For the love of entertainment
By the time Jeff Lindsay got to this, the seventh book in his Dexter series (not to be confused with the TV show, which, as we have discussed, is very different), the books were beginning to fall into a bit of a rut. The killers Dexter finds himself coming up against are pretty consistently fiendishly creative visions on the part of Lindsay, but geez, it feels like suddenly every book needs to end with one or more of the children getting kidnapped and placed in mortal danger. I understand that Dexter’s stepchildren, Astor and Cody, play a bigger role here than they do on the TV show, but it really is too much. It makes you long for a day when dear, devilish Dexter can face down a villain on his own.
This installment promises to be different, which was a thrilling prospect for me. I mean, all you have to do is look at it. First of all, the title drops the repeating D sounds Lindsay has traditionally favored in previous books like Darkly Dreaming Dexter or Dexter in the Dark. Lindsay even casually writes inside “as if alliteration was some kind of wonderfully clever form of wit.”
Well, it doesn’t quite follow through. I mean, it does, but not as much as you (or I) might have been hoping. At least one of the kids still features prominently in the climax. The changes in Dexter’s character throughout the novel seem to get dropped, which is probably a wise choice because they were kinda inexplicable and didn’t really make sense. More on that later. There is, however, one major game changer for the series. Unfortunately, I can’t really get into it here because it’s a pretty big spoiler. Suffice to say that it will be enough for me to eagerly pick up the next volume to see where Lindsay goes with this development.
(Warning: this paragraph contains potential spoilers. Skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid them) As for those changes to Dexter’s character: Lindsay tries to explain them away by acknowledging their inexplicability, but it still rings false for Dexter to be, well … horny. His defining character trait in the books is that he’s immune to normal human urges or feelings. I suppose it’s possible that someone could bring those feelings out, but again, as presented here it just doesn’t feel right. Dexter has always, however, been openly (in his own mind) been out for his own self interests, so it makes sense that he would ‘enjoy’ spending time with Jackie Forrest, an actress who affords Dexter a life of luxury as long as he is by her side. One could make the argument that his sexual relationship with her is more about his desire to grab onto the finer things in life, I suppose. And since, as stated, Dexter isn’t prone to normal human feelings or attachments it could also make sense that he would be perfectly willing to throw away his life with Rita, Astor, Cody, and Lily Anne as soon as something better came along. But it doesn’t ring true at all that he would be willing to lose his beloved cover. Maintaining the appearance of a normal life has always been paramount to Dexter, so what appeal would a life in the spotlight have for him? He wouldn’t be able to be Dastardly Dexter anymore–or at least it would be a great deal more difficult to maintain the illusion that he isn’t slicing and dicing criminals on the side. It’s never very clear whether or not he intended to give up his nefarious hobby, but I feel it’s reasonable to assume that his Dark Passenger wouldn’t be staying away for long. So giving up the massive amounts of cover his job with the police department affords (and the family that makes him look normal) wouldn’t make an ounce of sense. Which is probably why Lindsay had to scheme to get Delusional Dexter slapped back to reality in the end. As much as he can, given the way things end, that is.
There’s a grand history in the recent Dexter books of our antihero getting sloppy about listening to his baser instincts to solve the mystery at hand. At first, it seemed reasonable, but by now it feels like a cheap plot device Lindsay is using to prolong the action. In this installment it actually gets infuriating, because it feels painfully obvious to the reader what is going on and Dexter’s repeated inability to pick up on what is right in front of him makes you want to throw the book across the room. This is another motif that needs to die in the next book.
Lindsay remains a witty writer. I admire his decision to stick to his guns and not allow Dexter to become humanized in the way the TV show did (unless Dexter’s “feelings” carry forward, that is). This book may have the game changer the series needs going forward, but that doesn’t make it feel like any less of a slog at times.
For more Dexter, check out my previous post comparing the book series to the TV series.
PS As part of my mission statement, I am obliged to inform you that I received a free ARC of this book as part of the Amazon Vine program.