Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Dexter

Go To

Dexter is a series of crime novels by Jeff Lindsay.

It centers on Dexter Morgan, a blood-spatter analyst in the Miami Metro Police Department. Dexter moonlights as a serial killer in his spare time, which he keeps a secret from his friends and coworkers. His late father Harry taught him to hunt only other serial killers and how to dodge the law, allowing Dexter to cope with his homicidal urges.

The book series so far consists of:

  • Darkly Dreaming Dexter (2004)
  • Dearly Devoted Dexter (2005)
  • Dexter in the Dark (2007)
  • Dexter by Design (2009)
  • Dexter is Delicious (2010)
  • Double Dexter (2011)
  • Dexter's Final Cut (2013)
  • Dexter is Dead (2015)

The books were adapted into a TV series in 2006. The first season was a more or less faithful adaptation of Darkly Dreaming Dexter, but subsequent seasons have spun off into a separate canon.

The books provide examples of:

  • Alliterative Title: Well, they go:
    • Darkly Dreaming Dexter (2004)
    • Dearly Devoted Dexter (2005)
    • Dexter in the Dark (2007)
    • Dexter by Design (2009)
    • Dexter is Delicious (2010)
    • Double Dexter (2011)
    • Dexter's Final Cut (2013)
    • Dexter is Dead (2015)
  • Chew Toy: Doakes, though whether he gets it worse in the books or in the show is up for debate, as the books have him end up with his feet, hands and tongue chopped off by a very vengeful sociopathic surgeon.
    • And poor, poor Deborah.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Deb's language is no prettier than her TV counterpart's. Doakes, in addition, has "Fuck you" as a macro on his voice simulator after losing his tongue. And "I'm watching you, motherfucker".
  • Drives Like Crazy: According to our Anti-Hero, everyone else in South Florida. Depending on when you drive, this may be Truth in Television.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Taken very literally, i.e., "The Code."
  • Fair Cop: Deb, primarily. Deconstructed, as it just means she gets to dress up like a hooker for stings.
  • The Family That Slays Together: The book series has Dexter training Cody and Astor in the ways of serial killer killing. Uncle Brian turns up and gives Cody and Astor a lesson in the fifth book. At this rate, even Deborah may be joining any time soon.
  • First-Person Smartass: More so than the TV series, arguably.
  • Genre Blind: Deborah, to an extent Dexter lampshades once that "she hasn't watched much TV".
  • Genre Shift: The third book suddenly moves the story from psychological crime into supernatural fantasy, and the fourth switches it back just as suddenly.
  • Handsome Lech: Invoked by Dexter. When Brian turns up in the fifth book he's also like this, but Dexter considers him a big fake. There's also Deke.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Rita, even worse than in the show. Her first husband is a violent drug addict, but she puts up with him for the kids' sake. She then gets married again, to Dexter, who is an even bigger monster, and finally, has complete confidence in possibly the biggest monster of them all, Brian, the ice truck killer, who is Dexter's brother, to the point where she feels safe in entrusting her children to him. To top it all off, has absolutely no idea that her children are turning out to be exactly like Dexter and Brian, little monsters in their own right.
  • How Unscientific!: The third book abandons the true-crime/psychological thriller format and explain that Dexter kills because he's possessed by a demon called the Dark Passenger. This is referenced in the television series in a metaphorical sense, rather than implying that Dexter is possessed by a literal dark entity. This deviation from the original narrative is a positive example of Executive Meddling since it would have placed the show in the Sci Fi Ghetto.
    • Not that it seems to matter, since the fourth book shoves it into a corner with barely a passing mention, and it's likely to go unexplored from here on out.
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: Some of Dexter's excuses sound like this when he's leaving in the middle of the night "to take some papers from the office", but Rita takes these as Going to the Store stories. Bonus points for the kids actually realising (and gleeing at) what he's up to.
  • Informed Ability: Dexter says his sister Deborah is a great detective, but all we tend to see is her asking Dexter to basically identify the killer for her with his "hunches". She also firmly grabs the Idiot Ball in the final book by actually believing Dexter killed Rita when he was obviously being railroaded.
  • Informed Attribute: Like stated in the series folder, on Dexter saying the police is powerless and stupid at times, but less noticeable here, because the books expands on his close to supernatural abilities at "hunches" and other things he just doesn't show in the series.
  • Jerkass: Once again, Doakes, overlaps with Jerk Ass Has A Point sometimes.
  • Mood Dissonance: Jokes mixed with homicide.
  • Oblivious Younger Sibling: Rita, if not enough that her children are monsters-in-the-making and her husband kills and will teach her children to do that, too, while she's playing Mama Bear and constantly shouting out how bad are the killers she sees on TV, now she's basically living with four monsters under her roof (Brian included), feeding their lies, out of which at least one (Brian) doesn't see her more than a bug that he can squash if he thinks it would improve or make more fun his relation with Dexter or the kids.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Cody and Astor. Dexter observes that they enter a room "by osmosis".
  • Only Sane Man: Ironically, Dexter. When he isn't busy doing or talking about what he does he often questions how he gets dragged into half of the things that happen to him.
    • Doakes too. He's the only one in the entire police department who even vaguely suspects that Dexter is different than everyone else. Dexter himself wonders why this is the case.
  • The Pollyanna: Dexter sarcastically describes himself as this.
  • Purple Prose: In particular the Devastatingly Daft Diction abusing a certain Device, of which the titles are only the beginning.
    "Moon. Glorious moon. Full, Fat, Reddish moon, the night as light as day, the moonlight flooding down across the land and bringing joy, joy, joy."
  • Parent with New Paramour: Rita, and Dexter's a big improvement over her ex. In a subversion of Papa Wolf, Dexter realizes that the abuse that the children suffered at the hands of their father has them so disturbed that Dexter sees that they need to be trained, as Harry trained him, to only kill those who deserve it.
    • It only appears to be true with Cody, who actually kills someone who was threatening Dexter and Astor at the end of Dexter in the Dark. Astor still seems to be genuinely showing emotions, and even Dexter says she might just be going along with it because she's so close to Cody.
  • Secret Identity: Used. Until Deborah finds out.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Well, yeah.
  • Spider-Sense: Dexter's Dark Passenger acts like this to him, warning him of danger (usually from other predators).
  • Status Quo Is God: Averted most of the time regarding the story's evolution, played straight regarding Dexter's actions. After the third book, he gets back to normal relations with his Dark Passenger. After the fifth, he seems to have forgotten his struggles to become "human" and "not a killer" and goes out to give Deb "a shower present".
  • The Stoic: Doakes and, to a lesser extent, Deborah. Dexter himself, as he claims to feel no emotion.
    • Doakes practically radiates waves of seething hatred at Dexter, especially after he gets his hands, feet, and tongue lopped off.
  • Supreme Chef: Dexter heaps praise on Rita's cooking.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Dexter keeps saying the he doesn't expect the world to be a fair place. And he keeps saying, and he keeps saying... until he admits he doesn't like the world not being a fair place, and that it should be.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Dexter. He seems to be more human than he lets on (maybe) but he is still less emotional than in the TV show.
  • Vigilante Man: Sometimes, Dexter's targets/victims slip through the cracks in the legal system. Let's just say there is a lot of overlap when it comes to Dexter and all the Anti-Hero related tropes.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • After The first novel, Brian is never mentioned again until the fourth novel. He returns in the fifth novel and also has a role in the sixth novel. In the seventh novel, Dexter's Final Cut, he is never mentioned at all.
    • After the second novel, Dearly Devoted Dexter, Doakes becomes somewhat of a cyborg who keeps his eye on Dexter, waiting for him to be exposed over the next four novels. Doakes then has no role whatsoever in Dexter's Final Cut.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: With the Dark Passenger, comes the need to kill, but also the "power" to be somewhat beyond the human status and those silly things called human emotions.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Dexter, himself.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

  • Big Bad: The Tamiami Slasher.
  • Foreshadowing: While driving after the Tamiami Slasher's ice truck, Dexter narrates, "He was in full hunting mode, and I was merely tagging along behind like an unwanted little brother." Interesting choice of simile, Dexter...
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Dexter's explanation of why LaGuerta comes on to him.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Between Miami-Dade and Broward counties' respective police departments, in dealing with the ice truck killer's victims.
  • Prison Rape: LaGuerta threatens this to an uncooperative guard.

Dearly Devoted Dexter

  • And I Must Scream: The Yodelling Potato. Also Doakes after his tongue, arm, and a leg are removed.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Dexter doesn't want to find Doakes when Dr. Danco manages to kidnap the latter. It solves his problem of Doakes investigating him. Deborah gives him a Death Glare and tells him he has to help as the Only Sane Man that understands how Dr. Danco thinks. Dexter groans, and agrees to try. He even questions why he's being so emotional about this. Deborah returns the favor by saving a bound Dexter from Dr. Danco., shooting him point-blank.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Danco.
  • Deadly Doctor: The main antagonist in the second book.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Dexter questions Kyle why not warn the other potential victims on Danco's list. Kyle dismisses it as if they do that, then Danco will get wind of the warning and vanish as well, meaning they won't catch him. Dexter finds this very disingenuous and disturbing that he has more of a moral code than government officials.
  • Guile Hero: Well, guile serial killer. When Danco manages to catch Dexter, tie him up, and drug him, he's impressed that Dexter is showing no fear. Dexter figures out that Dr. Danco is playing hangman and stalls by talking with him. When he gets two letters right and Danco tries Moving the Goalposts by saying he spoke out of turn, Dexter offhandedly suggests taking a limb off Doakes. Dr. Danco considers this, and finds it a suitable compromise. Before he can, however, Deborah shows up and shoots.
  • Mercy Kill: Doakes tries to give one to The Yodelling Potato, but Debra stops him.
  • Refuses To Rescue The Dislike: At first, Dexter doesn't want to save Doakes. The man wants to put him in jail and maybe see him executed. Deborah motivates Dexter to help because he cares about her too much to see her suffer.
  • Torture Technician: Dr. Danco, the main villain of the second book.

Dexter in the Dark

  • Brought Down to Normal: In Dexter in the Dark, the Dark Passenger leaves Dexter for a while, leaving him emotional and a lot less intuitive.
  • Big Bad: IT.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: When Dexter is trying to research the nature of his missing Dark Passenger, he tries a number of search terms, from the obvious to the esoteric:
    Narrator!Dexter: The results for "inner cheerleader" were really quite startling, but had nothing to do with my problem.
  • Multiple Narrative Modes: The first two novels are written entirely in the first-person, from Dexter's POV. Round three mixes it up when the reader gets intermittent third-person visits from Dex's stalker.
  • Neurodiversity Is Supernatural: Dexter in the Dark reveals that all sociopaths are really possessed by the children of Satan.
  • The Series Has Left Reality: With the revelation that the Dark Passenger is a genuine supernatural force.

Dexter by Design

Dexter is Delicious

  • Abandoned Playground: Buccaneer Land in Dexter is Delicious is an abandoned pirate-themed amusement park. It's the hideout of Alana Acosta and her coven of vampire cannibals.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Once Dexter's daughter, Lily Anne is born, he wants nothing more than to be around her, basking in the warm glow of new fatherhood. He even makes the Dark Passenger go away for a fair bit of time, and wonders if the new-and-improved non-murderous Dex-Daddy is here to stay.
  • Big Bad: Alana Acosta.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Brian saves Dexter when he's about to have his flesh chopped off and put on a grill.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: The Aldovars try to bribe Deborah with one, seeking information about their daughter's kidnapper.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The fact that a coven is lead by a woman is brought up a couple of times. This is to clue in the reader (and eventually, Dexter) that the real leader of the cannibals isn't Fang's owner, but the wife of the commissioner.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Alana was getting away with eating migrants because no one was missing them. Then her stepson Bobby convinces two underage, wealthy teens that getting eaten would be a good idea. The police get involved because the parents become predictably frantic and have enough weight to toss at the cops to find their children.
  • Dumb Blonde: Deke, Deb's new partner, is thought to be this.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Dexter is disgusted when he learns that Samantha wants to be eaten. He agrees with Deborah that it is messed up. Later, he is horrified with himself for sleeping with her while drugged, even though he wasn't in his right mind.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The bad guys in the fifth book are like this. The main victim actually wants to be eaten because her father told her fairy stories about princesses being eaten by ogres, including playfully chewing on her arm. Deke, however, doesn't.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Bobby Acosta manages to get off the hook, with his lawyers arguing that Alana's death traumatized him. Dexter goes out into the night to seek him out, to avenge Deborah's loss.
  • My Biological Clock Is Ticking: Deborah wants a family, after seeing Dexter with his. She gets her child at the end of Dexter is Delicious, but not a whole family - Kyle Chutsky leaves her, after failing to come to their rescue, feeling like a failure.
  • New Child Left Behind: Deborah is pregnant by her long-time boyfriend, Kyle Chutsky. However, he didn't know this, and leaves Deborah after he believes he failed her at the end of the book.
  • Only Sane Man: With Dexter captured at first, Deborah becomes this. She returns Samantha to her parents, advising them to get counseling for their daughter to deal with her "wanting-to-be-eaten" obsession.
  • Shocking Voice Identity Reveal: Brian as Dexter's savior from the vampire-cannibals in Dexter is Delicious.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: It turns out that Samantha wasn't kidnapped; she ran away so that Alana could eat her eventually. She gets mad at Dexter for leading the police to where she was being held. On hearing about her desires, Deborah tells Samantha's worried parents that she needs counseling.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Deke, Deborah's new partner; it's definitely bad to be one in a Dexter book. Deborah too shows some emotional Genre Blindness that almost gets everyone killed.
  • Unwanted Rescue: it turns out Samantha wasn't kidnapped; she ran away so that Alana could eat her. Even Dexter is grossed out by this.
  • Wham Line: Samantha telling Dexter she wants to be eaten. Of course, from the way things proceed, and the Foreshadowing of making Dexter repeat "I kept thought it was the drugs", "Drugs will do that to you" etc., her confession becomes almost obvious.
  • What If the Baby Is Like Me: Of course, it's too early to tell how Harrison Lilly Anne's going to turn out...

Double Dexter

  • Jack the Ripoff: The premise of Double Dexter, where someone witnesses one of Dexter's kills and starts copying him.
  • Rasputinian Death: How Crowley ultimately dies. Dex even compares him to Rasputin when he just. Keeps. Coming. Back.

Dexter's Final Cut

  • Anyone Can Die: Rita.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: For a series that was remarkably upbeat considering its subject matter, the books have a surprisingly sad ending, with it looking like Dexter will take the fall for the deaths of Rita and Jackie and the kidnapping of Astor. Deborah seems to have abandoned him after finding out about the affair, and with Rita dead, there is no one to back up the claim that Robert took Astor.

Dexter is Dead


Alternative Title(s): Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Dearly Devoted Dexter, Dexter In The Dark, Dexter By Design, Dexter Is Delicious, Double Dexter