I’ve never had a chance to travel across the country, but Lawrence Block’s “Getting Off” made me feel as if I had. This book follows a female serial killer, who goes by many names, as she hunts for five men throughout the country and stops in all kinds of creepy places along the way.
Many men were trapped in bed with her along the way, some managed to escape the murderous end she tediously prepared for them. Others weren’t so lucky. In order to achieve complete closure, she decides to track the ones who got away. Kill them. And get back what was valuable, but was taken away from her in childhood—her innocence.
The dark mood and the erotic setting of the book reveals itself in the first couple of pages. One murder goes along with an intense scene of sexual intercourse. “She was so hot she could make a dead man come.” The idea of the main character’s unstable psychological state was portrayed quietly, yet vividly at the beginning. In spite of this, Block extends the character development for another 50 pages. In this process, he fails to provide the reader with new angles on killer’s mental and emotional instability. As a result, the book tends to repeat itself.
The title of the book implies its sexual content and, considering the author’s previous works, it was no surprise to see a well-developed protagonist’s twisted sexuality. Besides her nymphomania, Katherine “Kit” Tolliver’s passion for murdering comes from persisting anger and unresolved issues with her father. Her desire for purification reflects in constant bathing and finding new male victims.
As the book unfolds, her obsession gets worse. Katherine’s demand and urge for sex brings more men to her list. However, none of them remain there for a long time. More murders are committed.
During Kit’s quest, she meets her victims, who, in one-way or another, change her personality and make her think about her goal in life. She wonders what happens when she, “dad’s little soldier,” completes her mission.
Block puts the reader inside her psychologically damaged mind, makes the reader see things she sees, makes feel the way she feels. “She’d use the knife in response to an inner need, and the need had in fact been an urgent; satisfying it had shuttled her right off the sleep.” The higher level of violence Kit achieves, the more intense her sexual life gets.
Moreover, she is not just a maniac, but a liar as well. Her murderous career requires name changing, so eventually, Katherine was replaced with Kim, Audrey and Carol. For her, “names were just like clothes.” Kit didn’t give her imaginary characters personalities or individual characteristics.
Katherine’s realization of her trauma doesn’t limit her sexual life; however, it confines her chances of getting back on track.
Her psychological blockage doesn’t let her male partners get away from her alive.
In the end, “Getting Off” has incorporated all the best characteristics and elements from his previous works.
Block’s collection of noir novels trap in readers with intriguing, compelling and outrageous characters, alcoholics, lesbians and serial killers, transporting you to imaginary world of sex and violence.
This book continues that trend.