Ah, Dexter Morgan. Most of us know this charming killer through the Showtime TV series named after him. But even some of the biggest fans of Dexter don’t realise that he originated from a novel called Darkly Dreaming Dexter.
Being a huge fan of the Dexter shows, I decided to check out the first book in the Dexter series (there are three in total). It’s always nice to pick out the differences in the plot. And there were quite a few differences.
With the television series, you often wonder if Dexter’s talk of being ’empty’ is his way of convincing himself. He seems to care about his adoptive sister Deborah and his girlfriend Rita and her family. In the novel, everyone is expendable with the notable exception of Deborah. What I’m saying is that Dexter is a convincingly cold killer.
Dexter redeems himself through the sharp wit of his narrative in the book. You laugh along with his wry observations about human behaviour because his insight as an ‘outsider’ is always spot on.
The first Dexter novel introduces us to Dexter – a blood spatter analyst with Miami-Dade police. He’s a complicated character, but no-one realises this. Adopted by the cop who discovered him in a freight container with his dead mother, Dexter was severely damaged from an early age. Harry Morgan, his adoptive father, realised he had killer tendencies.
Harry’s long since dead, but Dexter lives by the code Harry taught him. He seeks out the predators in society – the killers and criminals who managed to slip through the net of law enforcement.
Darkly Dreaming Dexter sees another serial killer intruding on Dexter’s turf with some high-profile prostitute murders. Dexter becomes fascinated with the method of the killings, but it soon turns out that the killer is leaving messages in the crime scenes that only like-minded Dexter can see. As the murders continue, Dexter finds himself wondering how these killings seem so familiar and he begins to wonder if he’s lost his mind and is actually the killer.
While it starts out well-paced, I found the ending rather rushed. Suddenly, it seemed that Dexter instinctively realises who the killer is and somehow everything falls into place. Inevitably, you think back to the TV series and how ‘Rudy’ ingratiated himself into Deborah’s life without Dexter realising who he was. I found that the more sinister storyline because it showed that Rudy was a more calculating character and that his staging of killings was meticulously planned, far more than Dexter’s kills.
Also, there was a moment during Dexter’s one frenzied kill where he started to refer to himself and his Dark Passenger as ‘we’. Again, a nice sinister touch, but I found myself wondering why he did this only once. It would have been a nice touch to remind the reader that Dexter is a monster at heart.
Finally, the ending. I was glad to see La Guerta killed in the end. And Brian (formerly known as Rudy) surviving the end of the novel is an interesting take. Doakes was wonderfully foul mouthed and intimidating, while I couldn’t read this book without imagining it being narrated in Michael C Hall’s dulset tones.
A decent first novel, slightly eclipsed by the superior television series. However, with the different ending, I now want to know how Dexter’s story in this storyline continues, so I’ll definitely be picking up the next novel.