Friday, January 23, 2009

Darkly Dreaming Dexter - Jeff Lindsay (Book 1)

So many people keep telling me that Dexter is a great series to watch. I know the premise - a serial killer who only kills other serial killers. Given what I do for a living, I didn't think I needed to spend my time watching such a show. Though, obviously I am intrigued. Then while at the library the other day, I stumbled upon this book, and discovered that Dexter the TV series is based on it. The alliteration in the title, and throughout the book does not seem to have much relevance to the subject matter - other than that Dexter is methodical in his thinking, and somewhat prone to patterns. He is a blood spatter expert with a foster sister on the force. She is having trouble moving up the chain of command, and calls Dexter in to help her with a rash of prostitute murders. We learn that Dexter has a sixth sense about these things. He was brought into his foster family when he was three, with no real memories of his life before. There are hints of horrific abuse, but nothing concrete. Dexter describes himself as emotionless, and having always harbored this urge to kill. His foster father, also a police officer, recognized this trait in Dexter and honed Dexter's skills, hoping that someday when he finally carried out his need to kill a human being, that he would do so for the greater good. Dexter's character plays into all the stereotypes of a sociopath that I work at trying to dispel - the idea that people are born evil, that they have no choice, and that given the benefit of a loving family and an adequate support system, they cannot possibly make good choices. Of course, Dexter does exhibit symptoms of mental illness - he seems to have hallucinations and he sense a controlling presence in his life. But, ultimately, Lindsay has written him as an attractive Hannibal Lecter who just can't help himself. This part of the character frustrated me. But, as a straight-forward quick mystery with gory details, I did find it entertaining. But, do not look here for complex characters or witty dialogue. Like any form of entertainment that promotes sterotypes of presents certain groups in a less than realistic way, I worry that the general public's view will be warped - and that in this instance, their humanity toward the mentally ill or those who have suffered tortuous upbringings will be lessened. That being said, I can understand the appeal. There are a couple more books in Lindsay's Dexter series, though apparently the television show is not based on these - and has simply taken the underlying premise and gone off independetly from there. Someday, I'm sure I will get around to watching it.

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