The third series of [[Dexter (TV Series)|Dexter]] recently finished its run on UK television. Needing a fresh fix of this brilliant character, I picked up a copy of Dexter In The Dark from our local library.
If you didn’t know that Dexter was based on a character from a novel, here’s a warning: the TV series and the novels differ slightly. For instance, Doakes is still alive in the books, although severely maimed. La Guerta died in the first novel, and although Deborah Morgan is a blonde, she still swears like a sailor. Goddammit, Dexter!
My one mistake in choosing the third book in the series was that I missed out on some interesting character developments. I’d read the first book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, but the second book clearly has twists that carry into Dexter In The Dark. The most important of these is that Dexter’s sister Deborah seems to know his secret. Not everything. But she knows he kills and seems to be at peace with the fact.
The story in this book revolves around some gruesome ritual murders that send Dexter’s Dark Passenger off on an extended vacation. Dexter is naturally shocked and perturbed by the disappearance of his inner voice, and this results in a sudden loss of his serial killer mojo. To make matters worse, he’s about to be married to the lovely Rita and has promised to coach her Deeply Disturbed children, Cody and Astor in his Dark Arts.
It soon becomes clear that Dexter himself is in danger, but without the Dark Passenger, he becomes introspective. Is he capable of killing alone? He knows the techniques, but his instincts seem tied to the Passenger.
The most disturbing aspect of Dexter In The Dark is the new concept of the Dark Passenger as something other than a by-product of Dexter’s Derangements. In this novel, Lindsay suggests that the Dark Passenger is a form of demonic possession, linked to the demon Moloch. And in time, it turns out that Moloch is killing off his spawn and is able to move between hosts.
Now, if you’re buying Dexter for the intriguing take on crime-writing, you might find Jeff Lindsay’s sudden foray into the supernatural a little off-putting to say the least. Reassuringly, he weaves the Moloch storyline in fairly inconspicuously until the end, when the credibility of the concept starts to fall apart. This isn’t helped by an unnaturally speedy recovery of the Dark Passenger within a couple of pages of the end. Instead of being action-packed, the ending of the book feels like Lindsay’s concept ran out of steam and he needed to bring Dexter back to normal in time for the next novel. In truth, he could’ve left Dexter powerless and despondent until the beginning of the next novel and resumed the Dark Passenger perhaps whenever Dexter looked like being discovered for a prior crime. Just a thought.
Still, I liked how protective Dexter had become toward Cody and Astor and his dilemma in trying to teach them ‘the Harry way’. It’s a bit perverse that he’s even considering teaching two children to kill, but it’s almost like a subspecies that has to survive by killing. Even though he has no discernable feeling for their mother, Dexter sees himself taking on the role of father and bizarrely it’s not a role where he’d be pretending.
Another angle Lindsay skirted over was the idea of ‘temporary killers’ – where a flash possession might result in someone carrying out a one-off killing. It was the idea of Moloch moving from person to person that made this interesting – kind of like a temporary insanity plea, but temporary demonic possession instead.
Overall though, this wasn’t the best Dexter material. I don’t think Lindsay has done much damage to the series, but I wouldn’t want him to persue the Moloch idea much further. Let’s get back to Dexter juggling his normal life with his Dark Deeds again.