Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Dexter by Design" by Jeff Lindsay

Lindsay returns to the Dexter that we all know and love (and perhaps fear just a bit). After a small mis-step with his third in this series ("Dexter in the Dark"), Lindsay comes smashing back with "Dexter by Design". I'm very happy with the results; there are only a few small things to worry about, rather than the whole work.

The book opens with our favorite blood-spatter analyst and psychopath on his honeymoon in Paris with new wife Rita. Dexter is not overly impressed by all things French, certainly not like his wife. However, all is not lost; Rita drags him to an art exhibit that proves to be most enlightening. The final work is the most daring, and Dexter is duly impressed - Jennifer's Leg is a series of video pieces that appear to show a young woman cutting off bits of her own leg with a chainsaw. Rita and several of the other gallery patrons are horrified, refusing to believe that the video vignettes are "real" - only Dexter knows how incredible they are, having done some of the same work himself.

Back in Miami, he continues to hone his "human" disguise, playing the good husband and now-step-father to Cody and Astor. Of course, his new kids have a dark side of their own, one that Dexter intends to nurture just as his foster-father, Harry, did with him. Dexter's Dark Passenger is back and looking for new playmates, and it appears that one just hit town. Bodies are being found in very public places, bodies with their insides taken out and displays of items left insides, bodies that are proving to be very bad business for the Miami Tourism Board. This is a case where the old adage about any publicity being good publicity is just not true. Dexter's Dark Passenger is intrigued by these bodies, but doesn't really have much to say to its host, not until Dexter's sister Deborah has been knifed while attempting to question a suspect.

After Debs is rushed to the hospital, Alex Doncevic is arrested and brought in for questioning, only to be released soon after. He returns with a very high-profile lawyer, claiming that he will sue Miami P.D. for false arrest; Dexter is brought in to the captain's office and asked again about the incident. Events play out quickly, and the chase is on. But just who is Dexter chasing? Doncevic, or someone else? And what about the email Dex receives, the one with a link to a video on YouTube, a video clip that shows someone that looks very much like Dexter from behind, doing what Dexter does best? Is this a new playmate? Or is this the end of Dexter?

Most of the characters that have appeared in the previous books are back, such as Dexter's sister, Debs; her boyfriend, Kyle Chutsky (who may have CIA connections or something equally mysterious); fellow analyst Vince Masuoka (without all his dirty jokes this time); detective Angel Batista (but not nearly enough); and of course, Doakes, Dexter's nemesis on the force. Now, if you've only watched the series, be aware - there are some very big differences between the TV show and the books. Doakes is one of those very big differences, and if you follow both, you know what I'm talking about. If not, read the books because Doakes is so much more interesting in the books, especially after he's "modified".

The little things that I mentioned at the beginning of the review are just that - probably petty little things. Such as Cody and Astor. I get the beauty of Dexter having to instill some sort of "moral code" in them, just as Harry instilled in Dexter. But let us not forget - Harry did it to keep Dexter from just randomly killing people; Dexter wouldn't know "moral" if it came up and bit him in the butt. And while I do see shades of Dex in Cody, I just don't pick up the same thing in Astor. Her actions almost feel like a sibling jealously of Cody - if he can do it, I can do it - that sort of thing. I'm not entirely convinced that she's got the real killer instinct, nor do I think both children need to be little potential psychos. I also wonder about Dexter's blood slides, the ones he collects from his playmates. Now that he's a married man with a family, where exactly are those precious mementos? The book mentions something about his "office" and that Rita doesn't go in there - has he stashed them there? It just doesn't feel very safe to me; would you put something that important, private, and potentially damaging in a room that could be accessed by anyone in your house? It didn't state that his office was locked and he the only one in possession of a key. What if Rita gets a hankering to do some spring cleaning?

Just little picky things, I think, but still...

Overall, a much, much better entry than that third book, but not quite as good as the first two in the series. I do dearly love Dexter, though, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

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