Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: Dexter by Design

Dexter by Design
Dexter by Design by Jeff Lindsay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the fourth installment in the Dexter series, and I'm glad to see it's back in its stride. While the supernatural elements that bothered me so much about the last one aren't entirely gone, they're pushed back into the realm of subtlety, leaving more room for the story and our charming-but-murderous narrator.

In this one, the mystery begins with bizarre tableaux of dead Miami tourists, and things are ramped up when Dexter's sister, Deborah, is stabbed. She's hospitalized and in a coma. Dexter's sense of helplessness about whether she'll live leads him to make several sloppy mistakes that put him into the sights of a madman who wants to show the world what Dexter is. With Deb out of commission, he has to rely on some unusual allies to stop the killer.

This book has a lot of the elements I liked about the other books. Dexter's trademark dark humor is put to good use, with several one-liners that made me laugh. One has to have a certain sense of humor to find him funny, but it does help that the narrator (I listened to this on audio, as I did the others) knows Dexter well by now, and is able to deliver these darkly funny lines with a good sense of comic timing.

Though a lot of the plot relies on Dexter making several sloppy, amateur mistakes, the book makes it easy to understand why he does without Dexter ever admitting as much. He makes multiple claims that he's without emotion, but it's clear he's unaware that he's lying. It takes some skill to use an unreliable narrator and still get the message across clearly, but Jeff Lindsay has a good handle on irony.

The book makes good use of side characters, too. I never felt like they were getting a walk-on role to make sure they came up, unlike some series I'm also reading. Every character who appears has an important role to play, beyond mere comic relief.

I will definitely be reading the fifth book, and, one of these days, I really need to make time to watch the series.

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