I have to confess that one of my recent major perversions has been following the ‘Dexter’ franchise on TV. My original fascination arose from the notion of the story line – a forensic blood spatter technician who happens to be a serial killer, but only of nasty people who need to be ‘offed’ – combined with the lead character role being Michael C Hall who I remembered fondly as the gay undertaker character in ‘Six Foot Under’. I watched 96 episodes over 8 seasons which ended only recently with the almost death of the lead character. Recently I noted the ‘last’ (eighth) volume of the novel series of the same name was available as a fastback loan. I have read none of the previous seven stories and was interested to compare and see if I might want to read them.
It turned out that while there were similarities inn characters (especially Dexter’s potty-mouthed detective sister and his apparitional father (an irritating characteristic of much American TV), the Dexter character as written had some major differences especially over food and eating, was wryly witty and was a largely more considered character as well.
On TV, Dexter ‘dies’ after parting company with all the things and people toward which he has developed affection (as a murderous psychopath he is not supposed to have empathic feelings) by driving his boat into a hurricane. The last moments of that episode, however, show him as having survived but having lost everything. The last novel has a long and colourful description of him dying after an apocalyptic scene on a drug dealer’s super yacht that involves killings and explosions. Still, he might survive even that.
The last novel starts out with Dexter in extreme jail isolation for murders he ironically did not commit and losing touch with job, family and friends. His brother, Brian (another psychopath) is the only one still willing to help him apart from his creepily amusing Lab buddy Vince Masuoka. A lawyer is hired to help and Masuoka obtains evidence that might just set things right. However, a major drug lord has been disturbed and irritated along the way (mostly a Brian problem) and a major war of attrition is precipitated. There is the usual gore quotient and a violent conclusion but it is not the usual variety arising from the needs of Dexter’s ‘dark passenger’.
I thought that there were major weaknesses in the plotting and characterisations, especially his detective nemesis and the oh-so-obvious blue SUV. I had the feeling that Lindsay was capable of better and this was a pedestrian effort lacking the darkly interesting characterisations and interactions that were key to the TV franchise.
I am now undecided whether to try some of the earlier volumes to see if they make more interesting and enthralling reading. A pity as it might have been interesting to leap into the other seven novels.