Review: Dexter in the Dark (2007)  

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I finished this book in three days without even trying hard, which says a lot for effortless readability of Jeff Lindsay. However, the book was not satisfying. The Dexter series revolves around Dexter Morgan, a forensics investigator who also happens to be a serial killer. Dexter isn't like most serial killers in that he lives by "Harry's Code", a code his adopted father drilled into him. He only kills those he finds with absolute certainty are guilty of heinous crimes.

*** Spoiler Warning ***

This latest book finds Dexter stalked by an ancient demon-god worshiped by King Solomon, yes, that's King Solomon of the old testament, named Moloch. Dexter eventually realizes that his own Dark Passenger is a bastard spawn of Moloch, an abomination that Moloch is hunting down.

The Dark Passenger deserts Dexter for most of the book and Dexter loses his touch. We learn that he's not really much without his Passenger, and that includes smart. After being stalked several times, even after he's warned with "he will find you" by one of his victims, he realizes very little of what's going on until the end.

My main beef with this book is that Lindsay had to turn the psychosis of Dexter into something supernatural. Why does the Passenger have to be supernatural? Why can't it be a representation of a damaged mind? Do sociopaths really need to be explained away by demon possession?

What I've always liked about Dexter is the gray area his character inhabits. You like him and yet you don't. You cheer for him in his struggle to do the right thing, in his struggle to be human, to be normal. And you sympathize with his damaged personae. But you never really quite accept what he does and you fear that "Harry's Code" will fail and he'll become the monster that's lurking inside him.

Demon possession takes something out of it. He becomes something other than the sum of his experiences and his decisions, he becomes something special, something chosen. He becomes a vessel, not quite free to act on his own. And it's not nearly as interesting. We're not exploring psychology so much as exploring parapsychology.

I wish Lindsay had taken the story in a different direction.

The television series started up last weekend too and so far it's stuck with the natural. There's even a scene in the first episode where a voodoo priest curses Dexter. Dexter reacts by thumping him on the head, stopping the charlatan in mid-sentence. It's funny and it's much more fitting of the series.

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6 comments: to “ Review: Dexter in the Dark (2007)

  • PBS
    Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 6:29:00 AM CDT  

    I'd rather have a psychological explanation, too. But the super-natural stuff is popular and sells so well!

  • Saegiru
    Sunday, October 14, 2007 at 11:59:00 PM CDT  

    I don't know if you happened to watch the third episode tonight, but I am extremely worried they are going to pull the Moloch crap in the series now. They talked alot about the "Dark Passenger", which I don't have too much of a problem with... as long as they keep it purely psychological and real-life. I guess we can only wait and see though.

  • ordinarygirl
    Monday, October 15, 2007 at 6:35:00 AM CDT  

    Yeah, that worried me a bit too. But, I'm hoping as much as they're doing "The Secret" thing with Angel that they'll stay away from the supernatural.

  • Thanatos
    Friday, October 19, 2007 at 9:22:00 PM CDT  

    I agree, overall. I found the book entertaining in it's own right, but Dexter is the only story I know of where I prefer the show over the book version.

    To me, the creep factor of the whole concept is in finding yourself empathizing with a person who can't feel empathy, and agreeing with his ends if not the means... and then wondering just what that says about your own darker side. Turning it into something spiritual cheapens that, I think.

    I'll still likely get further novels in the series, but I'll have to just take them as an unrelated character that shares the same general concept... kind of like The Dresden Files, only reversed. That show is entertaining if you can separate it from the books, which are wonderful.

  • Maughta
    Friday, November 2, 2007 at 6:42:00 PM CDT  

    I agree. Still as well written as the previous two "Dexters", but the plot didn't please me. The most interesting thing about Dexter is his "Dark Passenger," so to have it missing for the majority of the book was disappointing. Couple that with a weird plot involving gods and aliens(?) and a rather boring/confusing/Deus ex machina denouement at the end and this left me cold.

    While I'm very fond of urban fantasy as a genre, I'd prefer to keep this series strictly in the "realism" camp of mystery/thrillers. Bummer.

  • surly1
    Saturday, January 3, 2009 at 2:21:00 AM CST  

    I agree with ordinary girl even though I definitely did enjoy this book. The psychological aspect is interesting enough without the need to add a supernatural cause. After watching the Most Evil (Discovery Channel) documentary series it does seem that there is a common, very disturbing trait shared by a majority of the serial killers that were interviewed. Where does all that evil come from? I have no idea. For all I know Moloch could be involved.

    My other qualm is that I don't see the need to have Dexter training both Cody and Astor in the ways of his dark art. I don't think that every person who experienced violence as a child is automatically transformed into a serial killer.

    The last book would have been great for the TV series and don't we all miss Doakes?


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