****Caution: This review has spoilers****
Katherine Anne "Kitty" Tolliver was a troubled and abused girl who kept her name & her history until graduation when she would rewrite and recreate them. Now she's a new person as often as the whim takes her, and she also changes her boyfriends in the same way that most people use Kleenex. She has to, she kills them after sex you see, and believe it or not, there are people out there just crass enough to find this behavior offensive. There are even people out there called "the police" who make the special effort to butt into people's business, and who take offense at having to clean up Kitty's litter.
Kitty is, after all, a serial killer, and like all serial killers she has multiple excuses for offing her beaus. The first is that she doesn't like the idea that they might be impolite enough to brag about having shared her special favors. Another is that these people all need peace, and Kitty is just the gal to give it to them. And of course there is the main reason, and that is killing them just plain turns her on.
Then she comes up with a brainstorm. Over the years four of her lovers have escaped her precious clutches, and there is something that seems just so untidy about leaving past lovers alive to clutter up her past and to brag and tell the tale. Well, something just has got to be done about this, and while it might take some effort, Kitty is no slacker, she's up to the challenge, and you know, a girl's just gotta do what a girl's gotta do.
And it's off to the races we go as Kitty goes on her quest with a vengeance. Ummm, so to say. I have to admit that while I actually liked the mechanics of the writing, the droll black humor fits the character nicely, unfortunately that turns out to be just not enough to have kept me reading.
The basic problem is two-fold. The first is the story. It's stupefyingly, and mind-numbingly redundant. Kitty meets man, screws man, tortures man, kills man, wash, lather, rinse, repeat. EVERY SINGLE CHAPTER follows this formula, and then just as you think that it can't get any worse, Block then drags lesbianism into this dirt bath when she then meets gal pal Rita, with whom she will start with some salacious and sleazy sex, including a long, dull masturbation scene (jilling), and then clutters up this clutter with some useless information on butt plugs (?). We all know that if this were a male explicitly exploring his gay side this would never have gotten published.
We also are treated to detailed information on how c*** rings work, just before a castration scene, and extracted scenes like these just go on and on. At times I just wanted to take a bath after these scenes. It takes a lot, but Block actually managed to make me feel more sympathetic for a rapist in this novel than for the victim. Kitty tracks down her old boyfriend, an old lover, and others, and brutally kills them, along with anybody else that she whimsically feels like sleeping with, often climaxing while riding the man's dead body.
The story also suffers from a flaw in the basic story-telling structure, and that is that there is no counterpoint to Kitty's story. It's just her, sexing and killing, and killing and sexing, with a plotless story that's as subtle as a sledgehammer to the forehead. It would have been nice to have had something to counterbalance Kitty's sociopathic bloodlust, and no, Rita won't be it. Block throws himself a lifeline, and then misses it. Kitty runs into a serial killer, but while a cat-and-mouse subplot would have nicely spiced things up, Block just tosses the whole thing away as a just another filler vignette to pad this cynical and episodic novel out.
The other basic problem is Kitty herself. She's just not a very interesting person. She turns out to be an unsympathetic, sociopathic, dull, flat, shallow, torturing, hypersexual, and uninteresting character that seems to not have even one redeeming feature to fill out her static portrayal. If she were any one of the hundreds of male maniacs that have populated popular literature over past hundred years then nobody would have given a damn about her, but because she's a babe, we're all supposed to care, and find her interesting. I didn't. In the end, Kitty is a backup singer who can't handle a solo career. And while Kitty might have been readable and/or interesting in the short form she originally appeared in a series of short stories in Bronx Noir (Akashic Noir), Manhattan Noir, Indian Country Noir (Akashic Noir) and Warriors, under Block's real name, not that of Jill Emerson. Kitty might have even have carried a hundred and fifty page Fawcett Gold Medal book, (which this novel is supposed to be emulating) but there's just not enough here to justify this sleazy, overlong, redundant THREE HUNDRED plus paged bloated, lazy, and padded book.
Eventually after wasting enough of my time on this, I just got bored, and I've finally done something that I never done before, and swore that I wouldn't do. I'm reviewing a book that I just couldn't finish after the two-thirds mark; after all, I don't think any last act could have saved this. Although I did skip to the end and found little closure as nothing seemed resolved, in fact, things are just going from bad to worse. It's hard to believe that somebody who has been writing since the fifties would have taken such a backwards step in his writings, and would still turn in such bad sleazy trash. This novel seems to want to prove the adage that "It's not what you know, but who you know", because it's obvious that without Lawrence Block's name behind this, this exploitive, skid-row roughie would never have been published by a mainstream publisher. It also goes to show why the quality of the Hard Case crime line has gone downhill so much over the years. Only for the easily amused.