CORRIDOR OF HORROR
VOL. 10, No. 34
Newlywed Dexter stalked
by ruthless serial killer By RON MILLER
Just before Showtime's top-rated "Dexter" TV series returned to the air for its fourth season this month, author Jeff Lindsay published "Dexter by Design" (Doubleday, $25) his fourth novel in the series about the Miami police blood splatter analyst who's a serial killer on his own time.
Those who love the quirky TV show--which is my current favorite among all shows now on the air--should love the books, too, since they offer a similar, though strikingly different version of Dexter's life.
For instance, Dexter's two stepchildren, Cody and Astor, are serial killers in the making in the books. Though Showtime, a premium pay TV channel, doesn't have to abide by broadcast television rules, it so far has found the idea of Dexter raising a couple of potential serial killers somewhat unpalatable. They're still regular kids on TV.
For another instance, the TV series got rid of Dexter's police officer nemesis, Sgt. Doakes, in an explosion two seasons ago. In the books, Doakes is still alive, but has lost a couple of limbs and his tongue to a serial killer. Doakes is still watching Dexter closely, hoping to prove he's a serial killer. Doakes can't say much to Dexter these days, but he has a pre-recorded message that he broadcasts from a speaker that hangs around his neck. It says, if you don't mind a bit of profanity: "I'm still watching you, Motherfucker!"
Ah, the Jeff Lindsay sense of humor is so special, isn't it?
In "Dexter by Design," Dexter has just returned from his honeymoon in Paris with beautiful wife, Rita, when he's suddenly plunged into the hunt for a killer who seems to have a real grudge against the whole state of Florida. This weirdo leaves corpses in prominent tourist locations, specially "decorated" for the occasion. He hollows our all their innards and then replaces them with the sort of "gifts" the Welcome Wagon might include in one of their bundles of joy.
Things really get dicey after the killer nearly kills Dexter's sister, Police Detective Debbie Morgan, and Dexter takes certain actions in a vengeful manner. Ultimately, Dexter finds he's no longer stalking a serial killer but rather is being stalked by one himself. It's a tense battle of the serial killers right up to the final couple of pages.
Casual readers of this review might wonder what in heck is going on in the publishing world, let alone the TV world, if the time has come when serial killers are the heroes of mystery/crime fiction. Well, what can I say? The redeeming characteristic of "Dexter" is that both the books and the TV episodes are quite tongue-in-cheeky and you can't really take the grotesque butchery too seriously unless you're really up tight.
If you can get through the first chapter, you'll probably make it all the way. In the first chapter, Dexter and Rita go to an exhibit of the latest art in Paris and come upon a strange display of an artist who is dismembering herself on video as her art form. Rita, of course, passes out. But Dexter is, of course, quite touched by the artistic spirit.
Yes, "Dexter" is an acquired taste that it appears millions are acquiring. If the TV show just isn't enough for you, I happily suggest you start reading the books, beginning with the one that started it all, "Darkly Dreaming Dexter."
©2009 by Ron Miller. The book cover is courtesy of Doubleday. This column first posted Sept. 28, 2009.
Ron Miller is a former nationally syndicated television columnist and the author of "Mystery! A Celebration," the official companion book to PBS' "Mystery!" series. He currently writes about television mysteries for MYSTERY SCENE magazine.
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