I should note that before I read this first volume in the Dexter series, I recently watched the first season of the Dexter TV show on DVD, and I enjoyed that very much. This first book covers the events of the roughly the first half or so of the TV show, which was relatively faithful to the book, though I like some of the subplots and nuances they added to the show (I won’t provide precise spoilers on what’s in the TV show vs. what’s in the book).

This review will contain some minor plot spoilers, so be forewarned.

You’d get this much from reading the back cover, but Dexter is a blood spatter forensic analyst for the Miami police department. He also happens to be a serial killer, though one who only hunts and kills other serial killers, which, I suppose, makes him an oddly likeable anti-hero.

The problem with the book, in some ways at least, is that it uses a first person narrative structure throughout. On the TV show, the viewer sees Dexter on the screen, and he’s weird and awkward and clueless and maybe kind of stumbling and fumbling around when it comes to human interactions, but we see him as a person and want to like him, because he is so awkward. When the reader is inside of Dexter’s head in the book, we can see how truly alien his mindset is and how he rationally, coldly, meticulously calculates each and every one of his actions in public. And that’s both scary (which is all to the good I suppose) but it’s also distancing. I kind of like the Dexter of the TV show. I don’t much care for the Dexter of the book.

I was actually kind of disappointed in this one. It’s not a terrible book by any means, don’t get me wrong, but it’s kind of meandering and the actual resolution of the plot – such as it is – is unsatisfying, particularly since the TV show took the same elements and wove them together in a much more satisfying manner. I hate to keep comparing the book with the TV show, but both concern the same characters and the same major plot points. And the TV show is just better, with some subplots and additional nuance added in that really enhance the story over the book version. I give this one a very lukewarm 3 stars out of 5. I wanted it to be much better. I don’t think I’ll continue reading the rest of the books, but I am looking forward to Season 2 of the show.

Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers