Book Review: Dexter by Design by Jeff Lindsay

Dexter by Design (Dexter, #4)Dexter by Design by Jeff Lindsay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Still struggling through with my headache, so not much to do but read. And I wasn’t up to reading anything challenging, so it was a perfect time to carry through with the next Dexter: An Omnibus novel, my guilty pleasure. For those unaware, Dexter is a psychopathic serial killer who hunts and kills only other serial killers, the ones who slip through the cracks of the justice system. And he’s in a unique position to find them, since he is a forensic pathologist with a specialty in blood spatter who works for the Miami police department.

I liked this book considerably better than the last one, Dexter in the Dark. Nobody dabbled in supernatural weirdness in this one (whether that was a case of Dexter’s crazy in an unreliable narrator technique, or not). Just a sick bastard who likes creating screwed up art with the bodies of tourists, and a real ironic sense of critiquing society that appeals to be my funny bone, even as I’m disgusted by it.

And that’s the key to the whole story, actually. We start out with Dexter’s “Dark Passenger,” his inner serial killer, being strangely silent when normally, the insight it offers him is part of how he catches the bad guys so well. Silent, but mildly amused.

I was immediately annoyed. The Dark Passenger is part of what makes Dexter so awesome, and we’ve been without his company for one whole book already, and now you’re doing it to us again? Lindsay, what’s the deal, here? I realize that it’s important to constantly up the stakes, but you’re sucking all the juice out of the food! Stories where the hero (anti-hero?) loses his superpowers are fun and good for character growth, but you only do one at a time. Eventually we want to see them get their powers back.

But… Lindsay fooled me, and apparently, he fooled a lot of other reviewers too. Because that’s the thing: this isn’t what it looks like. And because it isn’t, Dexter runs into a problem that’s entirely of his own making. One should never take responsibility for the actions of others (nobody ever makes anyone hit them or be cruel to them or try to kill themselves, no matter what abusive people say) but the fact is, Dexter makes a crucial mistake, because he doesn’t think things through, and the problem would never have arisen if he hadn’t. And that’s great! “Hoisted on your own petard” is always an excellent plot! And strangely, when we are talking about a serial killer, it’s a moral mistake, and that’s even better!

Much of what I’ve seen in other reviews are perfectly legit critiques, however. In places, the coincidences stretch credibility to the breaking point. I don’t think it’s as bad as some readers do, because I am aware, as others might not be, how easily the human mind sees what it wants to see. If it sees something out of context, it will self-edit to make things fit better in the context they’re expecting. So it really is easier for someone to hide in plain sight, like Dexter is doing, than people seem to think it would be. Still, there’s enough of those unlikely coincidences going on that even I, who wants to cooperate, starts to wonder.

If I could, I would give this book four and a half stars because of that. I would rate it lower, except that I really feel that “hoisted on your own petard” almost completely makes up for it.

My other Dexter reviews:
Darkly Dreaming Dexter
Dearly Devoted Dexter
Dexter in the Dark

View all my reviews

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