Dexter Morgan has always lived a happy homicidal life. He keeps his dark urges in check by adhering to one stead fast rule…he only kills very bad people. But now Dexter is experiencing some major life changes—don’t we all?—and they’re mostly wrapped up in the eight-pound curiosity that is his newborn daughter. Family bliss is cut short, however, when Dexter is summoned to investigate the disappearance of a seventeen-year-old girl who has been running with a bizarre group of goths who fancy themselves to be vampires. As Dexter gets closer to the truth of what happened to the missing girl, he realizes they are not really vampires so much as cannibals. And, most disturbing…these people have decided they would really like to eat Dexter. The book begins nine months after the end of Dexter by Design with the birth of Lily Anne Morgan, the daughter of Dexter and Rita Morgan. His daughter’s birth has brought remarkable changes in Dexter; apart from feeling genuine love and emotions for the first time he also does not feel his Dark Passenger’s compulsion to kill and vows to swear off his dark hobby in order to be a better father for his daughter. Soon after Dexter is called to a crime scene by his sister Deb, who is in the middle of a jurisdictional fight with the FBI who claim that a kidnapping has taken place. Dexter believes that the large quantity of blood found there was planted, and that the missing girl in question is faking her disappearance in order to get money from her parents. Dexter runs tests and discovers that the blood type does not match the missing girl, Samantha Aldovar. Deb and Dex go to the private school Samantha attends and talk to her principal, who at first is reluctant to divulge any information. This changes when the principal discovers that Tyler Spanos, a wild child and Samantha’s friend, is also missing. Dexter’s brother Brian shows up — Dexter has neglected to inform Rita that he even has a brother. And it looks like he wants to become part of Dexter’s happy family. Dexter’s stepkids Cody and Astor adore Brian and he shares Dexter’s compulsion to kill.
Lindsay never fails to come up with uniquely weird mysteries for Dexter to solve and serves them up with a huge and satisfying dose of Dexter’s inner turmoil.
I DID EVENTUALLY GET THE DUCT TAPE OFF MY WRISTS. AFTER all, I was surrounded by cops, and it
would have been terribly wrong for so many sworn officers of the law to keep me tied up as if I was
some kind of—well, to be honest, I actually was some kind of, but I was trying really hard not to be one
anymore. And since they did not know what I had been, it made sense that sooner or later one of them
would take pity on me and cut me loose. And one of them finally did: It was Weems, the gigantic man
from the tribal police. He came over and looked at me, a very large smile growing on his very large face,
and shook his head. “Why you standing there with your hands all taped up?” he said. “Nobody love you
“I guess I’m just a low priority,” I said. “Except to the mosquitoes.”
He laughed, a high-pitched and overly joyful sound that went on for several seconds—much too long,
in my still-taped opinion, and just when I was thinking of saying something rather sharp he pulled out a
huge pocketknife and flipped the blade open. “Let’s get you slapping flies again,” he said, and motioned
with the blade for me to turn around.
I was happy to oblige, and very quickly he laid the edge of the knife onto the tape binding my wrists.
The knife was apparently very sharp; there was almost no pressure at all, and the tape burst open. I
brought my hands in front of me and peeled off the tape. It also peeled off most of the hair on my wrists,
but since my first swat at the back of my neck squashed at least six mosquitoes, it seemed like a good
“Thank you very much,” I said. “No problem,” he told me in that soft, high voice. “Nobody oughta be all bound up like that.” He
laughed at his own great wit and I, thinking it was the least I could do in return for his kindness, gave him
a small sample of my very best fake smile.
“Bound up,” I said. “That’s very good.” I might have been laying it on a bit thick, but I was grateful,
and in any case my head still hurt too much for any really good comeback to blossom in it.
It wouldn’t have mattered in any case, because Weems was no longer paying attention. He had gone
very still, tilted his nose up into the air, and half closed his eyes as if he were hearing something calling his
name in the far distance.
“What is it?” I said.
He didn’t say anything for a moment. Then he shook his head. “Smoke,” he said. “Somebody got an
illegal fire going out there.” He jerked his chin in the direction of the heart of the Everglades. “This time of year, that’s not good.”
I didn’t smell anything except the standard loamy Everglades aroma, plus sweat and a faint trace of
gunpowder that still hung in the air, but I was certainly not going to argue with my rescuer. Besides, I
would have been arguing with his back, since he had already spun away and headed off toward the edge
of the clearing. I watched him go, rubbing my wrists and taking my terrible vengeance on the mosquitoes.
There was really not a great deal more to see around the trailer. The regular cops were frog-marching
the cannibals away to durance vile, and the viler the better, as far as I was concerned. The SRT guys
were standing around one of their own, probably the one who had made the shot that took off Kukarov’
s face; his expression was a combination of ebbing adrenaline and shock, and his fellow shooters
watched him protectively.
Altogether, the excitement was fading and it was clearly time for Dexter’s Departure. The only
problem, of course, was that I had no transportation, and depending on the kindness of strangers is
always an iffy thing. Depending on the kindness of family is often much worse, of course, but it still
seemed like the best bet, so I went to look for Deborah.
My sister was sitting in the front seat of her car trying to be sensitive, nurturing, and supportive of
Samantha Aldovar. These were not things that came naturally to her, and it would have been tough
sledding even if Samantha were willing to play along. She was not, of course, and the two of them were
rapidly approaching an emotional impasse when I slid into the backseat.
“I’m not going to be all right,” Samantha was saying. “Why do you keep saying that like I’m some
kind of ree-tard?”
“You’ve had a really big shock, Samantha,” Debs said, and in spite of the fact that she clearly meant
to be soothing, I could almost hear quotation marks around her words, as if she was reading from The
Rescued Hostage Handbook. “But it’s over now.”
“I don’t want it over, goddamn it,” she said. She looked back at me as I closed the car door. “You
bastard,” she said to me.
“I didn’t do anything,” I said.
“You brought them here,” she said. “This was all a setup.”
I shook my head. “Nope,” I said. “I have no idea how they found us.”
“Riiiiight,” she sneered.
“Really,” I said, and I turned to Debs. “How did you find us?”
Deborah shrugged. “Chutsky came out to wait with me. When the carpet van came, he slapped a
tracer on it.” It made sense: Her boyfriend, Chutsky, a semiretired intelligence operative, would certainly
have the right sort of toys for that. “So they carried you out and drove away; we stayed back and
followed. When we all got out here in the swamp, I called in for SRT. I really hoped we’d get Bobby
Acosta, too, but we couldn’t wait.” She looked back at Samantha. “Saving you was the highest priority
we had, Samantha.”
“For fuck’s sake, I didn’t want to be saved,” Samantha said. “When are you going to get that?”
Deborah opened her mouth, and Samantha rode right over her with, “And if you say I’m going to be all
right again, I swear to God I’ll scream.”
To be honest, it would have been a relief if she had screamed. I was so tired of Samantha’s carping
that I was ready to scream myself, and I could see that my sister was not far behind me. But apparently
Debs still nurtured the delusion that she had rescued an unwilling victim from a terrible experience, and so even though I could see her knuckles turn white with the effort of refraining from strangling Samantha,
Deborah kept her cool.
“Samantha,” she said very deliberately. “It’s perfectly natural for you to be a little confused right now
about what you’re feeling.”
“I am so totally not confused,” Samantha said. “I’m feeling pissed off, and I wish you hadn’t found
me. Is that perfectly natural, too?”
“Yes,” Deborah said, although I could see a little doubt creeping into her face. “In a hostage situation,
the victim often starts to feel an emotional bond with her captors.”
“You sound like you’re reading that,” Samantha said, and I had to admire her insight, even though her
tone still set my teeth on edge.
“I’m going to recommend that your parents get you some counseling—” Deborah said.
“Oh, great, a shrink,” Samantha said. “That’s all I need.”
“It will help you if you can talk to somebody about all that’s happened to you,” Deborah said.
“Sure, I can’t wait to talk about all that’s happened to me,” Samantha said, and she turned and
looked right at me. “I want to talk about all of it, because some stuff happened that was, you know,
totally against my will, and everybody is really going to want to hear about that.”
I felt a sharp and very unwelcome shock—not so much at what she said, but at the fact that she was
saying it to me. There was no way to mistake what she meant; but would she really tell everyone about
our little ecstasy-inspired interlude, and claim it was against her will? It hadn’t occurred to me that she
would—after all, it was kind of a private thing, and it hadn’t actually been my will, either. I hadn’t put the
drugs into the water bottle, and it certainly wasn’t something I would ever brag about. But an awful sinking feeling began to bloom in my stomach as her threat began to hit home. If she
claimed it had been against her will—technically speaking, the word for that was “rape,” and although it
was really quite far outside my normal area of interest, I was pretty sure the law frowned on it, nearly as
much as some other things I had done. If that word came up, I knew that none of my clever and
wonderful excuses would count for anything. And I could not really blame anyone for believing it; older
man about to die, penned up with young woman, no one would ever know—it was a picture that wrote
its own caption. Perfectly believable—and totally unforgivable, even if I thought I’d been about to die. I
had never heard a rape defense based on extenuating circumstances, and I was pretty sure it wouldn’t
And no matter what I said, even if Dexter’s eloquence overflowed the bounds of human speech and
moved the marble statue of justice to tears—the very best outcome would be he-said/she-said, and I
would still be a guy who’d taken advantage of a helpless captive girl, and I knew very well what
everyone would think of me. After all, I had cheered aloud every time I heard about older married men
losing their jobs and their families for having sex with younger women—and that was exactly what I had
done. Even if I convinced everyone that the drugs made me do it and it really wasn’t my fault, I would be
finished. Drug-induced teen sex party sounded more like a tabloid headline than an explanation.
And not even the greatest lawyer who had ever lived could get me off the hook with Rita. There was
still a lot I did not understand about human beings, but I had seen enough daytime drama to figure this
one out. Rita might not believe I had committed rape, but that wouldn’t matter. She would not care if I
had been bound hand and foot, drugged, and then forced to have sex at gunpoint. She would divorce me
when she found out, and she would raise Lily Anne without me. I would be all alone, out in the cold
without roast pork, with no Cody and Astor, and no Lily Anne to brighten my days; Dex-Daddy
No family, no job—nothing. She would probably even take custody of my fillet knives. It was terrible,
hideous, unthinkable; everything I cared about yanked away, my entire life flung into the Dumpster—and
all because I’d been drugged? It was far beyond unfair. And some of this must have shown on my face,
because Samantha kept looking at me, and she began to nod her head.
“That’s right,” she said. “You just think about that.”
I looked back at Samantha and I did think about it. And I wondered if just this once I could dispose
of somebody because of something they hadn’t done yet; proactive playtime.
But luckily for Samantha, before I could even reach for the duct tape Deborah decided to impose
herself again in the role of compassionate rescuer. “All right,” she said. “This can all wait. Let’s just get
you home to your parents now.” And she put her hand on Samantha’s shoulder.
Naturally enough, Samantha pushed the hand off as if it were a loathsome insect. “Great,” she said. “I
can’t fucking wait.”
“Put your seat belt on,” Deborah told her, and, completely as an afterthought, she turned to me and
said, “I guess you can ride along.”
I almost told her, No, don’t bother, I will stay here and feed mosquitoes, but at the last second I
remembered that Deborah’s record with sarcasm was not good, so I just nodded and buckled up. Deborah called the dispatcher and said, “I’ve got the Aldovar girl. I’m taking her home,” and
Samantha muttered, “Big whoopee-shit.” Deborah just glanced at her with something that looked like a
rictus but was probably supposed to be a reassuring smile, and then she put the car in gear, and I had a
little over half an hour to sit in the backseat and picture my life splintering into a million decorative shards.
It was a terribly depressing picture—Dexter Disenfranchised, tossed on the scrap heap, stripped of his
carefully built costume and all its comfy props—flung naked and unloved into the cold and lonely world,
and I could see no way to avoid it. I’d had to go down on my knees and beg just to get Samantha to do
nothing while I tried to escape—and she had been neutral then. Now that she was peeved with me, there
was nothing I could possibly do to stop her from telling, short of actual vivisection. I couldn’t even give
her back to the cannibals; with Kukarov dead and the rest of the group either captured or on the run,
there would be no one left to eat her. The picture was grim and very clear: Samantha’s fantasy was over,
she blamed me, and she would take her terrible revenge—and there was nothing I could do about it.
I have never really had an appetite for irony, but I couldn’t help but see more than a little of it here:
After all I had done, willingly and joyfully, and now I would be brought down by a sulking young woman
and a bottle of water? It was so subtly ludicrous that only the French could truly appreciate it.
Just to underline my predicament and her own determination, Samantha turned and glared at me every
few miles as we drove the long, depressing way to her home, back along Route 41 and then over
LeJeune and into the Grove to the Aldovars’ house. And just to remind me that even the worst joke has
a punch line, when we turned down Samantha’s street and approached her house, Deborah muttered,
“Shit,” and I hunched forward and looked through the windshield at what appeared to be a carnival in
front of the house. “That goddamned son of a bitch,” she said, and she smacked the steering wheel with the palm of her
“Who?” I said, and I admit I was eager to see somebody else take a little heat.
“Captain Matthews,” she snarled. “When I called it in, he got the whole fucking press corps here so he
can hug Samantha and jut his fucking chin at the cameras.”
And sure enough, as Deborah brought the car to a stop in front of the Aldovars’ house, Captain Matthews appeared at the passenger door as if by magic, and reached in to help a still-sullen Samantha
out of the car as flashbulbs popped and even the horde of savage reporters murmured, “Awwww.” The
captain flung a protective arm around her shoulders and then waved commandingly at the crowd to move
aside and let them through—a truly great moment in the history of irony, since Matthews had summoned
them all here to watch this exact moment, and now he was pretending he wanted them to leave him alone
while he comforted Samantha. I admired the performance so much that for a full minute I only worried
about my future two or three times.
Deborah did not seem quite as impressed as I was. She trailed along behind Matthews with a wicked
scowl on her face, shoving at any reporter foolish enough to get in her way, and generally acting like she
had just been indicted for waterboarding. I followed the happy little group through the crowd until
Matthews reached the front door, where Mr. and Mrs. Aldovar were waiting to smother their wayward
daughter with hugs and kisses and tears. It was an extremely touching scene, and Captain Matthews
played it perfectly, as if he had been rehearsing for months. He stood beside the family group and
beamed at them as the parents snuffled and Samantha scowled and finally, when he could sense that the
reporters were reaching the end of their attention span, he stepped in front of them and held up a hand.
Just before he spoke to the crowd, he leaned over to Deborah and said, “Don’t worry, Morgan; I
won’t make you say anything this time.”
“Yes, sir,” she said through her teeth.
“Just try to look proud and humble,” he told her, and he patted her shoulder and smiled at her as the
cameras rolled. Deborah showed him her teeth, and he turned back to the crowd. “I told you we would find her,” Matthews told the crowd in a manly growl, “and we found her!” He
turned around and looked at the Aldovar trio so the reporters would get a shot of him gloating
protectively at them. Then he turned back around and gave a short speech of praise for himself. Of
course there was no word about Dexter’s terrible sacrifice, nor even Deborah’s diligence, but perhaps
that would have been too much to expect. It went on predictably enough for a little longer, but finally the
Aldovars went in their house, the reporters got tired of the captain’s chin, and Deborah grabbed my arm,
pulled me through the crowd to her car, and took me home.