Sometime between June and August, I read Darkly Dreaming Dexter and forgot to write about it. This past summer was a blur of road trips, celebrations, and humidity. I remember reading it after introducing Joe to the first season of Dexter, but before loading up the UHaul with all our earthly possessions. In any event, I read Darkly Dreaming Dexter, and I must confess that it was hard to get into at first. This is one of those peculiar circumstances where the set-up chapters (who’s who, and why, and where, and is that a dead body in the dumpster?) are actually so similar to the pilot episode of the show, I was quite bored.
As a side note, when it comes to adapted work, I never quite know whether to read the book first, or watch the movie/show first, or just stick to one or the other. It’s a tricky thing to revisit a story, or in this case a character, that you feel you already know so intimately. Surprisingly I have read books that are not as good as the movie, and less surprisingly, I have seen screen work that does not hold up as well as the novels they are based on. I am sure most fiction fans face that problem, though; especially right now, with so many comic and YA series becoming films.
Anyway, about 1/3 of the way through, the book and the show diverged a bit, and once I was reading new information and insights, I found it very enjoyable. The main focus of Darkly Dreaming Dexter is of course the titular character, Dexter Morgan. He’s a brother, a son, a forensic analyst for Miami PD, a boating enthusiast, and a serial killer. He’s just so lovable, though, the oblivious, non-malicious, and non-cannibalistic version of Hannibal Lecter. He grew up without the capacity to feel, or to see humans as valuable individuals. This seems to be only something he holds onto from his past, however, as he expresses great affection — and possibly even love — for his late adoptive parents and his sister Debra. Despite his apparent sociopathy, he has a wicked sense of humor and a keen ability to read people, giving many passages of this dark story some fun levity.
In this first book of the Dexter series, A new serial killer has popped up in Miami. He leaves his victims bloodless and clean somehow, which intrigues Dexter to no end. After a very short while, it becomes obvious this rival killer is leaving the bodies specifically for Dexter to find. But why? Is it dangerous? Or is it an invitation to play?
This is ultimately a fun read, especially if it is your first foray into the world of Dexter Morgan. If you have seen the show and haven’t read the novels, I’ll be honest with you: you just have to stick with it. Some of the characters and twists are very different from the show, and by the end you might be as shocked as I was that it concludes on a very different note than the end of the first season.