REVIEW Likable sociopath puts new spin on serial-killer novel



The ghoulish tale is different and disturbing.
By WANDA J. DEMARZO
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
"Darkly Dreaming Dexter," by Jeff Lindsay (Doubleday, $22.95)
Dexter Morgan is polite, well-dressed and attractive. He has a wonderful sense of humor and a good job as a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami-Dade Police Department. He is the type of man you might bring home to meet your family. Except for one thing: Dexter is a sociopathic serial killer. But don't worry. He kills only bad people.
Jeff Lindsay's debut thriller is a delight to read, a dark comedy with a creative twist: The bad guy is the hero. Dexter doesn't consider himself a monster. For example: He kidnaps and murders a priest with a proclivity for abusing and killing children. Dexter's foster father taught him at an early age to channel his lust for killing toward those who deliver death themselves.
Dexter's dilemma
But Dexter soon finds himself in turmoil. Another serial killer is working in Miami, and Dexter is drawn to his artistry. His foster sister Deborah, a Miami-Dade cop, asks Dexter to help her crack the case, already assigned to a hard-nosed female detective, Migdia LaGuerta. Deborah wants to nab the killer before Migdia, and she knows she's got an inside track: Dexter, who always has insight into what killers are thinking.
But soon Dexter senses the killer is trying to communicate with him, asking him to come out and play. And Dexter really wants to play. But he begins having dark dreams and worries that he may be the one committing the crimes. Is he no longer able to curb his desire to kill?
This ghoulish, fascinating tale, narrated by Dexter, will grip readers and make a lasting impression. It's different from anything you've read. The most disturbing thing about the book may be that Dexter is so likable, for a murderer. He's honest and refreshing in that he recognizes he's not quite human. There's something innocent about him, and he's charming and intelligent, much like Hannibal Lecter, though without Lecter's habit of killing indiscriminately and cooking tasty dishes made from the organs of his victims.
Realistic details
What also adds fun to this novel is that Lindsay, who grew up in Coconut Grove, inserts realistic touches that South Florida residents will appreciate: pastelitos, Cuban coffee, horrendous drivers and hard-to-understand Spanish: "The Cuban dialect is the despair of the Spanish-speaking world. The trick to following it is to know what the person is going to say before they say it."
Most of all, "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" is thrilling in its new spin on the overwrought, often trite, serial killer novel. The book closes with Dexter's dreaming of his next victim, a Miami-Dade cop who knows what Dexter likes to do when the moon is full.
"And things would go on as they were, as they had always been, beneath that lovely bright moon," Dexter thinks. And when the moon is full, many readers won't be able to forget that Dexter is somewhere out there under "the wonderful, fat, musical red moon," disposing of the bad guys.

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