Monday, October 12, 2009

Dexter Rides Again

Last evening I finished the fourth "Dexter" novel by Jeff Lindsay: Dexter by Design, which was released on September 8 in hardcover.

For those of you not familiar with the books or with the HBO series (season four premiered two weeks ago), here's a quick summary from a post of mine in 2006:
Dexter was orphaned at an early age and adopted by a police officer and his family. When the neighborhood pets began to go missing, Harry, his foster father, was the first to put the pieces together and realize that Dexter was "different." Rather than institutionalize the teen, Harry urged Dexter to channel his energies for good. The result is that Dexter Morgan, now an adult, works as a blood splatter expert for the Miami police department and kills serial killers on the side.

In contrast to the bloody details, Lindsay writes in a humorous and playful voice although--occasionally--his penchant for alliteration has Dexter sounding like a drag queen hopped up on coke.
The fourth book begins with Dexter on his honeymoon in Paris with Rita, his unsuspecting new bride. Waiting at home are Rita's two adorable children, Astor and Cody. Dexter was the first to realize that the children were "as permanently scarred as I was, forever twisted away from fuzzy puppy reality and into the sunless land of wicked pleasure."

Dexter feels a vague responsibility for Rita, whom he describes thus:
She was like a mother lamb in a wolf pack, and she only saw white fluffy wool all around her when in fact that pack was licking its lips and waiting for her to turn her back. Dexter, Cody and Astor were monsters.
Like the previous novels, Dexter by Design has the protagonist hunting down a serial killer (this one stabbed his foster sister Deb) while trying to keep the cops and FBI from guessing his true nature. Lindsay still exhibits his passion for alliteration as when Dexter describes himself as "Digitally Dominant Dexter."

There were the usual genuinely funny moments in the book such as when Astor and Cody stop the bad guy from kidnapping them:
"Well," [Officer] Lear said, "anyway, the guy got away. He ran clear over to U.S. 1 and headed for the strip malls . . . Gotta say he ran pretty good for having a pencil stuck in his leg."

"My pencil," Cody said with his strange and very rare smile.

"AND I punched him really hard in the crotch," Astor said.

I looked down at the two of them . . . They looked so smug and pleased with themselves; and to be honest, I was very pleased with them, too. [The bad guy] had done his worst--and theirs was just a bit worse. My little predators."
While this book was not quite as tightly crafted as the earlier books and the climax not quite as satisfying, I have to say I always enjoy a new romp with Dexter.

If you lean toward very dark humor . . . and have a strong stomach, I can recommend Dexter by Design.

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