Ah, Dexter. My favorite vigilante serial killer. I fell in love with both the television series and the books a couple years ago, and Dexter is now cemented as one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. Lucky for me, my sister knows this, and surprised me with Dexter by Design for Christmas. (Okay, so she didn't surprise me, per se. I told her I wanted it. But still.) After reading it, I gotta say, I was a little underwhelmed.
Dexter by Design picks up at the tail end of Dexter and Rita's honeymoon in Paris, where they catch a bizarre art exhibit entitled Jennifer's Leg. The exhibit is comprised of several videos showcasing Jennifer in several stages of amputating her own leg, and represents the new trend in art: making the artist part of the piece itself instead of passively creating it. Hmmm, can we say foreshadowing, anyone?
When Dexter gets back to Miami, he discovers an artist of a kind-of-a-different-but-not-really sort, one that loves to leave dead bodies artfully displayed around the city. After a botched investigation that leaves his adopted sister, Deborah, hospitalized, the "artist" is now after Dexter, and is dangerously close to outing him to all of Miami.
While this story is loads better than the last installment, Dexter in the Dark, it didn't blow me away like the first two books did (Darkly Dreaming Dexter and Dearly Devoted Dexter for those of you who are living under a rock). Dexter, who always manages to talk himself or cleverly extract himself out of very tricky situations, showed uncharacteristic stupidity at certain points in the story, and there were some parts where I figured out what was going to happen before the character did. I also found some of the sub-plots a little slow-moving. For example, we found out like, two books ago that Rita's children, Cody and Astor, had serial killer tendencies, and that Dexter promised to show them the Harry Way, but there really hasn't been a whole lot of progress on that end since. Just little bits and pieces, as if Lindsay is saying, "Wait! This is still part of the story too! Don't forget about it!" And I'm still trying to figure out what part Doakes will play (besides comedic relief) since he's still alive, and can very much communicate, but is still rendered helpless in some aspects. Will he be the threat he once was? It doesn't look like it, although Lindsay has made a point to include him in every book since his close call. Maybe this is Lindsay's tactic: make us think that Doakes is now reduced to making us laugh and then catch us off-guard by having him play a pivotal role in a future story. Who knows.
I give Dexter by Design two and a half, maybe three stars. It was still an enjoyable read, but is far from the solid storytelling and character development that was present in the first two books.