Getting Off is the sexy new noir novel by Lawrence Block writing as Jill Emerson. Its main character is Katherine Anne ‘Kit’ Tolliver, who hasn’t used that name since high school – and for good reason. She loves sex, but she may love murder more!
Lawrence Block is a writing machine. He has written everything from erotica to hard-boiled PI mysteries, to noir crime, to light, fluffy heist thrillers – always changing his style according to the needs of the story. Best known for his hard-boiled PI Matt Scudder [my favorites along with his Thief Who Couldn’t Sleep series featuring Evan Tanner], he was the logical choice to write the first hard cover release from Hard Case, the imprint that has been publishing a mix of original and classic noir/crime novels for several years.
In Getting Off, Block takes all the elements of noir/crime – sex, murder, mood and wit – and concocts a darkly comic noir romp narrated by a female serial killer who literally loves ‘em and leaves ‘em. Usually dead… After several years – and a chance encounter with her high school boyfriend – she pauses to count how many men with whom she’s had sex who are still alive – five [well, four, after the reunion with the high school boyfriend] – and decides to remedy that situation.
She’s smart and focused so how hard could it be? Unfortunately, that’s not as easy as you might think. Outside of Dan, her high school beau, there’s only one she has any real information on – and he’s not remotely near where she first encountered him.
In Kit, Block has created a character who sheds names and residences like snake sheds its skin. Inside of the first third of the book, she’s had nearly a dozen aliases and half as many ‘homes.’ He doesn’t give us a lot of psychological bafflegab, either – Kit has pretty much figured out why she has the need to slay her lovers – and she’s fine with it. The question is what happens when she falls in love for real? And, does it matter with whom…?
If Getting Off was a movie, it would star the Kathleen Turner of Body Heat and have its share of Dutch angles and light filtering through venetian blinds. It would also be rated NC-17.
As for why Getting Off is credited to Lawrence Block writing as Jill Emerson, it’s not just that the novel’s not-entirely-reliable narrator is a woman – but you can decide if that matters if/when you read it. What does matter is that Block has, once again, created a tale to excite and absorb even the most jaded reader of crime fiction.
Final Grade: A