Samantha's Reviews > Dexter By Design

Dexter By Design by Jeff Lindsay
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Mar 07, 11

Read in March, 2011

The good news is, it's better than Dexter in the Dark. The bad news is, it's not that much better. The mythology angle is gone, never to return, and that, for me, was enough to make it three stars rather than two. The characters-who-aren't-Dexter are even less interesting: Rita never had very much in the novels, but she is less of a non-person than a sexist caricature of womanhood. It's a bit distracting, frankly, to see an author try so hard to hit every single point of stereotype. The only positive points of characterization in these are Cody and Astor, who have the potential to become quite interesting indeed, and the primary antagonist of the novel, who is the first villain in the series to have real, understandable motivations and, as such, a small measure of sympathy from the audience. (view spoiler)

Jeff Lindsay has wrote only four other fiction books apart from the Dexter series, and all of those share co-author credit with Hilary Hemingway, his wife and daughter of Ernest Hemingway. I have not read those other books, all of them written in the 90's, but they clearly were not enough practice to give him good craft, especially for mysteries. Authors who are new to that genre underestimate its difficulties. Foreshadow without giving everything away. Don't let your reader figure everything out far ahead of your protagonist, but don't leave them drowning without a clue until the end as to who done it.

Lindsay shows the frayed edges of his craft in his other novels, but here his inexperience is most apparent: spending hundreds of pages waiting for the protagonist to figure out what was blatantly foreshadowed in the first chapter could only be more agonizing if the book weren't so short. Though it took over half the book for Dull Dexter to arrive at the obvious motivation for the killers, that's only an hour or two of actual reading with a Dexter novel. These things take only a single afternoon of focused, dedicated reading, and as such these novels are like a bag of chips: not really all that great, but it hits the spot and it's done and over with soon enough.

This book is only suitable for those people who must know what happens to Dexter as the series continues, and I have rated it accordingly for those readers. As mystery, there are better-crafted books to spend one's hours with. As a Dexter novel, it's about average. By the time you get to #4 in the series, you know what a Dexter novel has to offer, and if you read accordingly, you will have an experience no better and no worse than you expect. Perhaps not the highest praise, but when you're outwritten by a bunch of TV screenwriters scripting by committee, maybe adulatory fans shouldn't be your expected reward.
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