Notes on an Execution – Book Review

Title:- Notes on an Execution

Author:- Danya Kukafka

Date published:- January 25th 2022

No. of pages:- 309 pages

Genre:- Thriller


Plot:- 5/5

Writing:- 5/5

Overall rating:- 5/5

In the tradition of Long Bright River and The Mars Room, a gripping and atmospheric work of literary suspense that deconstructs the story of a serial killer on death row, told primarily through the eyes of the women in his life—from the bestselling author of Girl in Snow.

Ansel Packer is scheduled to die in twelve hours. He knows what he’s done, and now awaits execution, the same chilling fate he forced on those girls, years ago. But Ansel doesn’t want to die; he wants to be celebrated, understood. He hoped it wouldn’t end like this, not for him.

Through a kaleidoscope of women—a mother, a sister, a homicide detective—we learn the story of Ansel’s life. We meet his mother, Lavender, a seventeen-year-old girl pushed to desperation; Hazel, twin sister to Ansel’s wife, inseparable since birth, forced to watch helplessly as her sister’s relationship threatens to devour them all; and finally, Saffy, the homicide detective hot on his trail, who has devoted herself to bringing bad men to justice but struggles to see her own life clearly. As the clock ticks down, these three women sift through the choices that culminate in tragedy, exploring the rippling fissures that such destruction inevitably leaves in its wake.

Blending breathtaking suspense with astonishing empathy, Notes on an Execution presents a chilling portrait of womanhood as it simultaneously unravels the familiar narrative of the American serial killer, interrogating our system of justice and our cultural obsession with crime stories, asking readers to consider the false promise of looking for meaning in the psyches of violent men. 

This is one of the best books I have read this year.

Just before I begin my review, in this modern world, literally, people are obsessed with serial killers. You have all these famous American serial killers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer (have you watched the Netflix Monster Dahmer yet?), even Jack the Ripper and people really seemed to be obsessed with the culture. Movies are made, seemingly glorifying the killers and forgetting about the victims who died at the hands of the serial killer. This story talks about that in general.

In less than twelve hours, Ansel Packer is scheduled to be executed. The story narrates to the hours leading up to his execution. The story then is told in the views of three women–Lavender, Ansel’s mother, Hazel, who is the twin sister of Jenny, who is married to Ansel and Saffy, who is a detective determined to prove that Ansel was guilty of the crimes he committed.

The plot itself is thought-provoking. Some of the lines and quotes are equally touching and I must say, this author did a really good job of drawing the reader into the story. You also feel connected to the main female characters as well, and in my case, I was particularly connected to Saffy. What I actually enjoyed reading, (just nothing serious) is the scenes of the death row–when Ansel was getting ready for his execution, when he was given his last meal, when he was transferred to another prison, how he was dreaming to be glorified for what he did. The author also beautifully tackles the sensitive subject on how America is glorifying the serial killer. The last scene where when Ansel was executed was chilling. We also learn about Ansel’s life, during his childhood, the hardships he faced while being taken care in foster homes. Each of these women, Lavender, Hazel and Saffy are somehow related to Ansel through their stories and how their lives got affected by Ansel.

I do like the wording used in the book. This book was truly an engaging piece of work, powerful, intriguing, and brilliantly written. This book is very different from the usual ones I read where the story is told from the women’s perspectives. As the author says in the beginning.

“I am tired of seeing Ted Bundy’s face. This is a book for the women who survive.”

I highly recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t read it and I heard this book will be turned into a TV series soon. Worth a full five stars!

Danya Kukafka is the authors of the novels NOTES ON AN EXECUTION and GIRL IN SNOW. She is a graduate of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She works as a literary agent

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s