Saturday, February 28, 2009

My Review of "Darkly Dreaming Dexter"

Written by Jeff Lindsay
Released in 2004

Dexter (to himself): “I know it is a nearly human weakness and it may be no more than ordinary sentimentality but I have always loved funerals.”

Making the error of watching the first two seasons of the series before reading the book, I’ve decided to amend things by trying to read all four books prior to FXUK airing the third season in late April 2009.

Most of the first season was based on the debut book, “Darkly Dreaming Dexter” and as an opening novel goes, Jeff Lindsay really has come up with a compelling character. Dexter is a serial killer who kills those who deserve. It’s as natural to him as breathing and something that he is deeply unapologetic for as well.

The book opened up with luring a choir master to his death. Unlike fellow serial killers, Dexter has a certain level of standards. Innocent people are strictly off the menu and the idea of murdering a child is one that disgusts him in a big way. Of course within the book, Dexter is adamant about being dead inside.

However when he butchers the choir master at the start, there is an emotional reaction to his response. He also seemed to have a similar emotional response when he murdered Jaworski half way through the book as well.

Like with the series, this book is also focused on a specific target for Dexter called the Tamiami Slasher (aka the Ice Truck Killer). This dude’s going around murdering various prostitutes and making sure that Dexter had enough clues to try and track him. This guy’s every bit as proud of his work as Dexter and there’s a fan boy type of admiration that Dexter exhibits for the guy, unaware that they’re related.

I suppose if you have to go with a downside is that killer is introduced far too late into the book and while it made sense for Dexter to let his own brother go in the end (Brian/Biney), the series score bigger points with the way they chose to handle the character during the first season.

From book to screen, Dexter still translates incredibly well but some of the other characters have very little to do. Angel and Masuka are little more than ciphers, Harry got some brief enough flashbacks and Rita only popped in and out but at least we’re clear on how Dexter feels (or not) about her in this story.

Deb is probably the only character who appeared as much in the book as Dexter, which made sense given that she seemed to be always interacting with him. My only grievance is that Deb did seem to rely too much on Dexter and his hunches in her desperate bid to get out of vice.

In terms of antagonists, Doakes is surprisingly underused. He only appeared in a few pages and mostly made snide remarks while LaGuerta went from overtly flirtatious with Dexter to wanting to put him behind bars. I suppose we should actually be grateful that Biney wound up killing her instead. We should also be grateful that the series has done a better job with that particular character as well.

- LaGuerta went by the name of Migdia in this book. Dexter mentioned various times that she was good at police politics while also noting that Deb wasn’t.

- Paul’s abuse of Rita was referenced but Paul himself doesn’t grace his presence in the book.

- Dexter’s love of food was nicely touched upon, though we don’t get much on his boat.

- At the end of the book it’s made clear that Deb is aware of Dexter’s dark self. Actually in earlier chapters, she’s pretty suspicious of Dexter.

- Dexter refers to himself as Dark Passenger a lot in the book.

- The tagline for this book was “A serial killer with a heart … be grateful it’s not yours.”

Quote, Unquote

Brian: “Do I have to remind you of the importance of family?”
Dexter: “No, no, no I can’t. Not Deborah.”
Brian: “Too bad. I’m so disappointed.”

Overall a very good opening novel to what has become one of the best series on TV. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone. The humour, the wry observations are all beautifully there.

Rating: 8 out of 10.