[Book - MOster Only]
Darkly Dreaming Dexter (2009, but not really)
Author Jeff Lindsay
Dexter Morgan is a serial killer who has been trained by his adoptive cop father (now dead due to other circumstances) only to kill other murderers. This is the first story of a series of books, and it takes us through an introduction as well as some revelations about Dexter's origin and blood family. The book was the basis for the popular Showtime series, "Dexter," and the first season of the show follows the high points of the first two thirds of this book pretty closely.
(Being my first book review, a lot of the style and structure elements here are experimental.)
This was a Solstice (Christmas) gift from my mother-in-law a few years ago, shortly after we all learned that the series was based on a book. The narrative is in the first person, so there is no room for side plots of any kind. This is one of the ways in which it (necessarily) diverges from the show, which uses VO instead. There are other fairly important differences between the two, but the similarities did make it a bit difficult for me to view this on its own... at least until things split up more substantially.
Having a base need to kill (the origin of which is defined in the climax), Dexter characterizes himself as inhuman, tightly controlled and thinking everything through very clearly; playing an act unless he's actively engaged in preparing or committing a murder. Following him through what he calls a normal life and then watching that life change as things escape his usually-tight control is what turns this from an account (which could actually have been an interesting read in itself) into a story.
And it is a fairly compelling story. Plotting is good and the author does have a knack for building tension in both the short and the long term. When Dexter is in control, both he and the reader can see pretty well where things will go. Since as the reader we only have the broad strokes, the tension in early scenes comes from the details. This is an area where "American Psycho" excelled: those over-the-top details do a good job of showing the lead as a psychopath; but given the self-aware nature of this narrator in this case, the meticulous nature of the details becomes tiresome. Once Dexter loses control, neither he nor we know hat's happening; and that is what makes the last 100 pages turn more quickly.
As a novel, "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" is pretty good. The prose is fine, but it's nothing special. There are no stylistic or narrative tricks (which are things that I regularly seek and often enjoy). The real problem is that it didn't do as good a job as the series in making me want to know what happens next, and given that my backlog of books both fiction and non that puts the rest of the series farther down the list. I don't know if I would have read it if it weren't for the show, and I'm not quite sure how strongly I recommend this.