Title: Darkly Dreaming Dexter.
Author: Jeff Lindsay.
Genre: Fiction, mystery, crime, dark humour.
Publication Date: 2004.
Summary: Meet Dexter Morgan, polite wolf in sheep's clothing. He's handsome and charming, but something in his past has made him abide by a different set of rules - his humanity is a well-practiced act, and he is incapable of empathy. But he's a serial killer whose one golden rule makes him immensely likeable: he only kills bad people. His job as a blood splatter expert for the Miami police department puts him in the perfect position to identify his victims. But when a series of brutal murders bearing a striking similarity to his own style start turning up, Dexter is caught between being flattered and being frightened—of himself or some other fiend.
My rating: 6/10.
My Review: I found the concept very compelling at first. And for the first couple of chapters, I was fascinated with Dexter and his perfectly contrived life. The idea of a person who doesn't have any human emotion but chooses to be an ethical killer and valuable society member is nothing short of fascinating. But, as a person who really appreciates subtlety, this fact actually quickly became annoying because Dexter reminds you of it constantly. Every situation he encounters, every interaction he goes through, he feels the need to point out he doesn't understand it, doesn't relate to it, and is faking. I find that fact unnecessary, since it completely takes away from what he's trying to do (I don't believe people who have no empathy spend 24/7 thinking about how they have no empathy). The ending twist felt like it wasn't filled out enough. Lindsay spent an entire novel setting it up, and then all of a couple of pages resolving it. Though Lindsay hasn't made it clear at this point in the story what he intends the Dark Passenger to be, precisely (although it would be reasonable to presume he is a "dark side" of Dexter, as opposed to some kind of third-party demon), I find it impossible to believe that Dexter's twin would have the exact same trauma-based mental issues as him down to the last thought and craving. I don't pretend to know the nature of twins, but I don't buy that two children separated almost pre-sentience would continue identical life-styles for decades. That somehow their trauma would manifest in identical ways even though they had very different upbringings, not to mention somehow, whilst his twin is able to literally invade his mind, Dexter is unaware of this connection his whole life, until it becomes convenient for the story. All in all, this novel is a bit of a sloppy mess and half-ass. It moves quickly and grabs you in the beginning, kind of comes completely apart by the end, but is an ok book if you need a very quick, very light, very thoughtless read. (I read these kind of books to clear my palate after reading heavy lit. It works.)
♥ "Please," he said. "I couldn't help myself. I just couldn't help myself. Please, you have to understand—"
"I do understand, Father," I said, and there was something in my voice, the Dark Passenger's voice now, and the sound of it froze him. He lifted his head slowly to face me and what he saw in my eyes made him very still. "I understand perfectly," I told him, moving very close to his face. The sweat on his cheeks turned to ice. "You see," I said, "I can't help myself, either."
♥ Did he see himself at last, unable to scream, turning into that kind of mess in the garden?
He would not, of course. His imagination did not allow him to see himself as the same species. And in a way, he was right. He would never turn into the kind of mess he had made of the children. I would never do that, could never allow that. I am not like Father Donovan, not that kind of monster.
I am a very neat monster.
♥ I felt a lot better. I always did, after. Killing makes me feel good. It works the knots out of darling Dexter's dark schemata. It's a sweet release, a necessary letting go of all the little hydraulic valves inside. I enjoy my work; sorry if that bothers you. Oh, very sorry, really. But there it is. And it's not just any killing, of course. It has to be done the right way, at the right time, with the right partner—very complicated, but very necessary.
And always somewhat draining. So I was tired, but the tension of the last week was gone, the cold voice of the Dark Passenger was quiet, and I could be me again. Quirky, funny, happy-go-lucky, dead-inside Dexter. No longer Dexter with the knife, Dexter the Avenger. Not until next time.
♥ Children. I should have killed him twice.
Whatever made me the way I am left me hollow, empty inside, unable to feel. It doesn't seem like a big deal. I'm quite sure most people fake an awful lot of everyday human contact. I just fake all of it. I fake it very well, and the feelings are never there. But I like kids. I could never have them, since the idea of sex is no idea at all. Imagine doing those things—How can you? Where's your sense of dignity? But kids—kids are special.
♥ It its own way, it is paradise. Particularly if you are a cockroach. Rows of buildings that manage to glitter and molder at the same time. Bright neon over ancient, squalid, sponge-rotted structures. If you don't go at night, you won't go. Because to see these places by daylight is to see the bottom line of our flimsy contract with life.
♥ There was something just slightly off in Vince's bright, Asian smile. Like he had learned to smile from a picture book. Even when he made the required dirty put-down jokes with the cops, nobody got mad at him. Nobody laughed, either, but that didn't stop him. He kept making all the correct ritual gestures, but he always seemed to be faking. That's why I liked him, I think. Another guy pretending to be human, just like me.
♥ I have to work with her anyway. So I have used my considerable charm to make her like me. Easier than you might think. Anybody can be charming if they don't mind faking it, saying all the stupid, obvious, nauseating things that a conscience keeps most people from saying. Happily, I don't have a conscience. I say them.
♥ The wind in my face and the taste of the salt spray helped clear my head, made me feel clean and a little fresher. I found it a great deal easier to think. Part of it was the calm and peace of the water. And another part was that in the best tradition of Miami watercraft, most of the other boaters seemed to be trying to kill me. I found that very relaxing. I was right at home. This is my country; these are my people.
♥ And strangest of strange, he gives me a very small, almost shy, Harry smile. "I've been expecting this. What happened to you when you were a little kid has shaped you. I've tried to straighten that out, but—" He shrugs. "It was too strong, too much. It got into you too early and it's going to stay there. It's going to make you want to kill. And you can't help that. You can't change that. But," he says, and he looks away again, to see what I can't tell. "But you can channel it. Control it. Choose—" his words come so carefully low, more careful than I've ever heard him talk "—choose what... or who... you kill..." And he gave me a smile unlike any I had ever seen before, a smile as bleak and dry as the ashes of our dying fire. "There are plenty of people who deserve it, Dex..."
And with those few little words he gave a shape to my whole life, my everything, my who and what I am. The wonderful, all-seeing, all-knowing man. Harry. My dad.
If only I was capable of love, how I would have loved Harry.
♥ Be careful, Harry said. And he taught me to be careful as only a cop could teach a killer.
To choose carefully among those who deserved it. To make absolutely sure. Then tidy up. Leave no traces. And always avoid emotional involvement; it can lead to mistakes.
Being careful went beyond the actual killing, of course. Being careful meant building a careful life, too. Compartmentalize. Socialize. Imitate life.
All of which I had done, so very carefully. I was a near perfect hologram. Above suspicion, beyond reproach, and beneath contempt. A neat and polite monster, the boy next door.
♥ I might have stopped anyway, to show off Rita. The whole point of wearing a disguise was to be seen wearing her.
♥ "I—I'm not sure. Just—We all assume that... things... really are a certain way. The way they're supposed to be? And then they never are, they're always more... I don't know. Darker? More human. Like this. I'm thinking, of course the detective wants to catch the killer, isn't that what detectives do? And it never occurred to me before that there could be anything at all political about murder."
"Practically everything," I said. I turned onto her street and slowed down in front of her neat and unremarkable house.
"But you," she said. She didn't seem to notice where we were or what I had said. "That's where you start. Most people would never really think it through that far."
"I'm not all that deep, Rita," I said. I nudged the car into park.
"It's like, everything really is two ways, the way we all pretend it is and the way it really is. And you already know that and it's like a game for you."
♥ I don't pretend to understand why, but in my darker moments I find cold cleansing. Not refreshing so much as necessary.
♥ "How cold?"
"Like meatpacking cold," she said. "Why would he do that?"
Because it's beautiful, I thought. "It would slow the flow of blood," I said.
♥ In spite of feeling so very moved by the thing, I didn't have any immediate theories about what it meant. Sometimes great art is like that. It affects you and you can't say why. Was it deep symbolism? A cryptic message? A wrenching plea for help and understanding? Impossible to say, and to me, not the most important thing at first. I just wanted to breathe it in.
♥ Many times in my life I have felt like I was missing something, some essential piece of the puzzle that everybody else carried around with them without thinking about it. I don't usually mind, since most of those times it turns out to be an astonishingly stupid piece of humania like understanding the infield fly rule or not going all the way on the first date.
But at other times I feel like I am missing out on a great reservoir of warm wisdom, the lore of some sense I don't possess that humans feel so deeply they don't need to talk about it and can't even put it into words.
♥ I stopped once more, at a small, dark park almost to Rita's house, and washed off carefully. I had to be neat and presentable; getting yelled at by a furious woman should be treated as a semiformal occasion.
♥ "Until then, carpe diem."
"It's Latin," I said. "It means, complain in daylight."
♥ I had been too good too many times. It could become a problem. But what could I do? Be stupid for a while? I wasn't sure I knew how, even after so many years of careful observation.
♥ And she rubbed her body against mine in a way that could only be called suggestive. Surely there could be no question of—I mean, here she was, a defender of public morality, and yet right here in public—and even in privacy of a bank vault I would have been truly uninterested in being rubbed by her body. Not to mention the fact that I had just handed her a rope with the hope that she would use it to hang herself, which hardly seemed like the sort of thing one would celebrate by—Well really, had the whole world gone mad? What is it with humans? Is this all any of them ever thinks about?
♥ Weren't we all crazy in our sleep? What was sleep, after all, but the process by which we dumped our insanity into a dark subconscious pit and came out on the other side ready to eat cereal instead of the neighbor's children?
♥ Their Midwest driving skills were no match for a Miami Cuban woman with good medical insurance driving a car she didn't care about.