Killer Thursdays

Driving Mr. Dexter – Dexter Morgan, Part 1

*warning – the following contains spoilers from the first three Dexter novels. Given that the novels have been out for some time and the television show is entering its 6th season, I doubt these spoilers will negatively impact your enjoyment of either. Still, you’ve been warned. ;)*

Driving Mr. Dexter

Knife bladeDexter Morgan. Forensic blood spatter analyst and friendly neighborhood serial killer.

What’s that you say? Friendly and serial killer in the same sentence? Indeed.

See, Dexter isn’t your average homicidal maniac. Oh no. Dexter is a cut above all the rest. Because Dexter only kills people who really, really deserve it.

No, really.

So you see, as long as you’re one of the good guys, you’re perfectly safe with Tall, Dark and Deadly Dexter.

Dexter Morgan is the (anti)hero created by author Jeff Lindsay and first appearing in the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter. Since then, he has starred in Dearly Devoted Dexter, Dexter in the Dark, Dexter by Design and Dexter is Delicious with Double Dexter due out in October (whew, that’s a whole lotta Dex). Darkly Dreaming Dexter also inspired the hit Showtime series Dexter, now entering the sixth season, with Dexter Morgan being portrayed by Michael C. Hall.

As the character of Dexter Morgan in the novel differs in a few very important ways from the character in the television show, we’ll restrict our Dexterish explorations to Novel Dexter for Part 1 of this series.

The novels are narrated in Dexter’s playful and often euphoric voice. He’s prone to Capitalizing A Lot and is almost as fond of alliteration and nicknames as he is of Bavarian cream filled doughnuts, medianoche sandwiches and badito de mame milkshakes.

By day, Dexter is a mild-mannered forensic blood spatter analyst for Miami’sblood spatter Metro-Dade Police Department. While he finds blood extremely disturbing for reasons he doesn’t understand until late in the first novel, he does enjoy making sense of blood spatter at a crime scene and forcing the “vile sticky red stuff” to “behave.”

By night, when  the moon calls and the Need rises, Dexter goes a-hunting. Once he finds the perfect “playmate,” Dexter waits in a white silk mask with a noose of fishing line which he uses to subdue his victims until he can tape them to a work table in a carefully arranged killing room. He then spends a few hours in “happy exploration” before disposing of the victim in various creative ways.

Bloody HandprintAlthough Dexter feels an irresistible Need to kill, he doesn’t do so randomly or haphazardly. He always selects his victims from among the worst murderers, especially those that the justice system cannot put away, is careful to confirm their guilt, and always tidies up afterward.

How did Dexter come by such a work ethic?

His cop foster-father Harry Morgan discovered Dexter’s dark penchant and quickly got him “squared away.” Harry Morgan, a good man and a good cop, saw the darkness in his foster son and realized that, although it wasn’t curable, it might be used as a force for good (if you can call murder, even Dexter’s brand of murder, good). Dexter calls the set of rules that define his murder ritual the Harry Code. And he never deviates.

Well, almost never.

But how did Dexter come by his dark Need in the first place?

When Dexter was very young, he witnessed the brutal slaying of his mother and several men in a refrigerated storage container. The murder involved a chainsaw and copious amounts of blood. Afterwards, Dexter and his brother Brian, older by one year, were left for days in a lake of blood an inch thick. Dexter was rescued by Officer Harry Morgan and later adopted by Harry and his wife Doris. Brian was abandoned to the foster system.

Although Dexter blocks it out (until his brother Brian returns and forces him to remember), the incident in the storage container killed most of what was human in Dexter and let in something  that Dexter calls the Dark Passenger. It left him with a Need to kill.


The Dark Passenger is described as another voice inside of Dexter, a dark, reptilian voice that guides Dexter and prods him into killing. Dexter refers to “letting the Dark Passenger” drive and often uses “we” statements when he’s in the grip of his Need.

While it might at first seem like the Dark Passenger is just a figment of Dexter’s twisted imagination, a way of filling some of the emptiness inside himself and passing off some of the blame, it quickly becomes clear that the Dark Passenger is Other. Some of the cold killers Dexter encounters, including his nemesis Sargeant Doakes, carry their own Dark Passenger. Those Dark Passengers and Dexter’s respond to each other with a flurry of invisible black wings and not-heard hisses.

The third novel in the series, Dexter in the Dark, makes it even clearer that the Dark Passenger is a real and separate being and goes deeper into its mythology. The story, the only one in the series so far to not be narrated exclusively in Dexter’s voice, traces the Dark Passenger’s origin from the first IT through the development of a brutal religion surrounding a god called Moloch and into the present day where a being called the Watcher is trying to revive the worship of Moloch in all it’s child-sacrificing, Dark Passenger-eating, and burnt-offering glory.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Dexter Morgan series where we’ll delve into Dexter’s softer side…

Have you read the Dexter novels? What about the differences between Novel Dexter and TV Dexter? What do you think of the Dark Passenger?  Was Harry’s Code really the right solution for young Dexter?


I’ll announce the winner of my 100 Posts Celebration drawing on Monday. Thank you so much to all of you who have helped me build this blog!

Ready for a little fun and frolic,  Life List Club style? We’ll be having a Milestone Party September 23. And there will be giveaways. Oh yes, there will be giveaways. Stay tuned for more details.

Image Attribution (In Order of Appearance):
Knife blade by The Ewan, on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
blood spatter by mattallworth, on Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Bloody Handprint by gamera_obscura, on Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0
Gargoyle by Scott M Duncan, on Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

13 thoughts on “Driving Mr. Dexter – Dexter Morgan, Part 1

  1. I think the character of Dexter is brilliant – I wish I had come up with it! I haven’t read the books and need to add them to my massive TBR pile. I’m looking forward to the future posts!

    1. I know! He’s such a complicated character. And I love the way the author lets us see through his eyes (they manage this very well in the show too) but also allow us to see where he’s naive…like when women respond to him and such. Awesome. Not sure I’d want to have to do the research for the character though. I imagine that leads you down some dark paths.

  2. One of my coworkers and I love watching Dexter and she just started reading the books. She got me intrigued because she said the show only bought the rights to the first book, and they haven’t been going off the other ones, so there are variations to the story.

    Really interesting about the Moloch character. I’m glad for the show they just use Harry’s ghost to visualize that conversation rather than add an evil god/monster. Makes his story more real in TV form. I’d love to check out the books sometime.

    1. There are huge differences after the first book/season. Actually there a couple of big differences in jus the first book/season. Moloch is only in the third book. In the other books, the Dark Passenger is pretty subtle. It definitely gives him guidance in the:D form of hunches and it gives a “dark chuckle” when it sense other terrible crimes afoot. Not really any deeper conversation though. It’s a fairly subtle story element.

    1. Thanks! The books are similar but so different that you can really enjoy them separately. I love the Dexter show and the Dexter books and it doesn’t really bother me that they’re so different. It’s almost like alternte worlds with the same character or some such.

  3. Jeff Lindsay is my hero. First, he introduced us to a protagonist who should be the villian (and we love him) and second, he writes like a dream.

    Before the show came out, I loved introducing people to his books. I’m all for anti-heroes, but Dexter takes the cake…and cuts it up into little, bite size pieces,

  4. Okay, I’ve seen the first couple seasons of Dexter on TV and I have to say I had NO idea about all this Dark Passenger stuff from the books. I’m intrigued! In fact, I’ve been looking for some new novels to read… thanks, Sonia!

  5. I love Dexter. I haven’t read the novel, but I’m in the middle of watching season 5. The Dark Passenger is mentioned as I’m sure you know, but it sounds like it’s much more in depth in the books. I’m sure they’re excellent. He’s one of the best characters I’ve ever seen.

  6. @Amy: So well put. 😀 Dexter is an amazing character. Genius. I hadn’t heard of the books before the first season of the show but Iw as definitely hooked after that.

    @Jess: It really is fascinating. It seems like the Dark Passenger element should be over the top or wrong for the story but Jeff Lindsay just weaves in so well. I read it and think, “Of course the Dark Passenger’s real. Of course. That’s the way it has to be.” They’re great reads. I can’t wait until Double Dexter comes out. *rubs hands in glee*

    @Stacy: Yes they do mention the Dark Passenger in the show. So far though, it hasn’t seem particularly supernatural though. It’s amazing to me that the books and the show can be so different and both work so well. Impressive writing on both sides.

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