Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter (Dexter, #1) by Jeff Lindsay

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Vintage Books | 2006

Filed Under: Only surprising if you haven’t watched the show.

I honestly have no idea what this review is going to be. Objective? Probably fucking not. I’m a huge fangirl of the Showtime series and it’s taken me basically a decade to get around to the source material, which honestly feels like a crime. Now that I have read it, I’m very confused about what I actually thought.

On one hand, the first season of the show followed this series-starting book very closely. I’m talking nearly word-for-word. The Barbie in the freezer, the nail-polish, the ice truck – it’s all there, save for the fact that Deb was cast differently than she was written. And I didn’t really like book-version Deb.

You would think that because I love the show and this was so close to the book, I would be head-over-heels after reading this.


season 1 dexter GIF

I can’t put my finger on why, but something about it was boring. GASP! I know. Boring is not something I ever would have imagined myself writing for this review. But there it is.

Maybe it’s because there were just no surprises left in the plot. Is that the fault of the book? Obviously not, because it’s the chicken.. or the egg… or whichever came first. I don’t think we’ve nailed down an answer on that yet? I’d have to consult evolution and I don’t have time for that. Either way, the book is the O.G.

Jeff Lindsay created Dexter and everything about Dexter that made me love the show, especially the first season, so much. And yet, reading the book just didn’t do it for me. Maybe if I’d read the book sooner or first? I can’t say. What I can say is don’t fucking listen to me. I’m all over the place in my feelings about this right now.

Why I Will Never Get over That Horrendous Final Season of 'Dexter'

I’m going against the cardinal sin of booknerds – the book is always better.

But in this case, I like the TV show better.

Dexter is, without a doubt, the ultimate anti-hero. He’s written in such a way that it plays with the principals you might hold dear. Murder is wrong. Murderers are bad. End of discussion.

But there is something about a vigilante that stirs up our baser instincts from a time when we were just crawling out of the muck to stand upright. Revenge is satisfying. Karma is earned. An eye for an eye is equalizing. So it’s really no surprise that when a character like Dexter comes along that he strikes a chord. He reminds us that what we consider “wrong” can be subjective. Not everything is black and white. We exist in shades of grey (not the kinky kind. …well, sometimes…)

Murder is wrong. But if you’re murdering a murder? Or child predator?

unsure james franco GIF

Now you have to admit that perhaps your principles are not as hard-lined as you thought they were. I love the psychology of that.

I can’t think of any other book, or character, that has so perfectly explored the idea of having no empathy, no ability to feel what other people feel while creating empathy within the reader for that character. Dexter, in both mediums, says again and again how he has never been able to access the emotions the rest of us can – the thing that makes us essentially human. What’s interesting though is that he never wavers from Harry’s Code. Not out of a sense of guilt or conscience, but out of loyalty.

Loyalty to Harry. And Deb. There’s a part of him that doesn’t want to disappoint his family. How that might actually exist in a psychopath clinically, I don’t know, but it sure as hell makes for an interesting character arc.

Bottom line: Dexter is a special fucking character. Jeff Lindsay is responsible for that.

But I still wasn’t into the book.

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Michael C. Hall brought Dexter to life in a way that was dynamic even though he was emotionally-stunted, awkward and never really got the joke. Again, I don’t know if it’s because I watched the show first, but I found the written character to be mostly flat. It wasn’t the Dexter who I knew and loved.

I was already really familiar with the plot, backward and forwards. Mix that with flat characters and this wasn’t the experience I wanted it to be.

Kind of like that fucking series finale.

angry jim carrey GIF

I digress…

If you’re not really into the show or have never seen an episode, but heard good things, then you should definitely read this. It seems like the best reviews come from readers who have never watched an episode before.

But after you read the book, watch the show.

A blood analyst who helps solves crimes by day while committing his own crimes at night – it’s fucking perfect.

I don’t think I’ll be finishing the novel series though. There are just too many books piled on my TBR for me to be reading thigns I already know the plot of.


Meet Dexter Morgan, a polite wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s handsome and charming, but something in his past has made him abide by a different set of rules. He’s a serial killer whose one golden rule makes him immensely likeable: he only kills bad people. And his job as a blood splatter expert for the Miami police department puts him in the perfect position to identify his victims. But when a series of brutal murders bearing a striking similarity to his own style start turning up, Dexter is caught between being flattered and being frightened—of himself or some other fiend.

4 thoughts on “Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter (Dexter, #1) by Jeff Lindsay

  1. Nooo…😂 I mean, I loved watching the show. 😍 Broke my vow of reading before watching for this one, for the first time. 😆

    But I wanted to read the series, and I think I have the Kindle editions too. 🙈

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You might really like it – but I think I’m onto something with my “watch/read order theory.” Everyone I’ve talked to who watched the TV show first doesn’t like the books… maybe you’ll be the exception to the rule lol

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was already really familiar with the plot, backward and forwards. Mix that with flat characters and this wasn’t the experience I wanted it to be.

    Kind of like that fucking series finale.

    I just laughed so hard at that. It’s been YEARS and I am still fucking salty as hell. But did you see Showtime is bringing Dexter back?! Hopefully to retcon that awful ending my GOD


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