The New York Times
Darkly Dreaming Dexter (Dexter Series #1)by Jeff Lindsay, Nick Landrum
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… See more details below
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.
“It’s been years since there’s been a thriller as original as this one by Lindsay, who takes a tired subgenre—the serial-killer novel—and makes it as fresh as dawn. Lindsay’s premise alone is worthy: narrator Dexter Morgan, a blood-spatter specialist for the Miami cops, is also a serial killer . . . What makes this novel zing is the narration—humorous, self-deprecating, smart and sometimes lyrical, it’s a macabre fun ride . . . A gripping, deliciously offbeat novel that announces the arrival of a notable new talent.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“After finishing this novel, readers will have only one thing to say: Wow! Dexter, a likable fellow on the surface, firmly in touch with his own inhumanity, is one of the genre’s most original, compelling characters to appear in years. He makes a fascinating narrator, appealing, articulate, and ghoulish all at the same time. Long after readers finish this gripping novel, they will still be thinking (or dreaming) about Dexter.”
—Booklist (starred review)
The New York Times
Read an Excerpt
Moon. Glorious moon. Full, fat, reddish moon, the night as light as day, the moonlight flooding down across the land and bringing joy, joy, joy. Bringing too the full-throated call of the tropical night, the soft and wild voice of the wind roaring through the hairs on your arm, the hollow wail of starlight, the teeth-grinding bellow of the moonlight off the water.
All calling to the Need. Oh, the symphonic shriek of the thousand hiding voices, the cry of the Need inside, the entity, the silent watcher, the cold quiet thing, the one that laughs, the Moondancer. The me that was not-me, the thing that mocked and laughed and came calling with its hunger. With the Need. And the Need was very strong now, very careful cold coiled creeping crackly cocked and ready, very strong, very much ready nowand still it waited and watched, and it made me wait and watch.
I had been waiting and watching the priest for five weeks now. The Need had been prickling and teasing and prodding at me to find one, find the next, find this priest. For three weeks I had known he was it, he was next, we belonged to the Dark Passenger, he and I together. And that three weeks I had spent fighting the pressure, the growing Need, rising in me like a great wave that roars up and over the beach and does not recede, only swells more with every tick of the bright night's clock.
But it was careful time, too, time spent making sure. Not making sure of the priest, no, I was long sure of him. Time spent to be certain that it could be done right, made neat, all the corners folded, all squared away. I could not be caught, not now. I had worked too hard, too long, to make this work for me, to protect my happy little life.
And I was having too much fun to stop now.
And so I was always careful. Always tidy. Always prepared ahead of time so it would be right. And when it was right, take extra time to be sure. It was the Harry way, God bless him, that farsighted perfect policeman, my foster father. Always be sure, be careful, be exact, he had said, and for a week now I had been sure that everything was just as Harry-right as it could be. And when I left work this night, I knew this was it. This night was the Night. This night felt different. This night it would happen, had to happen. Just as it had happened before. Just as it would happen again, and again.
And tonight it would happen to the priest.
His name was Father Donovan. He taught music to the children at St. Anthony's Orphanage in Homestead, Florida. The children loved him. And of course he loved the children, oh very much indeed. He had devoted a whole life to them. Learned Creole and Spanish. Learned their music, too. All for the kids. Everything he did, it was all for the kids.
I watched him this night as I had watched for so many nights now. Watched as he paused in the orphanage doorway to talk to a young black girl who had followed him out. She was small, no more than eight years old and small for that. He sat on the steps and talked to her for five minutes. She sat, too, and bounced up and down. They laughed. She leaned against him. He touched her hair. A nun came out and stood in the doorway, looking down at them for a moment before she spoke. Then she smiled and held out a hand. The girl bumped her head against the priest. Father Donovan hugged her, stood, and kissed the girl good night. The nun laughed and said something to Father Donovan. He said something back.
And then he started toward his car. Finally: I coiled myself to strike and
Not yet. A janitorial service minivan stood fifteen feet from the door. As Father Donovan passed it, the side door slid open. A man leaned out, puffing on a cigarette, and greeted the priest, who leaned against the van and talked to the man.
Luck. Luck again. Always luck on these Nights. I had not seen the man, not guessed he was there. But he would have seen me. If not for Luck.
I took a deep breath. Let it out slow and steady, icy cold. It was only one small thing. I had not missed any others. I had done it all right, all the same, all the way it had to be done. It would be right.
Father Donovan walked toward his car again. He turned once and called something. The janitor waved from the doorway to the orphanage, then stubbed out his cigarette and disappeared inside the building. Gone.
Luck. Luck again.
Father Donovan fumbled for his keys, opened his car door, got into his car. I heard the key go in. Heard the engine turn over. And then
I sat up in his backseat and slipped the noose around his neck. One quick, slippery, pretty twist and the coil of fifty-pound-test fishing line settled tight. He made a small ratchet of panic and that was it.
"You are mine now," I told him, and he froze as neat and perfect as if he had practiced, almost like he heard the other voice, the laughing watcher inside me.
"Do exactly as I say," I said.
He rasped half a breath and glanced into his rearview mirror. My face was there, waiting for him, wrapped in the white silk mask that showed only my eyes.
"Do you understand?" I said. The silk of the mask flowed across my lips as I spoke.
Father Donovan said nothing. Stared at my eyes. I pulled on the noose.
"Do you understand?" I repeated, a little softer.
This time he nodded. He fluttered a hand at the noose, not sure what would happen if he tried to loosen it. His face was turning purple.
I loosened the noose for him. "Be good," I said, "and you will live longer."
He took a deep breath. I could hear the air rip at his throat. He coughed and breathed again. But he sat still and did not try to escape.
This was very good.
We drove. Father Donovan followed my directions, no tricks, no hesitations. We drove south through Florida City and took the Card Sound Road. I could tell that road made him nervous, but he did not object. He did not try to speak to me. He kept both hands on the wheel, pale and knotted tight, so the knuckles stood up. That was very good, too.
We drove south for another five minutes with no sound but the song of the tires and the wind and the great moon above making its mighty music in my veins, and the careful watcher laughing quietly in the rush of the night's hard pulse.
"Turn here," I said at last.
The priest's eyes flew to mine in the mirror. The panic was trying to claw out of his eyes, down his face, into his mouth to speak, but
"Turn!" I said, and he turned. Slumped like he had been expecting this all along, waiting for it forever, and he turned.
The small dirt road was barely visible. You almost had to know it was there. But I knew. I had been there before. The road ran for two and a half miles, twisting three times, through the saw grass, through the trees, alongside a small canal, deep into the swamp and into a clearing.
Fifty years ago somebody had built a house. Most of it was still there. It was large for what it was. Three rooms, half a roof still left, the place completely abandoned now for many years.
Except the old vegetable garden out in the side yard. There were signs that somebody had been digging there fairly recently.
"Stop the car," I said as the headlights picked up the crumbling house.
Father Donovan lurched to obey. Fear had sealed him into his body now, his limbs and thoughts all rigid.
"Turn off the motor," I told him, and he did.
It was suddenly very quiet.
Some small something chittered in a tree. The wind rattled the grass. And then more quiet, silence so deep it almost drowned out the roar of the night music that pounded away in my secret self.
"Get out," I said.
Father Donovan did not move. His eyes were on the vegetable garden.
A few small mounds of earth were visible there. The heaped soil looked very dark in the moonlight. It must have looked even darker to Father Donovan. And still he did not move.
I yanked hard on the noose, harder than he thought he could live through, harder than he knew could happen to him. His back arched against the seat and the veins stood out on his forehead and he thought he was about to die.
But he was not. Not yet. Not for quite some time, in fact.
I kicked the car door open and pulled him out after me, just to let him feel my strength. He flopped to the sandy roadbed and twisted like an injured snake. The Dark Passenger laughed and loved it and I played the part. I put one boot on Father Donovan's chest and held the noose tight.
"You have to listen and do as I say," I told him. "You have to." I bent and gently loosened the noose. "You should know that. It's important," I said.
And he heard me. His eyes, pounding with blood and pain and leaking tears onto his face, his eyes met mine in a rush of understanding and all the things that had to happen were there for him to see now. And he saw. And he knew how important it was for him to be just right. He began to know.
"Get up now," I said.
Slowly, very slowly, with his eyes always on mine, Father Donovan got up. We stood just like that for a long time, our eyes together, becoming one person with one need, and then he trembled. He raised one hand halfway to his face and dropped it again.
"In the house," I said, so very softly. In the house where everything was ready.
Father Donovan dropped his eyes. He raised them to me but could not look anymore. He turned toward the house but stopped as he saw again the dark dirt mounds of the garden. And he wanted to look at me, but he could not, not after seeing again those black moonlit heaps of earth.
He started for the house and I held his leash. He went obediently, head down, a good and docile victim. Up the five battered steps, across the narrow porch to the front door, pushed shut. Father Donovan stopped. He did not look up. He did not look at me.
"Through the door," I said in my soft command voice.
Father Donovan trembled.
"Go through the door now," I said again.
But he could not.
I leaned past him and pushed the door open. I shoved the priest in with my foot. He stumbled, righted himself, and stood just inside, eyes squeezed tight shut.
I closed the door. I had left a battery lamp standing on the floor beside the door and I turned it on.
"Look," I whispered.
Father Donovan slowly, carefully, opened one eye.
Time stopped for Father Donovan.
"No," he said.
"Yes," I said.
"Oh, no," he said.
"Oh, yes," I said.
He screamed, "NOOOO!"
I yanked on the noose. His scream was cut off and he fell to his knees. He made a wet croaky whimpering sound and covered his face. "Yes," I said. "It's a terrible mess, isn't it?"
He used his whole face to close his eyes. He could not look, not now, not like this. I did not blame him, not really, it was a terrible mess. It had bothered me just to know it was there since I had set it up for him. But he had to see it. He had to. Not just for me. Not just for the Dark Passenger. For him. He had to see. And he was not looking.
"Open your eyes, Father Donovan," I said.
"Please," he said in a terrible little whimper. It got on my nerves very badly, shouldn't have, icy-clean control, but it got to me, whining in the face of that mess on the floor, and I kicked his legs out from under him. I hauled hard on the noose and grabbed the back of his neck with my right hand, then slammed his face into the filthy warped floorboards. There was a little blood and that made me madder.
"Open them," I said. "Open your eyes. Open them NOW. Look." I grabbed his hair and pulled his head back. "Do as you're told," I said. "Look. Or I will cut your eyelids right off your face."
I was very convincing. And so he did it. He did as he was told. He looked.
I had worked hard to make it right, but you have to use what you've got to work with. I could not have done it at all if they had not been there long enough for everything to dry up, but they were so very dirty. I had managed to clean off most of the dirt, but some of the bodies had been in the garden a very long time and you couldn't tell where the dirt began and the body stopped. You never could tell, really, when you stop to think about it. So dirty
There were seven of them, seven small bodies, seven extra-dirty orphan children laid out on rubber shower sheets, which are neater and don't leak. Seven straight lines pointing straight across the room.
Pointing right at Father Donovan. So he knew.
He was about to join them.
"Hail Mary, full of grace" he started. I jerked hard on the noose.
"None of that, Father. Not now. Now is for real truth."
"Please," he choked.
"Yes, beg me. That's good. Much better." I yanked again. "Do you think that's it, Father? Seven bodies? Did they beg?" He had nothing to say. "Do you think that's all of them, Father? Just seven? Did I get them all?"
"Oh, God," he rasped out, with a pain that was good to hear.
"And what about the other towns, Father? What about Fayetteville? Would you like to talk about Fayetteville?" He just choked out a sob, no words. "And what about East Orange? Was that three? Or did I miss one there? It's so hard to be sure. Was it four in East Orange, Father?"
Father Donovan tried to scream. There was not enough left of his throat for it to be a very good scream, but it had real feeling behind it, which made up for the poor technique. Then he fell forward onto his face and I let him snivel for a while before I pulled him up and onto his feet. He was not steady, and not in control. His bladder had let loose and there was drool on his chin.
"Please," he said. "I couldn't help myself. I just couldn't help myself. Please, you have to understand"
"I do understand, Father," I said, and there was something in my voice, the Dark Passenger's voice now, and the sound of it froze him. He lifted his head slowly to face me and what he saw in my eyes made him very still. "I understand perfectly," I told him, moving very close to his face. The sweat on his cheeks turned to ice. "You see," I said, "I can't help myself either."
Meet the Author
Jeff Lindsay is the author of Darkly Dreaming Dexter. He lives in South Florida with his wife and three daughters.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This book was an awesome read. A serial killer who only kills "bad people", what a concept, huh? and it makes for a great story. I saw the first two seasons of the series on showtime and loved it, so I decided to give the books a try. I picked this one up the other day at a local used book store and once i started reading it I couldnt put it down. I figured that since i still knew most of the plot line it wouldnt be as intriguing but it deffinitely was. finished it in about 3 days and thats fast for me because normally I'm doing all kinds of other things and just don't have as much time to read, but I made time for this book. Lindsay just pulls you in and engrosses you into the story. And I never thought i would be rooting for a serial killer not to get caught. I was also highly surprised to see that the 1st season of the show stuck pretty closely to the book. Of course they added some things and changed a couple things but all the basis was there and a lot was the same. This book was thrilling, exciting, funny,....it had it all. so if you are even considering this book. Give it a try..i don't think you will regret it.
Having been introduced to the show before even knowing there was a literary basis for it, I had high hopes for this book. I was not disappointed. Lindsay does a superb job of engaging us with his now iconic anti-hero, making Dexter a fully realized human being who is charming and repulsive in almost equal measure. Though some reviewers have expressed a preference for the televised version, I think this book makes a solid companion piece that will fit nicely on the shelf of any fan of the series. I'd also urge anyone who enjoys the deliriously twisted world of Dexter to check out Crimson Orgy, a new novel by Austin Williams that blends dark humor and jolting suspense/horror to great effect.
I saw the tv series before reading the book. I could picture the cast acting out the scenes. Dexters narritive is sometimes to descriptive and lost me at some points. Overall a good quick read. Looking foward to the next book!
I'm aware of the Showtime Dexter series but have never gotten round to watching it. Then a friend recommended the series after viewing the multiple seasons in a marathon viewing session. I opted to read the first novel in the series. Go straight to the source, I say. Well, I enjoyed the dark humor. I especially appreciated Lindsay's ability to help us understand the cold unemotional world in which a sociopathic psychotic killers lives. For me, this is the best aspect of the novel. I found myself imagining what that must be like, to feel nothing, to relate to no one, to be always putting a show to deceive people into thinking you are like them and you like them. However, I found other aspects of the book not as compelling, in particular the reveal at the end, which I will not reveal, even though almost everybody reading this probably knows what it is. Good, but for the better serial killer fiction, see my recommendations.
Let me start by saying that I am a devoted fan of both the books and the TV series. Many people on here have said they prefer the show to the book based on story and character progression. I think people fail to keep in mind that books and film/TV are completely different formats with different rules for engagement. This book was meant to be the beginning of a series, so of course it can be a little slow at times. The show has to keep a certain pace to keep viewers. Thus why other characters have larger roles in the story and Dexter has a new kill in almost every episode. The books delve more into Dexter himself and his twisted psychology. A lot of the reading consists of Dexters internal dialogue. It gives the reader a deep understanding of The Dark Passenger, as well as an understanding of just how disconnected from humanity he really is. The show does a good job of presenting some internal dialogue as narratives. Also, Michael C Hall did an outstanding job bringing Dexter to life. His unassuming appearance, expressions, quick wit and knack for dark humor is SO Dexter-esque. Excuse the long post, but overall I say give both a shot and appreciate them for the differences that bring the whole world of Dexter together.
I watched the first four seasons of Dexter before reading this book. The TV series is definitely more interesting because of the character development and fleshing out the plot. Still an interesting and quick read. If you are a huge fan of the TV series you should probably skip these books.
A very original voice with a very original idea - you have to like Dexter - killer or not! I read this weeks ago and have gotten more copies for my staff and am recommending it like crazy. A must read for anyone who loves quirky, well written books.
Like many people i found Dexter on Showtime. I was hooked and not to long ago the show ended. I wanted more so I decided to give the first book a try, i was not disappointed one bit . The book was different from the show but no so different that the show was unfaithful to the material. The book was more just Dexter, it didn't have all of the supporting story lines like the show did. This book is Dark and Devious and unexpectedly comedic. To any one that has seen the show i highly recommend you read these books.
I highly reccomend it! These books are amazing and the author is a genius. He makes a violent serial killer more than likeable not only by giving him a set of morals, but by giving him a witty sense of humor that greatly appeals to the dark, twisted streak in us all (much like Jhonen Vasquez's 'JTHM', which was actually the first thing that came to mind when i started reading this book...). I've only read the first three books so far, but i can honestly say i love this series! Trust me; read the first chapter and you'll be hooked : D
A slow to start at first but then it turns very bloody & very "Dexter"
I really enjoyed reading this book. It gives you a lot of information about Dexter's childhood/trauma and his foster father, Harry. The descriptions of his dark passenger are fascinating. I love the interactions (aka. face-offs between them) of one dark passenger to another. Not to mention that he is a serial killer of killers, all according to the rules of engagement taught to him by Harry. Even more surprising is that he rigidly follows the Harry rules every time. You are introduced to his sister and brother. His outlook on relationships and work is so dry, but he tries to put a positive spin on it all. Dexter's darkness spliced with a sense of humor keeps me reading these books in short order. The only thing that bothers me is the large amount of self pity and self loathing that is repeatedly mentioned. However, it serves the purpose of making him more human. It's okay. I read book #5 first, so it was interesting to go back and meet his brother for the first time. You do not have to read them in order (as they are nearly self contained novels), but it is best to develop with the characters from the beginning. I will be reading all of these books. I liked them that much! I have very few series that I commit to reading thoroughly, but this is one of them. -AvidReader
This book is awesome! Read this book super quick. The beginning of the book matches up perfectly with the first season but it doesnt match up as the book continues. The show is different compared to this book. Youll see what Im talking about once you read it. FYI: Deborah is super annoying in the book just like in the show. Grrrr.
This book and series are extremely well-written and give the reader quirky characters that stretch the boundaries of what it is to be "bad" or "good." The unexpected protagonist is a surprise and it is to the author's credit that the reader ends up caring about Dexter and his world. If you've been watching the HBO series, forget about it - the televised series cannot hold a candle to the books for character development and interaction. Seeing the world revealed through Dexter's eyes is an experience. And the books just keeps getting better and better. Turn off the tube and head for the bookstore!
I have not watched the series. I have always had the impression that Hollywood screws everithing up. Therefore, I will not comment in relation to that. This novel had me on my toes the whole way. It almost made me feel criminal. In my thoughts I was a cheerleader and I was cheering for Dexter the whole way. I felt every feeling he had or had not. Picturing every moment. I guess we all have a little bit of Dexter inside us...
This first installment in the Dexter series is also the basis for the television series based on Lindsay's character. The television series is very different from the book series, so be sure to remember that as you read/watch. In a television show, you need to have constant twists/turns/hooks to keep audiences coming back every week. In a book, however, you have more time to examine/develop characters and you can spend more time on each plot. The Dexter books are fantastic, mainly because of Lindsay's voice. His first person narrative [as Dexter] is just incredible, and the voice is smart, funny, and very quick. Dexter's thought processes are fascinating, and we are reminded of Ellis's American Psycho as Lindsay brings the inner workings of a killer to life. Both the books and the television series are great, and I won't go into which is better - but this is a book review, and you really should read this book as well as the rest of the Dexter series. Lindsay is a great writer, and Dexter is a character that deserves your attention.
The book is very much different from the showtime series! Better in my opinion. The book is way more descriptive (which a past review complained about)...but it kinda has to be since it is a book and not a show! The tv series switched it up so much it seems like a total different story. So it's pretty fun to be with the same characters...but with a different story. Bravo Jeff Lindsay! I already have bn holding a copy of book #2 at the front desk!
Darkly Dreaming Dexter is the most original serial-killer novel I have ever read. I read a ton of thrillers (aka serial-killer novels) and Darkly Dreaming Dexter is the best book I have read in quite a while. Jeff Lindsay takes this watered down genre and injects a twisted (but great) sense of humor and made me actually care for what I thought would be an unlikeable character. I absolutely loved this book and will handsell it like crazy. I am anxiously awaiting the next Jeff Lindsay book. OK, I am done with this review, but I urge you to buy this book. When you finish it, you will tell your friends about it and they will tell their friends and so on and so on and so on....(well, you get the picture, don't you?) READ THIS BOOK. You will have a bloody good time!
I bought this thinking that it would be the same as the version in stores. It is not. No punctuation, awful spelling...very clearly a rip off. At the time this was the less expensive version...now it is more expensive. After I got my money returned, I bought the good one. If I could rate customer service on here, I'd have a few choice words for them too. It is not the customer's fault that this is stood by your company and is so badly done that a child would be ashamed. Zero trust for bn.
DEXTER A DECIDEDLY FIVE-STAR VILLAIN! Usually, I read the books before I see the movies or TV shows that result. That, however, wasn’t the case with the “Dexter” book series, about which I was truly unaware, until I got hooked on the popular SHO series about a serial killer, blood-splatter expert, who only kills serial killers. Killer versus killer was of particular interest to me since I’d had published a short story for a German-language anthology about the same, albeit just a one-on-one. At the beginning of each Dexter TV episode, over several seasons, I kept seeing, “based on the novel DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER”; each time I thought that I liked the TV shows so much I’d probably like the books as well. I just never got around to getting the books and reading them. That said … I’m glad I waited until the TV series was over and done before spotting the last of the book series, DEXTER IS DEAD, which I picked up to see if the author ended the story more to my satisfaction than did the script writers. He did! I enjoyed the last book of the series so much that, I decided to start at the beginning, which is this one. There has been just enough time between TV series ending and the here and now for me to be a little hazy on some of the plot twists of the TV shows, which allows me more easily to accept the differences from the books (and there ARE differences) without being confused or made disconcerted because of them. Color me enjoying my read. I love the author’s first-person narrative, his sense of humor, and the way he can make even a serial killer seem more than a little charming. DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER is the only book I’ve picked up in a very long to which I’ve give the whole five stars.
Love the series!
I wanted to read this book because, like many people, I am a huge fan of the show and its genius. Unfortunately, this is one of the rare cases where the book is far overshadowed by the television show. Still, there is something to say for the fact that Jeff Lindsay originally came up with these ideas, and he certainly isn't a bad writer. Some of it got a little hokey and the climax was rushed and messy. Overall, the writing style can seem a little repetitive and forced, but still. It was a good read. Entertaining and easy. If you're a fan of the show it still gives that extra little fill that you crave after it's over.