Dexter by Design * Jeff Lindsay (Book 4)

Why bother inflicting enormous pain on yourself when sooner or later Life would certainly get around to doing it for you?

The book begins just after Dexter returns from his honeymoon in Paris. Having experienced the city of lights and romance, Dexter and Rita are ready to return home.. until they get invited to an exhibition called “Jennifer’s leg” which leaves them trembling and Dexter’s dark passenger riveting in excitement. Much like this interlude in gory art, the rest of the book focuses on the dark attraction between the unspoken and spoken art.

After witnessing this avant-garde display of bodies and dedication to a purpose, Dexter and Rita return home to their lives. Life is almost normal for Dexter Morgan. Married life seems to agree with him: he’s devoted to his bride, his stomach is full, and his homicidal hobbies are nicely under control.  The discovery of a corpse (artfully displayed as a sunbather relaxing on a Miami beach chair) naturally piques Dexter’s curiosity and Miami’s finest realize they’ve got a terrifying new serial killer on the loose. And Dexter, of course, is back in business.

Previous books:

Darkly Dreaming Dexter Dearly Devoted Dexter Dexter in the Dark
Darkly Dreaming Dexter Dearly Devoted Dexter  Dexter in the Dark 

What I found interesting about this book were two elements that Dexter discovers. The love that Dexter has for his adoptive children – whom he sees as killer in the becoming so much like himself – and the love for his sister- who is now aware of who and what Dexter is.

The kids have been abused in Rita’s previous relationship by a dead-beat father and they barely talk. Cody and Astor have shown interest in the dark and macabre and they are looking up to Dexter to show them the way.

“I looked at the two of them and felt something close to religious wonder. They knew about the Shadow Guy—their name for the Dark Passenger. They had it inside them as certainly as I did, and were familiar enough with its existence to have named it. There could be no doubt about it—they were already in the same dark world I lived in. It was a profound moment of connection, and I knew now that I was doing the right thing—these were my children and the Passenger’s and the thought that we were together in this stronger-than-blood bond was almost overwhelming.”

The way that Dexter can show them is the same that Harry put him on when his psychotic tendencies started showing. Dexter started small – messily killing a neighbour’s dog, then strays, then larger things. He was fond of his kills and he buried them in his home back-garden – his first ever mistake – and what Harry found and then pruned to his interest and Dexter’s. If Dexter is a killer, he might as well purge the world from all the criminal that police can’t catch or can’t hold. Harry is mentioned throughout the book as an outstanding policeman and his offspring (Debra and Dexter) are beyond reproach.

Cancer survivor and star of Dexter, MIchael C. Hall and wife Jennifer Carpenter at Kendall’s Brasserie. June 2, 2010 EXCLUSIVE

This is why when Debra gets stabbed by a potential suspect, she and Dexter come under scrutiny.

“I have always embraced this concept, and it paid off now, as Meza proved to be wonderfully creative in both Spanish and English. He ran through an impressive list of standards, and then his artistic side took full flower and he called me things that had never before existed, except possibly in a parallel universe designed by Hieronymus Bosch. The performance took on an added air of supernatural improbability because Meza’s voice was so weak and husky, but he never allowed that to slow him. I was frankly awed, and Deborah seemed to be, too, because we both simply stood and listened until Meza finally wore down and tapered off with, “Cocksucker.”

Dexter rushes to avenge Debra who is in a coma and mistakenly kills an innocent. His first innocent. His first step off the Harry path. As he feels un-centered and unbalanced, he needs to find what makes him Dexter again.

Dexter the Magnificent, who doth bestride the world like a Colossus, many lovely corpses at his feet, brought to you in live color just in time for the evening news. Oh, Mama, who is that large and handsome man with the bloody saw? Why, that’s Dexter Morgan, dear, the horrible man they arrested a little while ago. But Mama, why is he smiling? He likes his work, dear. Let that be a lesson to you–always find a worthy job that keeps you happy.

But the plot thickens – the man he killed was the gay lover of the real killer and Debra’s attacker. He was the only thing that kept him sane. And now the killer knows about Dexter, his name, his dark secret, his family. And finally, Dexter’s passenger is unfurling from his hiding spot and is coming out to play.

In this cat and mouse story, Dexter is always one step behind the killer and as Debra slowly recovers from her coma, he has to fight internal affairs, a federal investigator and a very determined Doakes (who is only a remnant of his former self after being severely mutilated in the last book)

The rest of the book is the highly entertaining account of how Dexter juggles all the opposing forces in his life, from the attentions of the killer and suspicions of police detectives to the safety of his new wife and stepchildren (also traumatised as toddlers and well on their way, under Dexter’s expert tuition, to becoming monsters in their own right) – while all the while trying not to get caught and spend the rest of his life in jail. Apart from a pretty pointless journey to Cuba, which feels tacked on to the plot as a kind of travelogue, this is another very successful encounter with the wickedly entertaining Dexter.

I went over it all in my head, again and again, and it all added up the same way, and the only thing that really stuck out was the thought that it was all very simple, perfectly connected, coherent and logical and right, and I had no choice but to act as quickly as I could, and why should that be bothersome?”

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