Friday, 9 November 2012

The ‘Dexter’ Books, by Jeff Lindsay
I was shelving books in our library the other day and came across the ‘Dexter” books from which the hit TV series was created.  Now, because I seem to spend a lot of my time on another planet, I still haven’t caught up with ‘Dexter’ on TV and he is now into his 6th or 7th season – logically enough, (it was one of those rare times when I think logically) I decided that I should check the books out before I try the TV series on DVD.  Lucky, lucky me.
True to form, I couldn’t start with the first book ‘ Darkly Dreaming Dexter’ – because it flaming-well wasn’t there, (!) nor was it in the library catalogue (it has probably fallen apart from overuse) so I am woefully ignorant of a lot of Dexter’s tortured background, but I read the next one, ‘Dearly Devoted Dexter’, followed at breakneck speed by ‘Dexter in the Dark’ and ‘Dexter by Design’.  I am now waiting for ‘Double Dexter’ to be returned, (that’s next) and have to say that I am pretty much Dextered out for the moment;  it’s good that it wasn’t there – I need a break!  Not because these books aren’t great, but it’s like eating too much favourite-flavoured ice-cream all in one sitting:  I was just being piggy.
For those who haven’t yet met Dexter, you’re in for a rare treat:  Dexter had a chaotic, dreadful childhood, so horrific that it engendered within him feelings of homicidal anger that could never be sublimated into any kind of force for good.  Fortunately for him, he was adopted into a good family and his foster-father was a policeman, tired, burnt-out by his job, and disgusted that so many of the really bad guys didn’t get the punishment that they deserved.  Harry the policeman recognises Dexter’s proclivities when he discovers Dexter’s secret cemetery of missing neighbourhood pets;  he also knows that Dexter won’t ever lose the killing urge, so decides to train him to use those urges only to dispatch the killers that society would do better without. 
‘Let’s get you squared-away, Dexter’, he says, and with the benefit of his excellent police training Harry turns Dexter into the ultimate killing machine for good – and how never, ever to get caught.
Oh, these books are SO enjoyable, especially as Dexter is such a complex character:  he freely acknowledges he is a monster;  he can’t feel emotion; (which comes in handy when he removes his victims – their pleading is useless);  he is handsome, witty and clever;  (he happily admits to this) he loves alliteration;  (dashing Dexter, daring Dexter, deadly Dexter, Devil-may-care Dexter etc.) and he has the perfect disguise for all his serial-killing:  he is a blood-spatter expert for the Miami Police Department.  Life is good!
Jeff Lindsay peoples his series with excellent minor characters;  Dexter’s Bull-at-a-Gate sister Deborah, a bona fide police detective who, unsurprisingly, has problems accepting what Dexter is, and Rita, Dexter’s girlfriend – who mystifies him with her devotion, her ability to speak sentences faster than he can process, and her two children, mysteriously silent little creatures who appear to communicate with each other telepathically but depend utterly  on our hero to stay with their mother and not desert them.  Dutiful Dexter.
And then there’s Sergeant Doakes:  it takes one to know one, as they say.  He’s on Dexter’s case, recognises the Beast Within because he has one of his own, and informs Dexter – often – that ‘Ah’m gonna get you, motherf*cker’.  Fair enough.  Sergeant Doakes gives Dexter a lot to think about.  Dithering Dexter.
Ah, this is a great series:  Mr. Lindsay has given us a unique new character in thriller fiction, and I wouldn’t miss a single one of his adventures.  Daring, dauntless, dreadful:    Dexter is DELICIOUS.

Fifty Shades Darker, by E. L. James
Here is book two of Ms James’s corny, porny, horny saga of sex and sadism – BUT!!  True love has reared its woolly little head at last between Christian Grey beyond handsome MegaZillionaire - oh, those abs, that perfect nose, those stormy gray eyes, those sculptured lips! - (I always thought it was ‘sculpted’, but what do I know?), severely damaged and disturbed titan of industry, and twirpy, accident-prone graduate student Anastasia Steele.
At the end of book one, Ms Steele marshalled some principles from a hitherto unknown place and, after having her bottom mercilessly paddled by Christian in his Red Room of Pain, decided that the whuppin’ was a bridge too far and left him, supposedly FOREVER!  She is driven snivelling like a big girl’s blouse into the sunset by Christian’s Man of All Work Taylor, but not before unleashing these last cutting words:  ‘You better get your shit together, Grey!’  He is fittingly silent at such linguistic brilliance;  only his wintry gray gaze betrays the agony he feels.
Well, her bum hurts a whole lot more!
They stay apart for five whole days – five days of torture for them both, not to mention the reader:  Mein Gott, it must be love!  And it is.  Christian starts to court Ana, but not in the old fashioned way.  She (the silly trout) cannot resist him and before you can say ‘sculptured lips’ she is hopelessly, completely HIS.  The Red Room of Pain is now the Playroom;  it positively bristles with whistles, bells, clamps, and things I’ve never heard of, which makes me wonder if Ms James spent her childhood reading ‘Hustler’ instead of nursery rhymes.  Oh, they have a jolly old time sexually christening every other room in Christian’s mega apartment, including having a bang-up time on his grand piano (fortunately with lid closed)  – Ana even drums her nekkid little heels on the keys (thereby hitting a lot of bum notes!  Oh, sorry, sorry);  they are so delighted with each other that they smirk ALL THE TIME, and I found that immensely irritating, even more than all the huffing and puffing every third or fourth page:  surely, one would expect the happy couple to gaze into each other’s eyes – you know, her cerulean blue gaze captured by his searing gray glance – but no, they insist on smirking.  It nearly drove me mad!  On the upside, Christian only steeples his ‘long, beautiful fingers’ once in book two.
The love affair continues apace:  Christian gets counselling for his f*ckedupness and Ana starts a job, but before you can say ‘sexual harrassment’ her new boss is coming on to her in a most odious manner.  What does our Ana do to prevent defilement in the staff kitchen? She does not cry ‘Unhand me, you cad!’, for this is the 21st century:  she breaks his little finger and knees him in the goolies, crying ‘and in the future make your own damn coffee!’  She is a true Warrior Queen!  Oh, what a great moment for feminism, but I rather hope that ordinary gels who read this book (and there are so many of us) won’t be tempted to try such moves on their own bosses who innocently request a coffee - employment opportunities are few and far between these days.
Christian proposes marriage;  dippy Ana accepts  (‘Holy shit – he loves me!’);  they are as happy as only great love, great wealth, great sex (remember it’s the Playroom now, not the Red Room of Pain) and great bullsh*t can make them, BUT.
There’s a nasty worm in the perfect red apple of their happiness in the shape of Ana’s broken and bruised ex boss:  he is planning revenge and it won’t be nice, but we shall have to wait until book three to find out WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.  I fervently hope I won’t die of old age on the library waiting list before it’s my turn for book three.  Let’s face it:  despite all my twittering about how awful these books are (and they are, truly!),  I’m as hooked as everyone else.    I shall be so glad when this uniquely dreadful Trilogy is behind me -   let’s hope Ms James is too busy spending her millions to feel compelled to write another lot of nonsense – or if she does, would she please get a good editor?  ‘Sculptured lips’?  Smirking?  ‘Holy crap/shit/f*ck’?  AAARGH!!

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