Dexter Morgan is an anomaly among his kind -- a serial killer governed by a strict set of rules, instilled in him by his now dead cop of a foster father, Harry.
"There are rules, Dexter," Harry told him at the ripe age of 16, and Dexter has been playing by those rules ever since he first started killing: kill no one who doesn't truly deserve it, (i.e. other serial killers) and always, ALWAYS have proof.
In this follow-up to the much-acclaimed Darkly Dreaming Dexter, novelist Jeff Lindsay's madman with a heart is stuck. Despite his antisocial tendencies, Dexter has a genuine liking for children, and he's desperate to dispatch a kiddie photographer who participates in the kidnappings, sexual abuse, and killings of boys between five and seven. But he's dogged by Sergeant Doakes, a Miami-Dade detective who's certain Dexter is up to no good.
So Dexter is forced to hide behind his foolproof disguise -- as a hardworking blood spatter analyst, model citizen, boyfriend to upbeat Rita, and father figure to her two young children, Cody and Astor.
Trapped in normalcy, Dexter Demented has become Dexter Domesticated, playing endless games of hangman and kick-the-can with the kids while his Dark Passenger whispers urgently to him, telling him to get out there and kill, kill, kill.
Then the perfect opportunity for Dexter the Avenger comes along. Called to a crime scene with his cop foster sister Deborah, Dexter gets a look at the work of a truly horrifying psychopath -- one whose devilish slice-and-dice techniques go beyond even the twisted norm.
But Dexter can't do much -- until he's assigned to work with his nemesis Doakes and is forced to go after the Sergeant once he's abducted. As the body count piles up, the Dark Passenger takes over and Dexter is able to pursue his true calling as killer of the killers.
Along the way, Dexter finds time with Rita to be pretty pleasurable, which comes as some surprise to him, and finds that Rita's children have some dark secrets of their own -- ones that Dexter is well-suited to keep.
Dearly Devoted Dexter is a terrific read. It's sharp, witty, and macabre enough to make you grimace in ghoulish delight. Dexter is the ultimate anti-hero. While his lack of conscience is alarming, his charm and keen wit make him as likeable a guy as you're going to meet in a book. And when the bad guys get what's coming to them, well, it's probably more satisfying than it should be to normal, law-abiding readers.
Lindsay has done a fantastic job standing a stale genre (the serial killer novel) on its head, turning the bad guy into a kind of John Wayne with duct tape and fillet knives. Dexter's self-deprecating humor, as well as his genuine sense of responsibility, both to his foster family, Rita, Cody, and Astor, and to society at large, have earned this sociopath a place in a lot of hearts.
Dearly Devoted Dexter is more than just a glimpse into the mind of a dangerous killer (or several). It's also a roaring good thriller, one of those race-against-time cases that leaves you alternately breathless and squirming in creepy discomfort.
This sophomore effort is at least as good as its predecessor, and the next book in the series is worth anticipating. And if you're planning to commit crimes against humanity, watch out. Dexter just might be one step behind you.