Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Book Review: Getting Off: A Novel of Sex and Violence (Hard Case Crime, 2011) by Lawrence Block, writing as Jill Emerson, 335 pages.


Lawrence Block, that seasoned veteran and champion of hardcore crime writing for half a century, reaches back some forty years to reclaim and channel one of his many pseudonyms to tell the tale of a female serial killer. This thriller is not, however, as straight forward as one would think.

Her praying mantis behavior aside, the seductive and ferocious Kit Tolliver is mired in and motivated by her own deep introspection to mate and kill. This luscious psychopath comingles sex with theft, even keeping a list of her male conquests, whose semen and dollars she has co-opted. Now the black widow emerges on a mission to reclaim her virginity from these heterosexual encounters by killing her ex partners.

This is a sleazy coming of age story: of Kit’s battle with the childhood specter of her father’s worst indiscretion; of guilt over her wanton heterosexual encounters; and of her deep seated inability to accept her current feelings for another woman, a phone sex provider.

There is sex and violence aplenty, but both are fairly mundane. The action does move the story along, although it is in formula fashion, wrapped in tight dialogue. The read is fast paced and teeters on the edge of naughty, but unfortunately, no new ground is broken here.

However, I must commend Mr. Block for resurrecting the genre of the psychological tale, where the demons are anchored within the character and are the engines driving the story. Far too much current fiction relies on techno wizardry and ornamental gadgetry to propel a story, (i.e. fantasy, nanobots, mindless seemingly unstoppable monsters and killers) while ignoring the human condition and the idea that the real threat and real terror lies within.

Gregory Manchess’ cover has a voyeur’s charm and truly stands out as a guilty pleasure.

If you are a Block fan, this book is certainly recommended. But for those seeking a more hardcore approach and a mystery with just the right bumps and curves look to Mr. Block’s earlier works.

Buy it here.

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