Buy this book?

(a Dexter novel)

By Jeff Lindsay

Doubleday, Hardcopy ($25.95)

ISBN-13: 978-0-385-53237-2
Kindle eBook ($12.99)

Reviewed by Sam Waas

DOUBLE DEXTER is a comic novel, and a good one. All the Dexter books are in fact comic. And comic not in the pandering slapstick sense, but in the classic tradition of Terry Southern and Henry Fielding.

Bad things happen to Dexter Morgan, as well they should. He is, after all, a vicious serial killer. Those familiar with the excellent Showtime series see Dexter dealing with his chosen ones by a single quick downstroke to the heart. Not so with the original. In the novels, Dexter meticulously, slowly, and painfully dissects.

The most loved and feared serial killer in fiction, Hannibal Lecter, comes to mind. He's of course the champ, but Dexter is a good runner-up. The difference is that we take shuddery delight at Lecter's intellect and charm, how he outwits his adversaries. Dexter Morgan by comparison seems to stumble through his muddled existence, juggling a conventional family life and professional criminology career with his, er, avocation. And we side with poor Dexter's attempts to emulate human emotions, such as love and affection. He is, after all, a happily married man.

In DOUBLE DEXTER, Morgan has just finished with a new "patient" when he realizes that he's been seen at work by a stranger. And this stranger decides to parrot Dexter and leave victims of his own, taunting Dexter with hints and clues.

Dexter of course takes umbrage at anyone attempting to steal his thunder, and is hypercritical of his admirer's technique. The copycat is also stalking Dexter and threatens to kill him. And to sweeten the pot, the mysterious stranger is framing Dexter and has him under suspicion from a pair of rough homicide cops. What's a kindhearted family man like Dexter Morgan to do?

Throughout the novel, Dexter is trying to take his family on a working vacation to Key West, where he's pursued from his Miami home by the mysterious copycat and the two vindictive cops. The continued confusion that Dexter has in shepherding his children, nurturing his wife, fleeing from the killer, and avoiding the cops is wonderfully amusing.

Creating a comic crime novel is difficult. On one side, the author must prevent dipping too low, into a darker mood that tends to glorify Dexter's murders. On the other, raising the bar may lead to parody. At times, DOUBLE DEXTER seems to do this, rendering the homicide cops as thin cartoons, one of them in particular, who suffers from halitosis, body odor, and general idiotic temper tantrums. Better perhaps to mitigate these characters and render them slightly more realistic, which preserves the overall comic tone of the novel.

DOUBLE DEXTER is nevertheless a delightful story, true to the series. Fans of the TV show will especially enjoy this book.

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