Sunday, May 3, 2009

Deliciously Devious Dexter - Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Where do I start with "Darkly Dreaming Dexter"? My wife picked up the book and loved it. Than it was recommended by my MySpace pal, Richard Bellush Jr. especially after my blogs about Alfred Hitchock's "Rope". So I figured that there had to be something to this book, and especially it's puzzling main character that attracted these readers and the creators of the Showtime television series, "Dexter".

The character of Dexter is one that should not be considered the protagonist. He kills people and he does it as a kind of pleasurable release. He's a very controlled, very dangerous serial killer. He cannot care about people - he doesn't understand them. He tries his best to fit in and be "normal" but continues to be puzzled by their behavior. Dexter is a human who doesn't understand human nature.

How can a reader relate to this type of person? Well you give him a set of guidelines. Dexter only kills people who deserve to be killed (like other serial killers). These guidelines were passed down to him by his foster father, an ex-cop who figured out what Dexter was at an early age. He introduced the idea of meting out justice in your own way. This allows Dexter to indulge in his need to kill, and he is doing society a service. This at least makes Dexter's murderous tendencies a little more palatable.

The writer also tells the entire story from Dexter's point of view. So we get to see how he observes the rest of us humans. It's actually pretty interesting to see how Dexter just doesn't understand emotions. One of the characters is obviously hitting on Dexter and it takes about a third of the book before he figures it out. Then he's disturbed by it, because the thought of actual physical contact with a person is repellant to him (unless he's cutting them up). When he actually puts the pieces together he figures that if he can fake interest in her back, then he might be able to get something out of it.

Dexter is also cheerful and optimistic in his own way. He doesn't let himself get too concerned about anything that doesn't really directly affect him. Except for blood. He hates bleeding and blood and messy killings. Did I mention he works for the forensics unit for the police department and is a blood spatter expert. Yeah, Dexter's got a bit of a complicated life.

And all this makes it very easy for writer Jeff Lindsay to add conflict to the story. Just about everything in Dexter's life ends up making things a little more difficult for him. For example, he runs into a new group of killings that speaks to him and his inner killer, Dexter becomes conflicted. He wants to find the killer sit down and talk with him or her and maybe even help them with their work. Then the part of Dexter that is governed by justice wants to take the killer down.

This makes for a fascinating read, one in which you are cheering Dexter on and at the same time hoping he doesn't cross that line that turns him from a colorful anti-hero to someone you don't like.

Have you read the first Dexter book? What did you think? Have you seen the show? Have you ever read a story or seen a film where the killer was the protagonist? How did the creator pull you into the story?

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