Dexter Morgan is the blood splatter expert for the Miami-Dade Police Force, but he also has a second life, a double life as the serial killer once known as "The Bay Harbor Butcher". But Dexter is more than just a serial killer- he's a serial killer that preys on other serial killers, thanks to the direction and teaching of his adoptive father, the Cop known as Harry Morgan.
But nobody else understands what he does, not his fellow cops, not even his sister, Deborah, even though she knows what he is. So when Dexter is out taking care of a Pedophile, giving him an up close and personal session with his "Dark Passenger" -Dexter's term for the more predatory, serial-killer part of him, he becomes aware that he is being watched. Dexter attempts to chase the watcher, but doesn't catch him. Instead, the man climbs into a beat-up Honda and drives off.
Dexter goes on to get rid of his former playmate, but the idea that someone knows who he is and what he does is more than a little disturbing to Dexter. Dexter does a search on the car he saw, and goes out jogging every night to try and find the man who saw him, but meanwhile, cops are being murdered, their bodies showing up with every bone in them broken- the first of which is found in Dexter's car.
Deb, who is assigned to catch the killer, naturally asks Dexter for help, but he's caught up in trying to find the man who spied on him. Meanwhile, Rita is eyeing Dex's new nighttime activities with suspicion, and has taken to drinking. Then, Dexter finds his Spy, now calling himself "The Shadow" is interested in blowing Dexter's life and activities wide open. But at the same time, he's also taken up the same sort of activities Dex enjoys, and finds it very liberating.
WHile Deb catches the man responsible for the dead cops, another worker in the Miami-Dade Police Force, a woman named Camilla Figg, who has a HUGE crush on Dexter, is killed, and the Shadow, who killed her, makes it seem like Dex is to blame. Rita is certain that Camilla is the cause of Dex's late-night activities, and accuses him of having an affair with Camilla.
Dex, at his wit's end, asks his brother Brian for help with the Shadow, but Brian kills the wrong man, unbeknownst to Dexter. Rita also wants to move into a bigger house, with now three kids and Dexter sharing the house, it's just too small. Dexter manages to make her believe that he had nothing to do with Camilla Figg, and soon the cops realize it as well. Dexter and Rita and the kids go to Key West to look at real estate and relax, and the Shadow, who is still alive, kills another cop and leaves him in the room that Rita and Dexter are sharing. He still wants to trap Dexter, and manages to snatch Cody and Astor and take them to a small island as bait to trap Dexter.
Dexter, who manages to evade the rap the Shadow wants to pin on him in the case of the Cop's death, must race to rescue Cody and Astor from the Shadow. But will he be able to save his family from the man who wants to kill them, or will Cody and Astor, themselves aspiring serial killers, be able to take out the Shadow on their own? Or is this the kind of thing that only Dex can do for his family?
I liked this book a lot. The Dexter of the books is very different from the Dexter of the television series. For example, the Dexter of the TV show still has emotions, he's just in denial about having them, whereas the Dexter of the books is colder, and truly has very few emotions- most of them relating to his "Dark Passenger", a sort of satisfaction when he kills, and so on.
This book is unique in that the serial killer that Dex has to confront is started in his work by witnessing Dexter at work. The serial killer likes killing, but he also wants to bring Dexter to justice- to get the congratulations that Dexter gets for catching all sorts of killers and murderers in his job. So in a way, the Shadow almost wants to become Dexter himself. But he's a lot less sane than Dexter and, of course, doesn't follow the code of Harry. He just wants to kill Dexter because Dexter is a cop, and this serial killer kills cops.
There was a lot of stuff in this book that I didn't expect- like the ending, for one, and for Dexter to call on his brother Brian for help during the case, since in the past, he's wanted to keep Brian away from his new family. We also get to see that Rita is no prize, herself. She's at least as damaged as Dexter and her kids are, she just hides it better. But the surprise ending made the book for me, and I honestly found the book unable to be put down. Highly recommended.