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What did I do to deserve this, God? What? What? What? But I know the answer to that very bitter question. It’s a simple one. And the answer is: everything.

I’m an absolute bastard.

That’s the simple honest truth.

We first meet investigative photographer Callaghan, a man who enjoys his drink, drugs and women, stark naked on the balcony of a hotel in freezing cold Glasgow. Inside the room he can hear the woman he was just pleasuring now in the company of her Romanian gun-runner husband. Perhaps this seems like an odd situation to find oneself in, but Callaghan simply can’t help himself. His life is one endless car-crash of danger, adrenaline and body-wrecking excess.

However, Callaghan’s adventures are about to take an even more bizarre turn. Acting on a tip-off from the mysterious Mr Volos, Callaghan and writing partner Jim become caught up in a police investigation into a series of gruesome murders. The police suspect that they are responsible, but other than their presence at the crime scenes, they have no evidence. Callaghan has recently been receiving threatening letters at his workplace – hard-hitting magazine¬† ‘Black and White’ – written in tone-deaf blood-soaked verse. Then photos from a crime scene that would have won himself and Jim a front page splash disappear, landing Callaghan in trouble with his ball-breaking editor Mrs Ryan. He suspects that his stalker is responsible somehow, but then again his articles have managed to offend some very dangerous people involved in the London crime scene.

What Callaghan does not realize is that he is in the cross-hairs of two supernatural opposing forces. As the murders continue, a disturbing trend begins to emerge. Each of the victims are themselves murderers, the very same ‘scum’, that Callaghan hates so much, which he blames for all of society’s problems. Could it be that serial killers are themselves being hunted by someone even more monstrous than themselves? When the murderer makes direct contact with Callaghan, he is terrified to discover that not only was he right in his suspicions over the identity of his stalker, it appears he is being groomed to become an accomplice in this horrific quest for twisted justice.

In many ways this book reminded me of Headcrusher by Alexander Garros and Aleksei Evdokimov, two journalists from Latvia who wrote a contemporary satire on capitalist excess in their former Soviet nation. There are also elements of the films of Nick Love on show here, I am thinking in particular of Outlaw, which also proposes that the only solution to society’s ills is even more brutal vigilante justice.

Andy Remic goes further here though, mixing in suggestions of supernatural horror. Murderers are said to be ‘Deviants’, evil forces that can be reincarnated to offend over and over again. Perhaps unwisely Fred West and Harold Shipman are named in the book as examples of otherworldly ‘Deviants’ (touches of David Icke?). Consequently the opening monologue from the murderer is deliberately pitched to confuse the reader into believing he is just another psychopath.

As such I chose to read the book as a satire on the excesses of ‘The City‘, – fast cars, designer drugs, easy women and cheap living – where every wideboy financier fancies himself as a coked-up latter-day James Bond. If that strikes you as something you would enjoy, then Serial Killers Incorporated fits the bill.

What I do object to though, and this is just a handy rule of thumb for writers generally, is the use of the word rape as an analogy. If a character is suffering from exposure on a hotel balcony, he is not being ‘raped’. If someone is being burnt alive, the flames are not ‘raping him’. I would have thought being burnt was in itself horrific enough. As it happens when a female character is actually raped, the novel describes it as feeling like being ‘entered….like fire‘.

Fast-paced violence, foul-mouthed dialogue and brutal excess.

With thanks to the author for my review copy.

Another beautiful Miami day. Mutilated corpses with a chance of afternoon showers. I got dressed and went to work.

My friend Linda over at Tapetum Lucidum recently challenged me to review today’s book. I guess I have been putting it off for a few weeks. Can’t think why, although I avoided the television show as well for a couple of years too. That too was only because my then-girlfriend-now-wife Stephanie insisted on my watching it with her. It has one of the most impressive title sequences of any show I have seen, and the heat and sweat of the Miami setting conspires to create an unusually manic tone to the episodes themselves.

Slowly but surely I have grudgingly come to like it. Still there is this reluctance to get to grips with Dexter on my part, which is difficult to explain to friends who are fans. Is it that I am squeamish, me, who would happily sit through a marathon session of brain-chomping zombie movies? I guess I have issues with the notion of a human monster. Monsters for me are creatures of fantasy. Psychopaths on television make a pretence at realism, all the while seeming utterly inhuman. That’s hard for me to get my head around.

Dexter has no such confusion in his life. He is a monster. He even enjoys it. Throughout his adult life his bloodlust has been spurred on and contained by two competing presences in his mind: the entity he refers to as his ‘Dark Passenger’, and Harry, the worldly wise cop who took him in as a child and taught him the rules of how to hide his murderous nature. Harry gave him a code, one that would allow him to sate the urge to kill, while at the same time only directing him to target other murderers. He is a human-monster slayer, if you like, on the hunt for paedophiles, abusers and killers much like himself. Think an apex predator who is fiercely territorial of his ‘patch’.

He has even found a profession that gives him an additional outlet for his compulsion, working in a Miami police department crime lab. His expertise is blood analysis. Except for the lab’s latest case, there seems to be nothing for him to work with. A new serial killer has hit town and is carving up prostitutes. The bodies are left in public spaces, dismembered, with no traces of blood. Dexter finds himself fascinated with the methods employed by this new challenger to his title, even curiously excited at the prospect of meeting someone as good as himself.

Meanwhile his foster-sister Deborah is desperate to solve the case and make sergeant. Unfortunately she has no head for local politics, despite Dexter’s attempts to guide her through the choppy waters of backstabbing superior officers and the station pecking order. She recognizes that her brother’s strange hunches often tend to land the case, pushing down any concerns as to how it is so easy for him to think like a murderer. Before the case is closed, Dexter will find his loyalties to the memory of Harry and Deb, his only remaining family, tested as never before, as the killer’s behaviour seems so close to his own. Perhaps he is the killer, the Dark Passenger having finally won?

What I enjoy about this book is how well Jeff Lindsay employs what I call the ‘Humbert Humbert effect’ (as with Love in the Time of Cholera). We are invited to share the same headspace as a monster, who charms us and attempts to win us over with deadpan humour. He seems honest, revelling in his torture and murdering of other ‘monsters’, but in fact how he presents his actions to us is subtly leavened – he becomes the hero. At one point he even self-applies the word ‘avenger’.

Then there’s his delicate relationship with Rita, a battered woman who is looking for an emotional relationship, but too afraid to take the next step. As Dexter has no real sex-drive, this suits him perfectly. To again emphasise this inverted notion of a murderer-as-innocent, he finds himself pulled between three demanding women. His eagerness to meet this new slasher is described as being comparable to a teenage girl waiting for a boy to ask her out.

As all of this is framed by Dexter himself, the reader cannot trust any of it. With lashings of gallows humour and perversity, this is a quirkily entertaining read.

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