Dexter Morgan is a fictional character and the antihero of a series of novels by Jeff Lindsay, including Darkly Dreaming Dexter (2004), Dearly Devoted Dexter (2005), Dexter in the Dark (2007), Dexter by Design (2009), Dexter Is Delicious (2010), Double Dexter (2011), Dexter’s Final Cut(2013), and Dexter Is Dead (2015). In 2006, the first novel was adapted into the Showtime TV series Dexter and its companion web series Dexter: Early Cuts. The eighth and final novel in the series written by Lindsay was titled Dexter Is Dead, and released in July 2015, signifying the ending of the character.
In the TV series, Dexter is a forensic blood spatter analyst who works for the fictitious Miami-Metro Police Department. In his spare time, he is a vigilante serial killer who targets other murderers who have evaded the justice system. He follows a code of ethics taught to him in childhood by his adoptive father, Harry, which he refers to as “The Code” or “The Code of Harry” and hinges on two principles: Dexter can only kill people after finding conclusive evidence that they are guilty of murder, and he must not get caught.
Season one is largely based on the first novel, Darkly Dreaming Dexter (2004), but the following seasons veered away from the rest of the book series. In the television program, Dexter was played by Michael C. Hall, who won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Series or Drama in 2009. He was also portrayed as a youth by Devon Graye, Dominic Janes, and Maxwell Huckabee.
Darkly Dreaming Dexter (2004)
Doris Morgan, Dexter’s adoptive mother, dies of cancer when he is 16. When Dexter reaches puberty, he realizes that he is uninterested in sex and needs instruction by his father on how to behave with women. Around this time, Harry discovers that Dexter has been killing neighborhood pets and realizes that the boy has an innate need to kill. Harry decides to channel Dexter’s urges in a “positive” direction by teaching him to kill people who “deserve it”, and to get rid of any evidence so he does not get caught.
When Dexter is 18, Harry is diagnosed with cancer and hospitalized. There, Harry gives Dexter his “permission” to kill his first human victim, a nurse who is murdering her patients with overdoses of morphine.
Throughout the novel, Dexter is involved in the investigation of the “Tamiami Butcher”, a serial killer who dismembers his victims and puts the body parts in refrigerated trucks. The killer begins leaving taunting clues for Dexter to draw him in personally. The killer kidnaps Deborah and meets with Dexter in a storage container, and reveals their true connection: he is Brian, Dexter’s biological brother. Brian tells Dexter that as children, they witnessed their mother’s brutal murder at the hands of drug dealers, and were locked in a crate for two days, surrounded by dead bodies. Dexter persuades Brian to spare Deborah, and instead the two of them kill Lieutenant Migdia LaGuerta (this does not occur in the TV series, in which LaGuerta — whose first name is changed to “Maria” — is a recurring character until her death at the end of the seventh season).
At the end of the novel, Deborah learns of Dexter’s secret life after he saves her from Brian. She appears to accept it, but in subsequent books feels torn between her duties as a police officer and her loyalty to Dexter, whom she loves as her real brother.
Dearly Devoted Dexter (2005)
Dexter’s nemesis, Sergeant Doakes, suspects Dexter of being involved in LaGuerta’s murder, and starts following him around. Doakes and Dexter are soon forced to work together to stop “Dr. Danco”, a psychopathic surgeon who removes his victims’ limbs and sensory organs, leaving them in a state of living death.
Doakes’ pursuit forces Dexter to spend more time with Rita and her children. While attempting to bond with Astor and Cody, he realizes that they both have “Dark Passengers” of their own, and he resolves to provide them with the same “guidance” that Harry had given him. After finding FBI agent Kyle Chutsky’s ring in Dexter’s pocket, Rita believes Dexter is about to propose to her, and happily accepts before Dexter can explain.
At the climax of the book, Danco kidnaps Dexter and Doakes, mutilating the latter by removing his hands, feet, and tongue. Just as Danco is about to turn his attentions to Dexter, however, Deborah bursts in and kills him, saving Dexter’s life.
Dexter in the Dark (2007)
In Dexter in the Dark, the third novel of the series, third-person narrative reveals through an entity referred to as “IT” that the Dark Passenger is an independent agent inhabiting Dexter, rather than a deviant psychological construction. Later, Dexter realizes the Dark Passenger is related to Moloch, a Middle Eastern deity worshiped in Biblical times. The Dark Passenger is one of Moloch’s many offspring; Moloch had many children (formed through human sacrifice), and learned to share its knowledge with them. Eventually, there were too many, and Moloch killed the majority; however, some of them escaped into the world. In the novel, Dexter learns of the Dark Passenger’s true nature when it briefly “leaves” him, frightening him into researching possible reasons for its existence.
By now, Dexter has embraced his role as stepfather to both children, but is annoyed when thoughts of them – wondering if Cody had brushed his teeth before bed and if Astor had set out her Easter dress for picture day at her school – distract him from hunting an intended victim. By the end of the book, he has begun training Astor and Cody to be careful, efficient killers, with great success: when the novel’s antagonist, a Moloch-worshipping cult leader, kidnaps the three of them, Cody saves Dexter’s life by killing one of his henchmen.
The novel ends with the Dark Passenger returning to Dexter on his wedding day.
Dexter by Design (2009)
Dexter by Design opens in Paris, with Dexter and Rita on their honeymoon. There, while visiting an art gallery, Dexter and Rita see an avant-garde performance piece called “Jennifer’s Leg” in which the artist amputates her own limb. When they return to Miami, Dexter crosses paths with a suspicious homicide detective and a serial killer who preys on tourists. In the novel’s closing paragraphs, Dexter learns that Rita is pregnant with his child.
Dexter is Delicious (2010)
In Dexter is Delicious, Dexter grapples with raising his infant daughter, Lily-Anne, and wonders if she can help restore his humanity. Brian reappears in Dexter’s life, situating himself with Dexter’s family. The main event for the Miami Police Department is related to the appearance of cooked, partially eaten bodies and the disappearance of a teenaged girl, Samantha. Dexter has sex with Samantha while under the influence of ecstasy, and tries to prevent Rita from finding out while helping Deborah solve the murders.
The novel reintroduces Dexter’s brother, Brian, who shows up unexpectedly at Dexter’s doorstep and inserts himself into his brother’s new family. Dexter is reluctant at first to let Brian back into his life, but changes his mind when he sees him bond with Astor and Cody over their shared bloodlust.
Double Dexter (2011)
In Double Dexter, Dexter is seen by an anonymous Shadow while killing a victim in a secluded house. He continues on with his life until he starts receiving threatening emails from the person who claims to have seen him over a pile of dead body parts. Instead of turning him in, the Shadow, as he is referred to, takes it upon himself to take Dexter down. While Dexter tries to find and dispose of this Shadow, he quickly finds out that this person is much more capable than he initially suspected. Dexter is eventually framed for a murder, at least circumstantially, by his still anonymous Shadow.
While on suspension from the police force for being a ‘person of interest’ in a murder investigation, Dexter finally finds out who his Shadow is: Doug Crowley. When he goes to dispatch Crowley, he finds he is once again being tailed by Doakes. Realizing that no way exists to take down Crowley with Doakes on his tail, he enlists the help of his brother, Brian, and finally thinks that his problems have been taken care of.
While Brian is dispatching Doug Crowley, Dexter goes down to Key West with his family. Despite learning from his brother that a Doug Crowley had been taken care of, he finds the body of Detective Hood, the lead detective investigating him for murder, in his hotel suite, with the only explanation being that Brian killed the wrong Doug Crowley.
While Dexter is preoccupied with the Key West police, Crowley finally attacks Dexter by abducting his step children, Cody and Astor. Dexter hunts down Crowley to a small island off the coast of Key West. He finally gets the drop on him, and Crowley escapes with Astor on a speedboat. Dexter manages to sneak aboard and overpower Crowley, with some assistance from Astor. They shove Crowley overboard, where he is eaten by a hammerhead shark.
With Crowley dispatched, Dexter can finally focus on clearing his name in the murder investigation. He plants evidence in Hood’s apartment, thoroughly discrediting him, while Doakes is now under review for excessive force and intimidating a witness. These developments leave Dexter in the clear.
Dexter’s Final Cut (2013)
In Dexter’s Final Cut, a famous celebrity becomes obsessed with Dexter Morgan after researching him for his new role. When the Big Ticket Network comes to Miami, Deborah and Dexter are assigned as “technical advisors” to the stars of the show. Deborah is shadowed by female lead Jackie Forrest and Dexter is left with over-the-hill star Robert Chase. Sensing a strangeness in him, Dexter keeps Robert at arm’s length. When a series of murders leads Miami Metro’s Detective Anderson through a loop, Dexter is assigned to guard Jackie.
Deborah and Dexter quickly realize that the string of bodies all bear a striking resemblance to Jackie. Dexter is assigned to protect her in her hotel room. At first, things seem perfectly routine; Dexter accompanies Jackie to the station each morning and returns with her to the hotel at night, but when the killer’s identity is revealed to him, Dexter’s “Dark Passenger” leads him out into the streets in pursuit.
While working a crime scene where police have found another body matching the pattern of Jackie’s obsessed fan, Dexter notices a man fitting the description in a kayak out in the bay watching the scene. Stealing away to his boat, Dexter slips alongside the man and kills him. After a hard day’s work, they return to the hotel only to be disturbed in the night by sirens; Jackie’s assistant Kathy has been murdered in the room below. The murder seems to fit the pattern, but Dexter notices several errors. That night, Dexter and Jackie fall into bed together and start a brief but intense affair. Dexter thinks he has fallen in love with Jackie, and considers leaving Rita.
Dexter is called onto the set to appear as a minor character in the series following a conversation with Jackie and Robert. Suddenly, Dexter gets a panicked phone call from Rita: Astor has disappeared. Fearing the worst, Dexter goes in search of Robert, who had shown a suspicious interest in Astor. He questions the show’s director, who confirms that Robert is a pedophile. Moments later, he finds Jackie’s dead body in her trailer. Dexter then pieces it together: Robert killed Kathy after she caught him in a compromising position with Astor, and then killed Jackie when she found out what he had done. Dexter follows a hunch and heads to Rita and his new house. Robert catches him sneaking in and knocks him unconscious.
Waking some time later, Dexter finds Astor and Robert together in the house. Robert has lured Astor with promises of stardom, and she appears ready to help him to kill Dexter. Thinking quickly, Dexter tells Astor that Robert will be arrested and sent to prison, and is thus useless to her. When Robert tries to take Astor as a hostage, she stabs him to death. Dexter realizes that circumstantial evidence implicates him as the murderer of Robert and Jackie, and that the only person who can exonerate him is Rita. When Dexter searches the house, however, he finds that Rita is dead, murdered by Robert. Dexter sees that his luck has finally run out, and waits for the police to arrive.
Dexter is Dead (2015)
In the final book of the series’ Dexter is Dead; Dexter is in jail after being charged with Robert’s crimes – thanks to the corrupt Detective Anderson, who has falsified evidence and reports to make it seem that Dexter is guilty. Only Masuoka tries to clear Dexter’s good name, but he gets swatted down by everyone from the beat cops to the state attorney. Deborah, meanwhile, disowns Dexter for cheating on Rita and putting Astor in danger, and decides to take custody of his children.
Dexter’s brother Brian bails him out of prison and gets him the best lawyer in town, but the lawyer happens to be in the pocket of a very powerful Mexican drug cartel led by a man named Raul, who is after Brian. The cartel tries to kill Dexter several times to get to Brian. Eventually, Dexter and Brian find out their lawyer sold them out to the cartel, so they kill him and all the cartel’s members, save for one, whom they torture to find out where Raul is holding Cody and Astor.
Brian, Deborah, and Dexter team up, storm Raul’s yacht, and take the kids back. Deborah and the kids get away, but Brian is killed by a bomb and Raul shoots Dexter in the shoulder. Dexter kills Raul and sets a bomb so no evidence is left, then jumps off the boat into the water and sinks into the ocean. The book leaves it open to interpretation whether he survives.