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This article was published 12/9/2009 (2845 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
One of TV's most pruriently compelling personas, Dexter, a morally bereft vigilante serial killer working as a blood-spatter specialist for the Miami cops, is actually the creation of Florida author Jeff Lindsay.
Fresh from his excruciating Paris honeymoon, our favourite emotionless psychopath finds the tables turned in Lindsay's third instalment, Dexter by Design (Doubleday, 304 pages, $30).
After his cop sister Deb is near-fatally stabbed while tracking a psycho who leaves carved-out bodies displaying grisly dioramas, Dexter pursues and makes two mistakes -- the bodies were from the morgue, and he chops up the wrong guy. Now it's Dexter and his family who are targeted for revenge.
The ensuing cat-and-mouse pursuit goes a bit off the logical rails, and the alternating first-person narrative and ruminations on Dexter (presumably to underline his soulless otherness) get ponderous and distractingly repetitive.
But this is still one of the genre's uniquely delicious personalities, and Lindsay keeps the blood flowing nicely.
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Inspiring the long-running Bones TV series, Kathy Reichs' thrillers starring Quebec/North Carolina forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan have always been worthy bestsellers. Not this time.
While the opening pages of 206 Bones (Scribner, 320 pages, $32) find Tempe hogtied in a freezing crypt, it has little to do with the spate of little-old-lady murders that she and sometime-lover Lt. Andrew Ryan are trying to solve. Her kidnappers are quickly suspected, but their motivation is at best opaque, at worst trivial, amounting to little more than, well, office politics.
Reichs' science is still top-notch, and she retains her knack for knowing when her readers have had enough. But the plot seems to loop aimlessly, there's no new insight into Tempe, Ryan or any of the continuing cast, and the new players never get beyond stick-figures. The murders turn out to be a routine sideshow.
A puzzling stumble for Reichs, and a disappointment for her fans.
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Torontonian John McFetridge shook the manicured trees of Hogtown complacency with last year's gritty cops-and-bikers saga, Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere. But he seems to have lost his GPS in Swap (ECW Press, 240 pages, $25), a grimy sequel that seems designed only to set off another round of "oh-we-bad" titters among the overreaching Big Smoke glitterati.
The corps of ethnically hued cops is back, but this time they're little more than aw-shucks narrators on the sidelines of a greasy show that's all about the bad guys.
McFetridge strives for whorehouse/grow op-in-the-burbs shock value, but it all just seems like a low-rent Sopranos episode, full of suburban mob angst and endless reminiscing about gang warfare past.
An unrelieved dumpster-dive into Canada's criminal underclass, Swap is just too earnestly exploitive, a sleazy travelogue for dirtbags.
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U.K. journalist Henry Porter's five previous novels haven't made the big-time leap across the pond yet, but The Dying Light (Orion, 416 pages, $35) deserves the trip.
Manhattan lawyer and former MI6 field agent Kate Lockhart is shocked to discover that her once almost-lover, David Eyam, former head of British intelligence, has faked his own death after falling from official grace.
She's quickly hauled into a harrowing counter-conspiracy, Eyam's long-shot attempt to expose a government-business plot to control the population through computerized surveillance.
Citing actual "anti-terrorist" legislation that makes Bush's Patriot Act look like a no-parking bylaw, Porter has not only penned a cracking good spy thriller in a slightly futuristic setting, but also a chillingly prescient warning of Britain's quiet devolution into a police state.
For Canadian readers, the resonance is clear: If this is Britain, cradle of parliamentary democracy, what about us?
John Sullivan is editor of the Free Press Autos, Homes and Travel sections, and specialty websites.
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