Who ever heard of a serial killer story where you root for the murderer? Dexter, which began its third season on Showtime this September, turns its viewers morally upside down -- but it's weirdly compelling. What makes the show work? First, Dexter is no ordinary sociopath. Taught by his policeman foster father to channel his urge to kill, he grows into a vigilante who kills only other murderers. We identify with the power of revenge -- and rationalize the fact that Dexter's victims are worse than he is, even as we witness the kills and participates in Dexter's blood fetishism. Second, Dexter has humility. Rather than feeling superior to emotionally frail human beings (à la Hannibal Lecter), Dexter describes himself as "hollow" and "damaged." Disguised, in effect, as an ordinary human being, he tries to figure out what regular people do in regular situations -- like cuddling on the couch with his girlfriend. Jeff Lindsay keeps his monster at an ironic distance in the 2004 novel that gave rise to Dexter, but the television series humanizes him. The first season chips away at his icy image, and the second finishes the job. Dexter protects his girlfriend from her violent ex-husband and effectively takes his place (he's just great with the kids). And revelations of his own family origins literally stun him with their emotional power. In the end, Dexter makes sense not so much as an emotionally isolated serial killer as a family man with an odd hobby. It's a tribute to this unusual saga that he can somehow be both.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."