Speeda's Reviews > Dexter in the Dark

Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay
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's review
Sep 13, 09

It is an artform to get the motive just right in macabre works -- it can't be too elaborate, too obvious, or too vague. The three seasons of Dexter I've watched on tv seem to nail this dynamic in the title character. The show has explained that Dexter has homicidal urges resulting from witnessing his mother's brutal murder as a child, and his foster father -- the cop on the scene -- viewed these urges as something inescapable that Dexter might as well channel into vigilante killing of the creeps that evade the cops and the legal system. Tee vee Dexter is written and acted complexly enough that scenarios which may seem soap opera-ish out of context are wholly compelling in the moment, and his motives seem plausible.

Where the show and this book seem to break is that television Dexter is evolving from someone pathological and emotion-free into someone beginning to care about other people, and learns from his preadolescent stepson that you can overcome your past (Dad #1 to the stepkid was an abusive drug user but the kid seems to be free from the darkness that propells Dexter's double life). In the book, however, the stepkids are tainted by their own childhood experiences and ask Dexter to help teach them how to be killers too -- there is no sense that criminals can rehabilitate in the book's world, including Dexter, so the general direction feels cynical and one-note.

Furthermore, the main emphasis of the book is mumbo jumbo about ancient demons inhabitating people as a leading motive for why people kill -- apparently, anyone with childhood trauma like Dexter's may be more susceptible to it, and Dexter spends the chapters losing and chasing demons. While Dexter's voiceovers on the show do intimate that Dexter is compelled by a "Dark Passenger" or "shadow self" it hasn't felt the need to over-elaborate mystical-origins bullshit -- it just comes off like the admission that there are dark and mysterious aspects to himself. Meanwhile, the book cribs from Rosemary's Baby a la any sequel out of ideas (apparently this is the third book in the series), and it feels unrealistic and out of left field.

All in all, while the book maintains a sense of humor like the show, it isn't enough to compensate for the recycled plot, and this is one of the only times I would endorse plopping in front of the tele instead of picking up a book.
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