I haven’t seen the Showtime TV series based on Jeff Lindsay’s novels about a coy, overly mannered serial killer, so I can’t comment on the reviews that praise the show. But I can rightly and indignantly scoff at the reviews the first novel in the series “Darkly Dreaming Dexter” has received.
Where to begin? How about TIME Magazine: “With chills like these, you can skip the air-conditioning.” Or USA Today: “Dark and devious… daring and unexpectedly comedic.” Even the New York Times Book Review jumped in with: “A macabre tour-de-force.”
Wow. Sign me up.
But it took a laborious week to struggle through the 288 pages in the paperback version of “Darkly Dreaming Dexter.” Why did it take me longer to read “Dexter” than to read William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying”? Because it is an agonizing chore to wade through a bad book every single night.
The word “overrated” can’t fully describe the deep disappointment in this hollow, poorly written drivel. But I can divulge to readers 10 damn dramatic reasons to avoid it (warning: plot spoilers ahead):
1. Debasing and Degrading Damsels. The women characters are either chopped to pieces by a serial killer or exploited for their sexuality (Dexter’s cop sister, Deborah, spends most of the novel parading around dressed as a hooker and Dexter dates a sexual abuse woman who he eventually seduces – and guess what! She loves it! It turns out that all this deeply damaged woman needed was sex with a mass murderer).
2. Dull, Drab Ducks. The characters are all clichéd stereotypes that resemble cartoon characters more than real people. There is no depth here – no attempt even – to explore below the surface of any of characters.
3. Ditzy, Dumb Deborah. Dexter’s sister is one of the most vapid, self-centered, unlikable characters you’ll ever read. She shrills. Every time she’s on the page it is like listening to fingernails being dragged across a chalkboard. She gets to utter dialogue like this: “If tits were brains I’d be Einstein… That’s what she’s spreading about me. That kind of crappy tag sticks to you, and then they don’t promote you because they think nobody will respect you with a nickname like that. Goddamn it, Dex, she’s ruining my career.”
4. Defective, Deluded Drivel. The reviews all praise Lindsay for coming up with the concept of a serial killer who hunts for other serial killers. I’m sorry, but haven’t any of these reviewers read Thomas Harris? You see he has a character by the name of
5. Disturbing, Droll Dexter. As the first-person voice of the novel, Dexter’s witty sense of humor is so damn annoying that by the time you’re halfway through the book you hope his next victim is himself. He isn’t half as clever as he thinks he is when he says things like: “Please Deborah? You’re saying please to me? Do you know how nervous that makes me?”
6. Dumb, Disappointing and Done. A cryptic, implausible, and, ultimately cop out of an ending. The real kicker is when Lindsay introduces a long lost brother as the real killer. I think I groaned out loud. Are you kidding me? Let’s not even get into the myriad of forgotten loose ends (how did his brother escape? How did Deborah survive? What happened to the stooge who confessed?).
7. Decrepit, Directionless Diagnosis. Lindsay fails to deliver on the most important aspect of any police procedural novel – making the investigation seem real. It is clear that Lindsay has no clue as to how actual police investigations work. Did he do any research at all? The crime scenes read like cocktail parties where Dexter – a blood splatter expert at the forensic lab -- pops up whether he’s working or not. He’s like a fast food clerk who comes to work on his days off wearing his uniform.
8. Dumb Dialogue. Some of the chatter between characters makes you wince. Scenes of dialogue often have no point. They don’t seem to drive the plot or reveal character. They just are. Ditties like this:
“Sorry,” I said.
I sat down in my chair and didn’t speak. Deb likes to unload on me. That’s what family is for. “Why were you so anxious to speak to me?”
“They’re shutting me out,” she said. She opened my doughnut bag and looked inside.
“What did you expect?” I said. “You know how LaGuerta feels about you.”
She pulled a cruller out of the bag and savaged it.
“I expect,” she said, mouth full, “to be in on this. Like the captain said.”
“You don’t have any seniority,” I said. “Or any political smarts.”
She crumpled the bag and threw it at my head. She missed. “Goddamn it, Dexter,” she said. “You know damned well I deserve to be in Homicide…”
9. Downright Dubious Detective. The police investigation of a brutal serial killer is in entirely in the hands of one detective – a woman with a spotty record in closing cases. There’s no task force. There’s no FBI intervention. There’s no state police involvement. In “Dexter” the case is entirely in the hands of one woman police detective (who, of course, is a dumber than Deborah).
10. Deceitful Decorum. Jeff Lindsay (a.k.a. Jeffry P. Freundlich) was nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Awards for Best First Novel. But it was dropped after the group discovered that the deceitful Lindsay had published several other novels under another pen name.