Notes on an Execution: A Novel - book cover
Thrillers & Suspense
  • Publisher : William Morrow
  • Published : 25 Jan 2022
  • Pages : 320
  • ISBN-10 : 0063052733
  • ISBN-13 : 9780063052734
  • Language : English

Notes on an Execution: A Novel

"Defiantly populated with living women . . . beautifully drawn, dense with detail and specificity . . . Notes on an Execution is nuanced, ambitious and compelling." -Katie Kitamura, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW (Editors' Choice)

"A searing portrait of the complicated women caught in the orbit of a serial killer. . . . Compassionate and thought-provoking." –BRIT BENNETT, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Half

Recommended by New York Times Book Review • Los Angeles Times • Entertainment Weekly • Esquire • Good Housekeeping • Buzzfeed • Business Insider • Bustle • Goodreads • The Millions • The Philadelphia Inquirer • Minneapolis Star-Tribune • San Francisco Chronicle • The Guardian • PopSugar •  Literary Hub • and many more!

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. 

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 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.

"Poetic and mesmerizing . . . Powerful, important, intensely human, and filled with a unique examination of tragedy, one where the reader is left with a curious emotion: hope." -USA TODAY

"A profound and staggering experience of empathy that challenges us to confront what it means to be human in our darkest moments. . . . I relished every page of this brilliant and gripping masterpiece."-ASHLEY AUDRAIN, New York Times bestselling author of The Push

Editorial Reviews

"This novel is defiantly populated with living women . . . Kukafka evokes the disarming fog of grief, its wild illogic, its transformative power. . . . Notes on an Execution is nuanced, ambitious and compelling. . . . The seduction of the serial killer narrative is difficult to shake, for reader and author alike. We keep watching, and we keep turning the pages. In our fascination, we're all implicated." -- New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)

"Poetic and mesmerizing . . . Notes on an Execution is a career-defining novel-powerful, important, intensely human, and filled with a unique examination of tragedy, one where the reader is left with a curious emotion: hope." -- USA Today

"At once blistering with righteous anger and radical empathy, Notes on an Execution is destined to become a contemporary classic." -- Esquire, The Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2022

"There's no question whodunit here: The killer is already in prison when the book begins. The story Notes aims to tell is how he got there. . . . But [Kukafka] also takes care to give Packer's victims what they never got in life: a voice." -- Entertainment Weekly, 8 Books to Keep You Page-Turning All Season Long

"Danya Kukafka's Notes on an Execution is an intense thriller that reads like a mash-up of Law & Order and a college psych class. The fictional story of Ansel Packer, a serial killer on death row, is given a brilliant twist by focusing on the women he affected, ultimately asking why we're drawn to crime stories about violent men. Cleverly constructed and smart, this is the kind of book you finish with a big exhale." -- Real Simple

"A searing portrait of the complicated women caught in the orbit of a serial killer. Notes on an Execution examines a culture that romanticizes men who kill while also exploring the lives of the overlooked women altered by this violence. Compassionate and thought-provoking." -- Brit Bennett, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Half

"Provocative, intelligent, thrilling, moving." -- Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train

"Spellbinding and beautifully written. Danya Kukafka's Notes on an Execution is an irresistible, unbearably tense thriller; a poignant, deeply compassionate tale of resilience; and a vital intervention in the way we talk about violent crime, its endless reverberations and foremost its survivors." -- Megan Abbott, New York Times be...

Readers Top Reviews

Melissa Parcel
This is a book that somewhat defies definition, and makes me feel a bit powerless to capture my feelings about it with words. It is an exquisitely written tale, allowing the reader to have a glimpse into the minds and motivations of people. At its core, it's an examination of people, with the end realization that we are all much more alike than we want to admit, yet we have our own uniqueness that separates us from each other. There are parts of this book that are incredibly difficult to read. The anguish I felt for what happened to Ansel as a child helped to give me perspective on the events that followed. Yet in that darkness, the author also gives us a glimpse that a person's nature is somewhat set from the beginning as well. There is a diverse cast of characters, all with their own baggage and interpretation of events. I think this is a book that will resonate with many people. It isn't a book for everyone, but if you're in a contemplative mood the writing is fantastically crafted to push readers to think and ponder about life, death and everything in between. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, all opinions are my own.
This book is a masterpiece and I do not say that lightly. This is a story based on Ansel Packer. Abandoned by his parents and left alone to fend for himself and his newborn brother. Once discovered he's put into the foster care system. This is a story about Ansel Packer and who he grew to become. With four dead women as evidence. Ansel Packer is due to be executed and the clock is ticking down. We hear from the women that knew him throughout his life. The women he killed and the women that survived knowing him. This is their story and it is as chilling as it is compelling. I could hardly look away from the page. The hurt, the anger, the turmoil he caused so many is palpable. My heart broke for their loss and their furious, righteous anger. Kukafka turned the serial killer novel on it's head by writing about the victims and the families left behind. As so often is the case murderers become infamous but the victims forgotten or only remembered for the brutality in which they died. There is so much more to them than that and Kukafka explores this with beautiful, lyrical prose that is absolutely mesmerizing. I am in awe of her writing skills and lovely turns of phrase. She could make the hideous the most beautiful thing you have ever read. That is a testament to her talent. "The night was an open sore. The heart was an organ that beat on and on. The trees creaked their unanimous sorrow." If this book doesn't win any awards I will be shocked. It deserves every bit of praise it receives. An astounding accomplishment. Bravo! ALL THE STARS!!! Thank you to NetGalley and William Morrow for my complimentary copy.
Every once in awhile I read a book that is so good, it practically leaves me speechless. So I'm keeping my review short and simple for a change. Notes on an Execution is a gripping and thought-provoking read. It's not your typical serial killer story. You are introduced to Ansel Packer who in twelve hours is scheduled to be executed and you also get to know some of the women who have been a part of his life. The reading experience can be chilling, disturbing, raw, and haunting just to name a few things. After the second chapter about a young wife and mother named Lavender, I put the book down for a bit because I needed my mind to mentally process everything. I was left stunned because it felt I like I was somehow there, witnessing everything take place as it happened. To say it's well written feels like an understatement. I really can't do this book justice with my words. The publisher describes it as a literary suspense novel and that's right on the money. Highly recommend checking this book out. Thank you William Morrow for providing me with an advance copy! All thoughts expressed are my honest opinion.

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