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Serial Killer

Review - Dexter Is Dead by Jeff Lindsay

Dexter Morgan is in a Miami prison, in the section reserved for the worst of criminals. He’s being held for the murder of three people, his wife, his lover and a man by the identity of Robert Chase. Worse still the police are claiming Dexter is a paedophile. But this time Dexter is innocent. Chase is the killer and he’s the paedophile who had designs on Dexter’s children.

Dexter was arrested by Detective Anderson, a cop who hates him with a passion. As a result he’s been in prison for an age, the system seemingly arrayed against him. No-one seems willing to spring Dexter, not even his sister, Deborah. She knows Dexter and his desires and has sided with him before, but now even she has had enough. Deborah arrives at prison with papers for Deter to allow her to legally adopt his children. She has disowned him, and Dexter is alone.

Weeks go by until Frank Kraunauer turns up at the prison. He’s the best and therefore most expensive legal eagle in Miami, and even the police are scared of him. He gets Dexter out on bail immediately. It transpires that Dexter’s equally depraved brother, Brian, has put up the bail money. Dexter is surprised, Brian isn’t wealthy, so where did the money come from?

Dexter goes to ground in a hotel, he checks in but heads out immediately to see Deborah and hand over the papers. On his return he finds two bodies. One on the bed, the other in the wardrobe. It looks like one was awaiting his return, someone else entered and a fight ensued. Someone is still after Dexter.

The US cover.

Brian reveals he stole money from a drug baron, Raul, whom he was working for. The dead are Raul’s men. With Anderson still hot for Dexter’s head and the clock ticking before he’s back in prison he needs answers. When Deborah gets in touch and says the children have been taken Dexter knows who has them and what to do about it. But will it be the end for Dexter?

This is the eighth, and final, installment in Lindsay’s hugely popular Dexter series, the serial killer everyone roots for. It featured in our list of the best serial killer series – one of the most popular articles on our site, and there’s even a Dexter wiki. By day Dexter is a blood spatter pattern analyst with the Miami Dade police force, by night he hunts the killers that have slipped through the net.

Many will lament his passing, myself included. The hugely successful books spawned a successful television series which ran for eight seasons, garnering a following of its own and 23 Emmy nominations. It depicted Dexter at his dark and gory best, yet allowed the characters to develop and grow.

In Dexter is Dead our favourite serial killer isn’t his usual, incisive self throughout. He makes mistakes, gets a bit confused and has conflicting feelings, particularly after Deborah disowns him. For a murderer who operates without qualms this is a surprise to him, it will probably surprise you as well. He tends to stumble through the plot, bumping into one issue, resolving it, then moving onto the next, only Brian at his side. He seems lost and trying to find his place. For a man who was so certain of his goals in life it’s disturbing. There’s no real plan here, beyond the next objective, until the end when he faces up to Raul and knows what to do… sort of.

The opening paragraph says, “It wasn’t supposed to end this way.” That’s the thread within the novel, Lindsay setting up Dexter for the conclusion. It’s clear to see why and what he’s done on the final page, but it does drag the story down a bit and dulls Dexter’s incisiveness. The finale will more than likely please some people but I was somewhat disappointed. As ever a good plot, but a sad ending…

Originally reviewed for Crime Fiction Lover.

Rating: Three Stars

Review - The Samaritan by Mason Cross

There’s a serial killer operating in Los Angeles, here in Mason Cross’ latest Carter Blake thriller. Trouble is, nobody realises it until the mutilated body of a young woman is found in the Santa Monica mountains after torrential rain produces a mud slide and reveals her body. When officers begin to investigate the dump site they find more bodies. Each victim was mutilated before the coup de grace: having their throats cut using an unusual knife which leaves behind a distinctive wound.

LAPD detective Jessica Allen has just recently transferred to the force. On viewing one of the corpses Allen knows she’s seen the killer’s handiwork previously. The cut is unmistakable. It’s a killer she’s remained keen to catch. She and partner Mazzucco begin to piece together the case. The killer preys on lone female drivers who’ve broken down. Dubbed The Samaritan by the press, but there’s nothing good about him. Somehow he manages to persuade them to get into his vehicle and sadly for them, it’s the last thing they do. Allen’s work and background knowledge prove that The Samaritan has been operating undetected for a long time and across many US states. But what has brought him to LA?

Carter Blake, ex-military and now private contractor for hire, is in LA too. He finds missing people and he’s very good at it. After wrapping up his latest assignment he sees the news. The manner of the women’s death has been leaked and Blake believes he knows The Samaritan. So he begins his own investigation and offers his help to the LAPD but Mazzucco turns him down, much to Allen’s frustration.

As the case widens The FBI enters the frame and Allen loses the investigation to them. She wants to catch The Samaritan, whatever it takes, and starts working with Blake behind Mazzucco’s back. As the net tightens around the killer, the real reason he’s in LA is revealed. Blake and Allen are in a race to prevent more deaths – can they find The Samaritan before he goes to ground again and starts killing elsewhere? Time is against them…

Mason Cross is a Scottish writer producing American crime thrillers and he does it very well. One of the strongest points in his writing is the American styling that pervades the novel, from spelling conventions right through to mannerisms and observations. Although this is the second Carter Blake novel it can easily be read as a standalone. The opening chapters set up the narrative very well, with an introduction to Blake’s special seek-and-destroy skills.

Blake operates in first person perspective and an air of mystery is maintained about him. Blake isn’t his real name, for instance. Snippets of his past are revealed, while keeping the rest closed off, presumably for the future. The remaining characters are covered in third person narrative and because there are so many of them it’s easy to lose track now and again. There’s a mixture of chapters for Blake, Allen, Mazzucco, the killer and so on…

This is a minor flaw with in an overall package which is tightly woven and continues at a very high pace. It really is a difficult novel to put down. The characterisation is strong, the sense of place powerful and Cross’ scenic descriptions vivid and compelling. This is a very well written crime thriller and Carter Blake deserves many more outings.

Originally reviewed for Crime Fiction Lover.

Rating: Four Stars