Dearly Devoted Dexter
The serial killer genre has been done to death(pun unintended!) since there's not much you can do with a story where a good guy goes after a serial killer. So I've always wondered what could be done to shake things up. Jeff Lindsay, in his first book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, seemed to have hit upon a good way to provide variety. He made Dexter, the protagonist in his book, a serial killer too. This, along with a macabre sense of humor, made that book a great read. But in Dearly Devoted Dexter, the follow-up, the freshness of the concept is absent and the level of gore has been raised up. So it fails to live up to the standards of its predecessor.
Dexter Morgan, the protagonist, is a 'good' serial killer who in his day job, works as a blood spatter specialist in the Miami police department. His father, sensing the urge to kill inside Dexter, had channeled his feelings and so Dexter kills only the truly vile like homicidal pedophiles. He is drawn into a new case when a new serial killer, whose method of killing make Dexter's MO look like child's play, shows up. Driven partly by admiration and curiosity, Dexter goes after the killer. Meanwhile he now has a girlfriend, a single mom with two children, and to his surprise, finds himself actually enjoying 'regular' life.
The book's biggest strength is the first-person narration by Dexter. We get a unique perspective into a killer's mind and the way Dexter deals with his inner demon(whom he calls 'Dark Passenger') is very interesting. Lindsay also has a dark sense of humor which comes in particularly handy considering the nature of his narrator. Some of Dexter's comments about his life with his new girlfriend and they way that track proceeds are hilarious.
Dexter going after the serial killer follows the usual trajectory with clues leading to him being uncovered gradually by the police. We also get another track as Dexter himself pursues a pedophile with very little to go on. So pace is not a problem and the book is a fast read. But the climax is disappointingly low-key and throws no surprises.
Having read enough books in this genre, I always thought that I was hardened to the description of torture and murder, atleast in fiction. But the killer's actions in this book were very gruesome and quite unsettling. Dexter's own killings, though they eliminate rather unsavory characters, are described in fair detail. And the direction one of the tracks(involving one of the persons in Dexter's new family) seems to be taking, is scary. So this is a rather downbeat book to read and it definitely left a bitter taste in my mouth.