Dexter Morgan is a blood-spatter expert for the Miami-Dade Police Force, whose job it is to analyze crime scenes and help catch killers and predators. But Dexter Morgan is no ordinary cop, not even in Florida. You see, Dexter Morgan is also a serial killer, but with a difference. He's a serial killer who preys on other serial killers. Once he followed the rules laid down by his father, the cop Harry Morgan. Dex idolized him as a child, as much as he was able, but he found out that Harry wasn't the incorruptible role model that Dexter thought he was, and now Dexter does what he does because, in his own way, he makes the world a better place and takes out the trash that other cops can't catch.
Dexter recently married his girlfriend, Rita, and they have settled down together in happily married Bliss... as much as Dexter is able to feel or mimic any such thing. But Rita's two kids, and now Dexter's adopted kids have revealed that they, too, are incipent serial killers, and want to go along with Dexter and help them with his mission. Dexter delights in the thought of raising another two children to follow Harry's Rules, but with the birth of his new daughter, Lily Anne, Dex's Dark Passenger, the part of him that demands he track down and kill the people who deserve it, seems to have gone missing, and his two little incipent serial killer kids are feeling that he is letting them down by not training them as he promised.
Adding to Dexter's private life gone to hell is the return of his serial killer brother, Brian, who is willing to play uncle to his new kids and take them on all the exciting adventures that Dexter is no longer able to since his Dark Passenger abruptly abandoned him. Now he has to worry that Cody and Astor will abandon Harry's Rules and that Dexter might have to kill the two kids he really does have paternal feelings for, if totally twisted ones.
Meanwhile, Dex's sister, Deb, needs his help finding a missing girl. The FBI and her parents believe she's been kidnapped, due to a quantity of blood being found at the home, but Dex thinks that the girl has simply run off and is pretending she's been kidnapped to get more money from her parents. He tests the the blood and finds that it isn't the girl, Samantha Aldovar's type. Deb and Dex go to Samantha's school, and question the Principal, but she doesn't want to talk about it. However, they find out that there is another girl missing as well, Samantha's friend, Tyler Spanos.
Aside from that, both girls hung out with a boy who has his teeth filed into sharp points, and Dex questions Dentists who will do such a modification, only to find that there aren't that many. The boy might be Bobby Acosta, which is a problem, since his father, Joe Acosta,is a powerful politician in Miami with many powerful friends who are certain to cause problems for Deb and Dex.
Soon, Deb calls Dex to another crime scene, where it seems that someone has been cooked and eaten. But the bones don't belong to Samantha, only to her friend, Tyler Spanos. One of Deb's detectives finds two Haitian men who swear they saw Bobby Acosta leaving Tyler's car at a local chop shop. Deb and Dex also arrest a man named Chapin who runs from them when they try to question him, but before they can really grill him, the public defender shows up and forces them to release him. Dex tracks him down and unleashes his Dark Passenger on Chapin, and before he dies, he confesses having helped cook and eat Tyler Spanos. But Dex, of course, can't tell this to anyone, but when Deb's partner, Deke is found partially eaten, Dexter finds his blood-soaked shirt in a nearby garbage can, along with a chip for a Goth Nightclub known as "Fang".
Deb and Dex go to the Nightclub and use their police credentials to force their way in. Bobby Acosta is there, but before they can do much, the manager of the club, angry at their presence, has them thrown out. Dexter waits until everyone leaves, and then breaks into the club. He knows there is something going on here because he once researched the owner of the club for his Dark Passenger. Too many undocumented immigrants have gone missing from the club- and from the city, after working there.
And his suspicions are confirmed when he finds Samantha Acosta in one of the massive refrigerators of the club. He tries to free her, but she locks him in with her. She tells him that both she and Tyler had the same dream- both of them wanted to be eaten, so this situation is a dream come true for her. Later, the cultists come back and move her and Dex from the refrigerator into a locked trailer in the Everglades. There is no food, and they are only given a jug of water to sustain them.When they drink it, they begin hallucinating, and end up having sex many times- the water was laced with Ecstasy.
Thankfully, the Miami PD tracks them down and rescues them both. But while Dex is grateful, Samantha is angry that she won't get her dearest wish- to be eaten, and threatens to tell the Police that Dexter raped her if he doesn't keep quiet about it. Soon, Samantha has run off again, and Deb and Dexter go to talk to Bobby Acosta's father, hoping that they can keep him from going to jail if they can find Samantha. But his father refuses to talk to them and is angry at the implication. Their meeting ends when Bobby Acosta's stepmother, Alana, comes in to see her husband.
Deb and Dex leave, but are surprised when Alana Acosta approaches them before they can exit the building. It seems she overheard their conversation with her husband, and she tells them that Bobby is hiding out in a defunct amusement park owned by his father. Even though she didn't give birth to him and she's a former singing star, she doesn't want Bobby to go to jail- she feels something maternal for him.
Dexter, Deb, and her lover Chutsky go to the amusement park loaded for bear to try and save Samantha and arrest Bobby Acosta. But it isn't nearly enough,and they are taken captive. Dex is thrown in with Samantha once more, and Deb and Chutsky are taken away, and then the real cannibal, the one who started the whole cult, is revealed. Can Dexter save Samantha, Chutsky and his sister from the Cannibals? How can you even save someone from something they want more than anything else in the world? And will Dexter be able to go back to killing after having given it up to make a better life for his new daughter, Lily Anne? What could cause him to back on that promise?
Jeff Lindsay and Dexter have taken us a lot of places I never expected to go as a reader. Having the main character be a serial killer and even sympathetic, to the point where you cheer for him- let's just say I never expected to be able to do anything like that for a serial killer. But Dexter Morgan, with his code and his strangely self-deprecating humor... well, it works. It just works, and I'm not completely sure how, but it does.
Yes, they've made a TV series from these books, but the television series Dexter is not quite the same as the Dexter from these books. He's a kinder, softer Dexter in the TV series, although both eventually come to the same conclusions about killing and why to do it. You'll also notice that they killed off Doakes in the TV series, where he is alive in the books. Alive, but very much changed- knowing what Dex is but unable to prove it, and missing a lot of his body parts, something book Dexter takes a sort of gruesome pleasure in. Like I said, different. But I have actually come to prefer book Dexter. While being darker, there is also something strangely purer about him. He's the real deal, not adulterated and watered down for television. Purer and more complex, which makes him, to me, a more interesting character.
If you watch or watched the television show, you'll find yourself enjoying these books, but will find the Dexter within somewhat to very different from the character on TV. Whether you like that, as I do, or find that a bit more uncomfortable, Jeff Lindsay keeps pushing the boundaries of what is possible and what is disgusting, but I love these books, and am looking forward to the next one. Highly recommended, but steer clear if blood, killing or cannibalism makes you feel sick.