REVIEW: Notes on an Execution

Let’s get right up to date with this real corker from Danya Kukafka from 2022.

Whatever I was expecting from this book, I got a lot more.

I picked it up in Waterstones, drawn to the cover and the title. Those and the very first line of the blurb on the back :”Ansel Packer is scheduled to die in twelve hours. But this is not his story.”

Does that sound intriguing? Well I thought so. Intriguing enough for me to both buy it and to not leave it sitting on the To Be Read shelves for forever.

Notes on an Execution does indeed follow the last twelve hours before Ansel Packer is due to be executed for killing multiple women but this is not your average serial killer whodunnit. Partly because you know whodunnit right from the off.

This book is as much about the female victims of Packer’s crimes and the women left alive who mourn those involved as it is about him. It is, in fact, more heavily involved with the women who survive but whose lives have been upended because of Packer’s acts.

We have righteous indignation from Packer as he sits through his final hours, we have empathy towards him from the most unlikely sources. The mother and the sister of a victim find their own relationship changed beyond measure. `

Kukafka’s novel is clever, her characters full and flawed and her empathy and insight incredible. She writes a slow burn but I didn’t want to put it down and the more I discovered about the characters, the more I wanted to know.

It’s a dark book but somehow at the end of it I had a feeling of hope. It’s desperately sad and fabulous in its originality. It’s complex, beautifully written and a masterclass in characterisation.

It really is compelling and unforgettable. Give it a try, you might love it like I did.

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