Tuesday 4 January 2022

Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka #NotesOnAnExecution @danyakukafka @Phoenix_Bks @alexxlayt @orionbooks #BookReview


Ansel Packer is scheduled to die in twelve hours.

He knows what he's done, and now awaits the same fate he forced on those girls, years ago. Ansel doesn't want to die; he wants to be celebrated, understood.

But this is not his story.

As the clock ticks down, three women uncover the history of a tragedy and the long shadow it casts. Lavender, Ansel's mother, is a seventeen-year-old girl pushed to desperation. Hazel, twin sister to his wife, is forced to watch helplessly as the relationship threatens to devour them all. And Saffy, the detective hot on his trail, is devoted to bringing bad men to justice but struggling to see her own life clearly.

This is the story of the women left behind.

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

Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka is published by Phoenix (an imprint of Orion) on 3 February 2022. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

It's the beginning of January but I know for certain that I've just read one of my top books of this year. This novel is extraordinary, it's sharp and gripping, filled with an empathy and understanding for the women who are so often forgotten in the cases of serial killers. 

Danya Kukafka makes it clear in her introduction to the novel that she is tired of the constant 'celebration' of serial killers. The names of the many many men who kill woman have become enshrined in our history. In the US there is Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy amongst others, whilst here in the UK, we all recognise the names of Peter Sutcliffe, Levi Bellfield and Fred West. What about the women? Not only the victims of these men, but the other women whose lives were shattered by the crimes?

Ansel Packer is a serial killer. He sits in his cell on death row, awaiting his execution. He is due to die in twelve hours. Ansel does not want to die and is certain that he will escape his fate. Once again, as has been the norm throughout his life, he has manipulated a woman who he thinks will ensure his safety. 

Lavender is Ansel's mother. Hazel is Ansel's wife's twin sister and Saffy is the police detective who has dedicated her career to finding and imprisoning men who damage women. This is their story, this is a raw, unflinching account of how Ansel became the man that he is and how these three woman were part of that. 

There are parts of this narrative that are profoundly shocking, that may upset some readers, it is visceral and will invoke the strongest of reaction, but this is not done to shock. Ansel's behaviours, and the way he was treated, and has treated others is the hugest part of this story and needs to be told. 

The writing is exceptional, the tension is palpable and the creation of character is genius. This is totally different take on the usual serial killer crime novel and one that left me breathless by it's ingenuity and incredible compassion. 

Highly recommended by me. I urge everyone to pick this one up, you will not be disappointed. 

Danya Kukafka is the bestselling author 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.

Instagram @danyakukafka

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