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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Dexter by Design

Jeff Lindsay

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Dexter by Design

Title: Dexter by Design
Author: Jeff Lindsay
Genre: Novel
Written: 2009
Length: 285 pages
Availability: Dexter by Design - US
Dexter by Design - UK
Dexter by Design - Canada
Dexter by Design - India
Dexter dans de beaux draps - France
Die schöne Kunst des Mordens - Deutschland
Dexter por decisión propia - España
. .
DVD: Dexter: The First Season - US
Dexter: The Second Season - US
Dexter: The Third Season - US
Dexter: The Fourth Season - US
  • The fourth in the Dexter-series

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Our Assessment:

B : good, light -- though very messily bloody -- fun

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian A- 28/2/2009 Matthew Lewin
The LA Times F 24/9/2009 Jonathan Shapiro

  From the Reviews:
  • "The rest of the book is the highly entertaining account of how Dexter juggles all the opposing forces in his life (...) Apart from a pretty pointless journey to Cuba, which feels tacked on to the plot as a kind of travelogue, this is another very successful encounter with the wickedly entertaining Dexter." - Matthew Lewin, The Guardian

  • "For fans of such "humor," Jeff Lindsay's new novel, Dexter by Design, will surely be an enjoyable cup of congealed and gory tea. For others, this book is about as pleasant as a sewer swim, and just about as socially rewarding. (...) It would, of course, be prudish yet true to note that the Dexter books are a celebration of the banality of evil. They trivialize the taking of life and come as close to meeting the legal definition of obscenity as anything I've read in years: They are prurient and lacking in all redeeming social value. But give the devil his due. Lindsay's serial-killer killer is a great gimmick." - Jonathan Shapiro, The Los Angeles Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       After the Molochian misstep that was Dexter in the Dark, Lindsay returns to form and skips the supernatural hokum, concentrating on (very) bloody murder once again. Half the fun of the Dexter novels is Dexter's tone and joking manner about some very serious things, and in Dexter by Design the voice carries the reader through convincingly again; it's not exactly Wildean banter, but it's not bad.
       The story begins with newlyweds Dexter and Rita honeymooning in Paris. Among the sightseeing they take in is a performance piece, by a self-mutilating artist, and this theme of the human body as tableau and art-work crops up in variations throughout the novel. Of course, Dexter -- expert in the art of murder in his own very different right -- is intrigued by the idea.
       Back in Miami, Dexter's sister, Deborah -- now in the know about Dexter's 'Dark Passenger' and his proclivities -- hopes he can offer some insight into a new series of murders that she is investigating, where the corpses are carefully staged and presented. But Dexter is a bit thrown by these corpses and what's been done to them; as he tries to explain:

The killing part is supposed to be fun, and the bodies should reveal that. Instead, the killing wasn't the point at all, it was just a means to an end. Instead of the end itself ...
       They soon have a good idea of who might be behind the crimes, however, but when Deborah goes to question the man she gets knifed; Dexter is nearby, but not close enough to prevent the attack. Afterwards, he decides the person they had come looking for is someone who deserves to be put out of commission, a perfect Dexter-victim since he is obviously a very bad person (who nearly killed Deborah, on top of it all). Without planning too carefully he goes about that business, disposing of the man.
       Two things then upend Dexter's world, as it turns out that neither the staged corpses nor Deborah's knifing are as straightforward as everyone originally thought. Indeed, it's pretty clear that Dexter has gone against his father Harry's code and offed an innocent.
       Dexter doesn't even have too much time for guilt to gnaw at him, because it turns out the victim's lover and partner, Brandon Weiss, knows what Dexter did. Fortunately, Weiss is also a psychopath, and so instead of simply going to the police with the evidence he begins a cat and mouse game with Dexter. He's pretty good at it, too, so the body count mounts before the final performance-art showdown.
       Naturally, things work out very conveniently for Dexter, even as several people put many of the pieces into place. (Others, of course, remained fooled by the façade, including Deborah's paramour Chutsky, who joins Dexter on the Weiss-hunt for a while and lectures him: "You can't be squeamish about a little blood".) Dexter doesn't exactly come up smelling of roses, but he does okay.
       Parts are a bit rushed -- Rita, for example, goes through a rather unpleasant experience as part of Weiss' plan, and surely there should be a bit more to how she digests that -- and far too much works out just exactly conveniently enough, but on the whole Lindsay has built up a fairly entertaining tongue-in-cheek (and other body parts elsewhere ...) story, the serious/absurd dichotomy that the series lives off presented as pitch-perfect as Lindsay seems capable of (he's a good B-writer, but not more -- but that's usually sufficient for his purposes).
       Rita's kids, Astor and Cody, are getting pushier about being allowed to unleash their own little Dark Passengers, but Lindsay still keeps them in check here. With their budding evil, which Dexter still isn't quite sure how to handle, along with Rita's surprising news at the end of the novel that promises to further complicate Dexter's life, and with Deborah getting back into shape again after being sidelined for much of this novel, the series seems back on track again; certainly, Dexter by Design balances humor and thrills (and the grotesque) as well as any volume in the series so far.

- M.A.Orthofer, 3 August 2011

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Dexter by Design: Reviews: Dexter series: Books by Jeff Lindsay in the Dexter-series under review:
  1. Darkly Dreaming Dexter
  2. Dearly Devoted Dexter
  3. Dexter in the Dark
  4. Dexter by Design
  5. Dexter is Delicious
  6. Double Dexter
  7. Dexter's Final Cut
  8. Dexter is Dead
Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author Jeff Lindsay (pen name of Jeffry P. Freundlich) was born in 1952.

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© 2011-2015 the complete review

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