Darkly Dreaming Dexter

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Darkly Dreaming Dexter
Darkly Dreaming Dexter.jpg
Cover of the 2004 edition
Author Jeff Lindsay
Country United States
Language English
Genre Crime novel
Publication date
July 2004
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Followed by Dearly Devoted Dexter

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is a 2004 novel by Jeff Lindsay, the first in his series about serial killer Dexter Morgan. It formed the basis of the Showtime television series Dexter and won the 2005 Dilys Award and the 2007 Book to TV award.


The novel's protagonist, Dexter Morgan, works for the Miami-Dade Police Department as a forensic blood spatter pattern analyst. In his spare time, Dexter is a serial killer who kills murderers, rapists, and other undesirables he believes have escaped, are escaping, or will ultimately escape justice.

Dexter's murders are directed by an inner voice he refers to as the "Dark Passenger", which keeps prodding Dexter to satisfy his homicidal urges on a regular basis. Once he has done so, the voice is placated for a while, but it always eventually comes back.

Flashbacks reveal that his foster father, a police detective named Harry Morgan, recognized early on that Dexter was a violent sociopath with an innate need to kill, and taught him how to kill people who had gotten away with murder as a way to channel his homicidal urges in a "positive" direction. Harry also taught the boy to be a careful and meticulous killer, to leave no clues, and to be absolutely sure his victims were guilty before killing them. Dexter calls these rules "the Code of Harry."


Dexter manages his double life reasonably well for years, but his idyll is disturbed when he becomes involved in the investigation of a series of killings of prostitutes. The "Tamiami Slasher" has committed at least three murders already, as the novel opens. Dexter's sister, Deborah, wants out of Vice and into Homicide, and, knowing that her brother has eerie "hunches", asks him for help in solving the case.

Although Dexter admires the killer's style, he eventually decides to help Deborah due to "the Code of Harry". As the case progresses, he still feels a compelling pull to the killer due to similar wants—Dexter admits to himself readily that the bloodless and neat corpses appeal to him, as does the idea of cold and narrow spaces. After a lucid dream, Dexter drives around Miami late one night, when he spots a refrigerated truck and begins to follow it intently. A severed head is thrown at his car, indicating the killer knows Dexter was following him. The killer begins sending messages to Dexter, who finds the series of terrifying crimes engrossing and fascinating. Dexter is torn between helping Deborah catch the killer and a desire to sit back and admire the artistry and skill of a fellow monster's work, despite his earlier agreement to help his sister.

The killer kidnaps Deborah and brings Dexter to the scene, where he reveals that he is holding Deborah in the same shipping container his mother Laura was held in. The killer is Dexter's biological brother, Brian, who was separated from Dexter after their mother's murder at the hands of a drug dealer. Deborah's colleague, Migdia LaGuerta who is a spiteful, manipulative woman skilled only in political gamesmanship and doesn't care about other people; arrives and is killed by Brian, who is disappointed when Dexter refuses to kill Deborah. Dexter allows Brian to kill LaGuerta and helps him get away out of loyalty to his brother.

Narrative style[edit]

Darkly Dreaming Dexter features a first-person story narrated by a serial killer.

Dexter claims to be devoid of human emotion, but he does harbor feelings of a sort for the people in his life, including his foster sister Deborah, his girlfriend Rita (whom he supposedly dates solely to gain the appearance of a normal social life), and Rita's children, Astor and Cody. By the novel's climax, he admits to himself that he is "fond" of them, the closest he can get to feeling love.

Dexter's narration is marked by black humor, even as the story turns grim. He also uses numerous alliterative phrases, typically featuring three prominent D sounds (e.g. Darkly Dreaming Dexter, The Dark DefenDer).

Television series[edit]

Main article: Dexter (TV series)

The novel is the basis for a TV series on the cable network Showtime. Whereas the first season largely followed the plot of the original book; subsequent seasons featured original storylines not directly based on subsequent "Dexter" novels.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter was also featured on an episode of Booked, a Canadian television series that investigates crime fiction novels through the eyes of real forensic science experts.[1]

Differences between the book and the television series[edit]

Book TV series
The plot of the novel primarily revolves around the Miami Dade Police Department's search for the Tamiami Slasher Roughly the entire first half of the novel is condensed within the first episode of the series, in which Dexter works for Miami Metro Police Department. As a result, sub-plots, such as Doakes' interactions with Carlos Guerrero, and victims of Dexter, such as Matt Chambers, were added.
Dexter Morgan seems superficially normal, but he is very psychologically damaged and speaks mostly within his head. He is out of touch with human emotion. His "Dark Passenger" is very evil in tone and his urge to kill isn't very powerful; he kills only two victims throughout the book (plus a third in a flashback). For much of the novel, Dexter believes that he, himself, is the Tamiami Slasher, killing victims subconsciously. Dexter Morgan seems superficially normal, but he is very psychologically damaged in his daily interactions with those around him. He is out of touch with human emotions, but learns to feel new emotions that confuse him. His "Dark Passenger" is only referred to and never heard from, and his late father appears onscreen in visions or delusions; he acts as a mentor and a voice of reason for Dexter. Dexter has a much higher urge to kill, and his kill count through the series is far greater than that in the novel. Dexter never suspected that he was the Ice Truck Killer.
The character of LaGuerta is named Migdia LaGuerta and is a detective. She desires Dexter sexually, and makes the fact abundantly clear, and, after he spurns her advances, she catches him looking for Deborah at the ship yard. She is very condescending towards Deborah Morgan, calling her "Officer Puta" and "Einstein" ("If her tits were her brains, she'd be Einstein") She is named María LaGuerta and is a lieutenant. She seems to take a sexual interest in Dexter in the first few episodes, but it stagnates very early in the series. She is antagonistic towards Debra Morgan and, only reluctantly, promotes Debra to Homicide. She has a slight crush on Doakes, who is the one who catches Dexter at the ship yard after having followed him. Later, he catches Dexter in the midst of disposing of the man who killed his mother, by planting a GPS chip on his boat.
Deborah is described as voluptuous, with a centerfold's body. She seems to suspect that there is something "wrong" about Dexter and eventually discovers his secret. She hides this fact. Deborah (renamed Debra in the series) is lean and athletic—and she smokes in the first season, a habit she does not have in the novel. In the beginning, she only knows that Dexter is hiding something. She doesn't discover Dexter's secret until much later in the series, after many a close call.
Brian (no last name established in this novel) kidnaps Deborah, kills LaGuerta, and escapes. He tries to convince Dexter to kill Deborah after he is shot by LaGuerta, but Dexter refuses. He only appears at the end of the novel. Brian Moser dates Debra under the alias Rudy Cooper, proposes to her, and then kidnaps her. He tries to convince Dexter to help kill Debra with him, which Dexter refuses to do. Dexter kills Brian. Brian/Rudy's romance with Debra is a sub-plot of the show.
The string of prostitute murders are committed by the Tamiami Slasher. The killer is named the Ice Truck Killer.
Rita's kids have a dark past and are only briefly mentioned. Their father is in jail for domestic abuse. Rita's kids are normal as Rita had sheltered them from their father's abuse. Dexter frequently interacts with Astor and Cody and is shown to be a father figure to them. Paul Bennett is released from prison due to overcrowding and tries to establish himself in the kids' lives. He is antagonistic towards Dexter. Dexter eventually frames Paul (who gets imprisoned a second time and later killed in an altercation with other inmates) to protect Rita and the children.
In the book, Vince Masuoka and Angel Batista (who refers to himself as "Angel-no-Relation") both work in forensics and their roles are minimal to the story. Doakes (no first name established in this novel) is a police Sergeant in Miami Dade Police Department's Homicide Division who suspects Dexter is hiding something, but isn't sure what. In the TV series, Vince Masuka (note spelling change) works in forensics (and makes many perverse jokes). Angel Batista is a Detective in Miami Metro's Homicide Division, who is often referred to as "Batista". James Doakes is a police Sergeant in Miami Metro's Homicide Division who follows Dexter to the location where his mother's murder took place and proceeds to fight him.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Darkly Dreaming Dexter won the 2005 Dilys Award presented by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association.[2]


  1. ^ "Booked.TV".
  2. ^ "The Dilys Award". Archived from the original on 2008-08-26. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 

External links[edit]