauma turns into a merciless murderer.
Still, with all their flaws, and though they are fluff (yes, it is slightly weird to label as fluff something in which beheadings are a perennial occurrence), they are very good. They are exciting crime novels with an interesting twist and you can't help noticing that a lot more talent and thought went into them than is usual in this genre.