So I’ve been miserably ill with a dislocated neck this past week. It’s been causing the kind of constant and persistent headache that makes it impossible to do anything useful. I can’t write, I can’t edit, and I sure as hell don’t want to be on social media, because I’m crabby and bitchy and I can’t concentrate, which is an excellent way to get into a flame war, as we used to call it on Yahoogroups back in the Late Cretaceous Social Media Era.
It seemed a good time to catch up on some reading. But naturally, I wasn’t even up to reading anything particularly challenging.
Which makes it a perfect time for Dexter.
I love Dexter. He’s a guilty pleasure, like eating pre-made cookie dough out of the package without cooking it into cookies. A psychopathic serial killer with a wacky sense of humour, who only kills other serial killers, despite the fact that he’s exactly as twisted as they are, is a great hook. Better yet, for those unfamiliar with the series or the TV show that was based on it, Dexter is a forensic pathologist in Miami who specializes in blood spatter. It’s the perfect setup for a thriller, especially since his foster-sister is a Sergeant with the Force, and where he can’t go in investigation, she can.
Dexter follows what he calls The Code of Harry. Harry was his foster father (and Deborah’s father.) He kills the monsters who slip through the cracks. He must be 100% convinced of their guilt before he commits the murder. Deborah, as of the last book, now knows this about her brother, so there is some tension: will she turn him in? She makes catching people like him her life’s work.
But the fact that this was understood and sanctioned by Harry gives her pause. He was their moral compass. If he thought this was okay…
Dexter never disappoints, but one of the conceits of these novels is Dexter’s belief in what he calls his “Dark Passenger.” This is the urge to be violent and to kill, and while he accepts responsibility for it, in a way he also views it as something outside of himself. He views his life as a masquerade to hide the deeds of the Dark Passenger, which he, like other homicidal psychopaths in the past, lives for.
This novel stretches the limits of this hypothesis, however. First of all, in the last few books, Dexter has found himself a wife (who was horribly abused by her previous husband and therefore, not much interested in sex as a rule) and her two kids (who are psychopaths like Dexter, purportedly because of the trauma inflicted by their father.)
When you know that Dexter was drawn to this family for this reason… okay, fair enough. He intends to instruct these kids, particularly Cody, who also seems to have a Dark Passenger he calls Shadow Guy (but not Astor, his older sister? But she’s still a sadistic psychopath? Not sure why… is this because men are more often serial killers than women?… but that might be a misleading statistic; certainly men are caught more than women are, but I’m not sure that isn’t a matter of expectation and unconscious sexism… anyway, I digress…) in the Harry Way, so they will turn their evil to “good.”
But this book also gets into some metaphysical stuff that I wasn’t looking for out of this series. The bad guys are a Moloch-worshiping cult, and they are presented as the creation and home of the original Dark Passenger. Dexter’s is terrified of them, so it bugs off and fails to provide the usual insights that it gives Dexter in his work. Which basically turns him into a bumbling idiot.
I am willing to allow that much of this is “unreliable narrator.” Dexter tells his story in the first person, and this could just be a symptom of his crazy. But there are a lot of things that stretch credulity in this regard. Maybe the point is for you to wonder, but I was enjoying Lindsay’s intimate understanding of how the psychopathic mind works, and I don’t think I appreciate this foray into toying with the idea of demonic possession. I’ve read books that did this already; they were called The Complete Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice, and they were good, but I liked the solid grounding of this universe in observable reality.
But, Dexter’s sarcastic humour in regards to the behaviour of people, the “cheerfully homicidal” Miami traffic, and Murphy’s Law, never fails to elicit a laugh.
Definitely worth a read if you like thrillers and whodunnits and you have my screwed up sense of humour, despite my complaints!