Cover of the 2004 edition
|Genre||Crime novel,Horror fiction|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Followed by||Dearly Devoted Dexter|
Darkly Dreaming Dexter is a 2004 novel by Jeff Lindsay, the first in his series about serial killer Dexter Morgan. It formed the basis of the Showtime television series Dexter and won the 2005 Dilys Award and the 2007 Book to TV award.
Darkly Dreaming Dexter features a first-person story narrated by a serial killer.
Dexter claims to be devoid of human emotion, but he does harbor feelings of a sort for the people in his life, including his foster sister Deborah, his girlfriend Rita (whom he supposedly dates solely to gain the appearance of a normal social life), and Rita’s children, Astor and Cody. By the novel’s climax, he admits to himself that he is “fond” of them, the closest he can get to feeling love.
Dexter’s narration is marked by black humor, even as the story turns grim. He also uses numerous alliterative phrases, typically featuring three prominent D sounds (e.g. Darkly Dreaming Dexter, The Dark DefenDer).
The novel’s protagonist, Dexter Morgan, works for the Miami-Dade Police Department as a forensic blood spatter analyst. In his spare time, Dexter is a serial killer who kills murderers, rapists, and other undesirables he believes that the legal system has failed to stop. Dexter’s murders are directed by an inner voice he refers to as the “Dark Passenger”, which keeps prodding Dexter to satisfy his homicidal urges on a regular basis. Once he has done so, the voice is placated for a while, but it always eventually comes back.
Flashbacks reveal that his foster father, an esteemed police detective named Harry Morgan, recognized early on that Dexter was a violent sociopath with an innate need to kill, and taught him how to kill people who had gotten away with murder as a way to channel his homicidal urges in a “positive” direction. Harry also taught the boy to be a careful and meticulous killer, to leave no clues, and to be absolutely sure his victims were guilty before killing them. Dexter calls these rules “the Code of Harry.”
Dexter succeeds in managing his double life until he investigates the “Tamiami Slasher”, who has murdered three prostitutes. Dexter’s adoptive sister, Deborah, who is also on the force and wants to be promoted to Homicide — and knowing that her brother has eerie “hunches” — asks him for help in solving the case. Dexter eventually decides to help Deborah due to his moral code, but still feels a compelling pull to the killer due to similar desires. After a lucid dream, Dexter drives around Miami and spots a refrigerated truck. When he follows the truck, the killer throws a severed head at his car.
The killer begins sending messages to Dexter, who finds the crimes fascinating. Dexter is torn between helping Deborah and allowing the killer to continue his spree. Meanwhile due to his strange dreams Dexter wants to kill somebody so he follows a man whom he suspects of raping and killing five teenage girls and kills that man after confirming that the man did those crimes. The killer kidnaps Deborah and brings Dexter to the scene, revealing that his sister is being held in the same shipping container Dexter’s mother Laura was held in. The killer is Dexter’s biological brother, Brian, who was separated from Dexter after their mother’s murder at the hands of a drug dealer. As Deborah’s spiteful colleague, Migdia LaGuerta, arrives on the scene, Brian is disappointed that Dexter refuses to kill Deborah. Dexter allows Brian to kill LaGuerta and helps him get away out of loyalty to his brother. In the epilogue Dexter stands at LaGuerta’s funeral and feels sad but cannot get himself to cry.
Jeff Lindsay is the pen name of American playwright and crime novelist Jeffry P. Freundlich (born July 14, 1952), best known for his novels about sociopathic vigilante Dexter Morgan. Many of his earlier published works include his wife Hilary Hemingway as a co-author. His wife is the niece of Ernest Hemingway and an author in her own right. Lindsay was born in Miami and graduated from Ransom Everglades School in 1970, and from Middlebury College, Vermont, in 1975.
The first book in the Dexter series, Darkly Dreaming Dexter (which Lindsay wanted to name “Pinocchio Bleeds” after his middle daughter suggested it but his publisher disagreed) was included on the original nomination list for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Awards in the Best First Novel category. However, it was dropped from the list after the group learned that Lindsay had put out several books in the 1990s under another pen name, Jeffrey P. Lindsay.