Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka

Lindsay’s thoughts

Compelling, mysterious and unique!

Ansel Packer is a serial killer on death row. His story unfolds through multiple female perspectives – Ansel’s victims, his mother and the detective working his case — counting down his last hours until execution. These narrative voices were a brilliant and fresh way to reveal this story.

The writing was smooth and easy to follow. I loved how the characters were slowly introduced, each providing an insightful and intriguing layer to the plot. Though there are several storylines woven throughout this book, it never felt choppy — the pieces of the puzzle slowly fit together to unravel the crimes committed.

This novel is not fast paced or gripping. It is a slow burn, character driven mystery that had me enthralled and fascinated. My few critiques would be that I found the ending was lightly lacking as I wanted “something more”. I also felt the second half could have been tightened up a bit and not so drawn out. Regardless of this, it was an excellent book that I highly recommend!

Overall, I’m happy to say that this book lived up to the hype! What a twist on presenting a serial killer story! I look forward to reading more from this author.

Brenda’s thoughts

What the book is about

Ansel Packer is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in 12 hours for killing multiple women in a Texas prison. The clock is ticking, but he is not worried because it wouldn’t end like this. Told through the women who know him, we learn his life story.

What I loved that worked for me

I found it hard to get a read on Ansel or identify with him, and he was not all that fascinating for me. He still has some of the same elements as a serial killer, such as childhood trauma, delusions of his intellectual, superiority, fear of women making fun of him, and power of persuasion over women. That is the point here, with our fascination for serial killers, men who kill women, and how preoccupied we can be over dead women. Danya Kukafka sets those fascinations aside, and challenges our obsession over violent men and the women they kill. She defies those tired tropes and creates fresh, exciting voices here. Even though the focus is on Ansel, it’s not his story. The story told in the POV of the living woman who lives has changed because of him and that drives the story forward.

What I didn’t love as much

Ansel’s sections are written in the second person as the clock is ticking to create some tension, sense of dread and draw some empathy for him while we see into his past. Many years go by, and some tension and dread are lost with the dense details from the women’s POV, and the story starts to drag. I wanted to get to the end faster, and I didn’t care what happened to Ansel by the time I did. I just wanted to be done.

Even those I loved what Danya Kukafka does here she didn’t quite hit the mark for me. I do think it was in the pacing. A tighter woven story would of made a difference. She has me questioning why I have this fascination for books with men who harm women, and as I often do I wonder what is wrong with me. 😜

Reasons to read this one

For the fresh and different take on the typical serial killer and to challenge your fascination for them.

We received a copies from the publisher on EW.

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