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Onyx reviews: Dexter is Dead by Jeff Lindsay

Reviewed by Bev Vincent, 09/19/2015

It must be difficult enough to write a crime series that is being simultaneously adapted as a popular cable TV program, especially when the plot of the TV series diverges rapidly with the novels. And most especially when the series comes to an end, and perhaps not a conclusion with which everyone is satisfied.

The Showtime series ran for eight seasons and 96 episodes, while there has been a mere seven novels leading up to Dexter is Dead, which is billed as the final one. But what does "dead" mean? One could suggest that Dexter Morgan in the the cable series is dead to the world at the end of the final episode. And how exactly do you kill off a character who is a first person narrator?

Dexter is Dead begins with the serial killer behind bars, but not for any crimes that he actually committed. It follows on the heels of Dexter's Final Cut, where Dexter's loveable but oblivious wife meets much the same fate as she did on the TV series, though by different hands. The culprit is also dead, but no one will believe Dexter when he says he didn't kill the actor (it was Dexter's step-daughter Astrid who did so), or when he accuses the celebrity of being a pedophile. Especially not Detective Anderson, who is determined to see Dexter in prison for life, if not worse.

Dexter is in prison without bail and without much understanding of the circumstances that have him incarcerated. He's adrift, too blasť about his fate to even wonder about things like "due process" and "right to a speedy trial." He's not terribly concerned about his children, either: his daughter with Rita and Rita's own two children, budding sociopaths in their own right. He is, however, upset to discover that his usually faithful sister, Deb, thinks that prison is the right place for him, regardless of whether he is responsible for the crimes of which he's accused. Deb knows all about her brother's proclivities, and she's finally waking up to the fact that, despite his "best intentions," people die because of him, and sometimes innocents get caught in the crossfire. She disavows him—he's not her real brother, after all.

This lights a bit of a fire under him, sparking emotions he steadfastly denies he has. Then he falls heir to Frank Kraunauer, a celebrity attorney known for getting even the obviously guilty off. How did he come to this top-notch lawyer's attention?

The only person left in Dexter's life is his brother, Brian, who once tried to convince Dexter to kill his sister. Brian is as much of a sociopath as Dexter, perhaps even moreso because he was never trained to pretend to be human, but one of his lifelong goals has been to go on a killing spree with his brother, something that can't happen with Dexter in prison. So he finances Dexter's liberty, although his means of doing so create all manner of problems for both men and put them in the sights of a drug cartel's infamous hitman.

While readers may have had sympathy for Dexter off and on over the course of the series, in these circumstances he's not a terribly likable person, especially compared to the way he was in the previous novel, where he foresaw a life without killing and a long-term relationship that wasn't a sham. True, he seems genuinely concerned about repairing his relationship with Deb, but he is equally concerned about the horrible traffic situation in Miami and his constant quest to find good food. 

He needs to prove that the crucial evidence against him was fabricated by a vindictive police detective and to forge some kind of working relationship with his brother that won't leave them both dead. How does that all work out? Well, the title could properly be called a spoiler and Lindsay has said that he intends this to be the final novel in the series. And yet, the problem of the first person narrative and some seemingly arbitrary shifts between past and present tense allow for the possibility that this is not the end for Dexter. Should Lindsay be so inclined, there's enough wiggle room left to resurrect his famous creation.

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