Onyx reviews: Dexter by Design by
Everyone's favorite serial killer is in a bind. His
sister, Deb, is having difficulty coming to terms with Dexter's homicidal hobby. His new
wife, Rita, suspects that her son, Cody, was emotionally scarred by his father.
His nemesis Sergeant Doakes has
programmed his new speech synthesizer to repeat his mantra: I'm watching you.
And Dexter's Dark Passenger still wants to go out to play.
Recently back from his honeymoon in Paris, Dexter gets involved in a series
of unusual crimes. Bodies are found posed in
public locations. Their innards are removed and replaced by fruit and champagne.
Dexter's Dark Passenger is oddly silent on the matter, which leads Miami Police
Department's blood spatter expert to think there's something atypical about
these crimes. The deaths are incidental—it's the display that is important
to the perpetrator. Dexter's intuition leads him to suggest that the killings
are the work of a disgruntled former employee of the Department of Tourism.
Deb is seriously injured by a suspect who then threatens to sue the
department, leading to an Internal Affairs investigation. Dexter decides that
the easiest way to make all of his problems go away is to make the suspect go
away. When he ignores his father Harry's code about being cautious and prepared,
his rash actions threaten to expose him. He's wrong about the suspect
and is captured on video in the most compromising of circumstances. The real
culprit sets his sights on Dexter, and his actions draw the kind of
attention that Dexter typically shuns.
In the meantime, Dexter is trying to tutor Rita's children, Astor and Cody, who have Dark Passengers of their own.
Harry recognized what young Dexter was and counseled him in ways to direct his homicidal tendencies
to keep him from
being discovered and make a contribution to society, twisted as it was. Dexter has promised to
teach Astor and Cody what he knows. They are eager
The villain of the piece, the auteur behind the staged corpses, remains offstage for most of the novel, which
him more enigmatic and threatening. He's glimpsed briefly during an early
confrontation—so briefly that Dexter misidentifies him.
Dexter pursues him on foot after a smash and grab attempt on Rita's children,
but again he is mostly a shadow. He communicates with Dexter primarily through a
series of YouTube videos that could be Dexter's undoing if they went viral.
Lindsay telegraphs the theme of murder-as-art during Dexter and Rita's
honeymoon. After stumbling through all the usual tourist spots, they end up at
an avant-garde museum where the main exhibit features self-mutilation. It's a
touch convenient in the grand scheme, the sort of coincidence that
defies logical explanation.
Dexter and Deb's boyfriend chase the culprit to Havana, but he's always a step ahead.
Even the final confrontation is oddly low-key, given the stakes for Dexter. He
arrives on the scene at the last minute, certain that no matter what happens his
secret will be exposed, but things get neatly wrapped up in just a
Fans of the ShowTime series have something of a
challenge with these books. While many details are the same, there are enough
fundamental differences that readers must put aside the adaptation. This Dexter
has a more sardonic sense of humor than his TV counterpart, especially when he
waxes poetic about Miami's homicidal drivers, but he's also less
human. The Michael C. Hall version of Dexter is less obviously a sociopath. He
believes he lacks emotions, but his actions often betray more
humanity than he admits. Lindsay's character abdicates responsibility for his
actions to an alien presence—his Dark Passenger, an entity akin to a
The main difference, though, between Lindsay's creations and those on the TV
series is that the latter have been undergoing a progressive evolution, whereas
Lindsay's characters have not. Doakes, maimed and disabled though he might be, is
still the same single-minded automaton that he was in the first novel and
Dexter's sister is still shrill and foul-mouthed. In the TV series, Deb has
gained a great deal of self confidence and is working her way up through the
ranks of the Miami P.D. This fourth Dexter novel, though, regains some of the traction it lost in Dexter
in the Dark by abandoning blatantly supernatural elements and returning
to the mundane horrors of real life.
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