Cover Image: Notes on an Execution

Notes on an Execution

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I loved this book! Thank you for the ARC. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that I wasn’t leaving reviews on netgalley and was solely sharing on Instagram. My apologies. Huge fan of this author! I actually received the tangible copy. Trying to clean up my netgally account.

Was this review helpful?


NOTES ON AN EXECUTION gives readers the narrative of a serial killer who wants to be known throughout the country and flips the script to focus on the trail he left behind through those connected to himself and his victims. This isn’t the story of Ansel, but the story of those whose lives he’s touched and the scars he’s left behind. I love that Kukafka balanced the narratives of the women in this story with glimpses into Ansel’s thoughts as the hours tick down to his execution. The way these stories weave together creates a meaningful and at times disturbing story that highlights how everything we do can impact those around us, from things we observe to the actions we take. While at its core this book is the story of Ansel, there’s so much more waiting here for readers. I was intrigued from the start of this book and consistently caught myself thinking about passages from it while not reading.

A huge thank you to William Morrow for my gifted copy!

Was this review helpful?

I have to be honest at this time I just couldn’t get into this story. I was very excited for the book and really looking for it, maybe I just wasn’t in the right mindset going into this book at this time, but I just did not find myself enjoying it. I had to stop, I’m hoping to pick it up again at some other time and give this book another shot.

The narrator voice was lovely and I did enjoy that part and would still recommend it to others that I think would enjoy it, based on the amount that I got through. I’ve already told some friends about this book and the ones who have picked it up, have seemed to enjoy it.

Was this review helpful?

An atmospheric work of literary suspense that deconstructs the story of a serial killer on death row, told through the perspective of the women throughout his life.

A deathrow inmate, scheduled to die within a day, and the women who knew him. Through the voices of women circling his life-his mother, his sister in law, a homicide detective hell bent on bringing justice--we learn the story of Ansel Packer.

A stunningly empathetic take on a crime thriller, told not through the victims of the crime, but the women who where impacted by a violent man nonetheless.

Was this review helpful?

When people hear the title of this book and hear that it is about a man about to be executed for murder I feel like they get a certain idea in their head. I then have to explain to them that this book is so so much more than that one line explanation. This book is one that will make you feel so many emotions, it is one that will make you think and ponder different elements.

What makes a serial killer? How do we treat serial killers? How do we as a society see death row? These are all questions to think and ponder throughout the book. The author makes some great observations about these throughout the book and while her view may be off-putting to some it is something that made this resonate with me.

In the book we alternate between Ansel Packer counting down to his execution and we see his origination story. We see how his story intertwines with some other key players in the book and we see the complex relationships he has had over the course of his life. The author makes us feel for Ansel despite never making us question his guilt. It is a raw and powerful story that is on my list for possible top 10 books of the year for 2022 despite it only being March.

Was this review helpful?

Notes on An Execution by Danya Kukafka - I have NOT stopped thinking about this book. The story of a serial killer told through the stories of the women in his life. The writing is gorgeous! I had to stop, re-read and marinate on so many passages in this book. If I was a person who flagged or noted her books this one would be FULL

Was this review helpful?

Notes on an Execution takes the normal serial killer/thriller/crime novel and sort of upends it. It's much less about the killer himself or even the crimes (we don't get descriptions of his hunting, killing them at all) than it is the people in the killer's life leading up to and after he commits a series of murders. There are a lot of contradictions here. The author obviously thinks our obsession with serial killers is backwards, considering how she refers to the journalists at the end of the story who are covering the crimes, and yet she does write a book about a man who is irredeemable but was not destined to be so--a man who at the very outset of the story we're to understand is a true sociopath with no normal emotional responses (too much a trope to be at play here considering how hard it seems the author was trying to subvert serial killer book expectations) but then in flashbacks we see he was perfectly capable of feeling and caring and his own description of himself at the beginning of the book (which is chronologically the end of the story) is somehow just totally off--this and a lot of other things in this book don't track. I applaud the effort to focus on the victims of this killer, not just those he murdered but those whose paths are irrevocably altered by meeting him, and to not give gruesome details of the killings, which oftentimes just feel like straight up voyeurism, but I don't think it works. The story itself is kind of boring and you don't really form an attachment to any of the characters.

As for the audiobook version, I thought the narration was really good. I do think it was odd that they chose to have a male narrator come in for the part of the killer and yet only had one female narrator for the many female parts but she did a great job, so that's a small matter.

Was this review helpful?

Ansel Packer is schedule to die in 12 hours. The story follows Ansel through his last hours, while also giving you the backstory through the POV of the women in his life. I wanted to love this book and there were a few thought-provoking moments, but overall I was bored. Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to review this ARC.

Was this review helpful?

Original, chilling, heartbreaking but not cliched or sentimental. Danya Kukafka's novel tells the story of serial killer Ansel Packer, as he sits on death row awaiting his execution. But it also tells the stories of three women; Lavender, Ansel's teen mother who abandons him in order to escape her abusive marriage; Saffron Singh, a former foster child housemate of Ansel's who grows up to be police officer; and Hazel, the twin sister of Ansel's wife Jenny.
Unlike other serial killer stories, that exploit violence towards women, this novel really turns the genre upside down. While the scope and horror of Ansel's crimes are huge, most of the violence takes place off the page. This is much more a psychological study of the criminal, himself a victim of a terribly traumatic early childhood, although that it never used to excuse his psychopathic behavior.
Ansel considers himself a philosopher, and he has filled notebooks with his theories on alternate universes, the nature of good versus evil, etc. It is here that at times the story stalled as he pontificates on his "work". Honestly, I couldn't wait to get back to the parts where Detective Singh obsessively hunts him down.
Readers who prefer more linear plotting may get frustrated with the shifting timelines that the author employs, as she moves from the various characters at different points in their lives. But overall these pieces come together fairly seamlessly. The end of the novel, which imagines how the victims might have gone on to live their lives had they not been murdered, is gut wrenching but also signifies the importance of remembering them instead of glorifying a killer.
The audiobook was expertly narrated by both a male and female reader. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the advanced copy of the audiobook in exchange for my review. The book was released last week.

Was this review helpful?

First, I would like to thank #netgalley and #HarperAudio for an advanced copy of the book in return for an honest review.

#notesonanexecution tells the story of Ansel Packer through the women in his life--his mother, his sister and a homicide detective.. I found this to be a compelling way to tell the so called traditional story of how he became a serial murderer in a very non-traditional manner.

As a society we have almost a compulsion to read/listen/watch true crime stories and this book lives up to the "hype" without losing its empathy and compassion. We want to know why, to understand and distinguish between "good" and "bad" people and the need to know why people do the things that they do. I believe the book tells us that we are looking in the wrong places.

Was this review helpful?

This book had many different layers as it wove these stories together. It was such a well written book. I found Saffy’s POV to be the one I liked being in the most. This book really made me think.

Was this review helpful?

This is my first book from Kukafka, and it will certainly not be my last! Wow, I loved this so much. I have a feeling this book will be in my top favorites of this year. It was so well written it was truly a masterpiece.

I don't know how a heartbreaking story about a serial killer can be absolutely beautiful, but it was. This book was haunting, heartbreaking and powerful all at the same time. It was so beautifully written it was hard to tear myself away.

I really loved how this book focused on the women and not just the serial killer. Told in multiple POVs, this book flowed seamlessly and I enjoyed each one. My heart absolutely broke for Lavender though, and her story was one that stuck with me even after I had finished couldn't stop thinking about it. I loved Saffy and her willingness to never give up on finding the truth.

I loved the audiobook and thought both voice actors did an amazing job. Overall, this book was AMAZING, I have a feeling it's going to stick with me for a long time.

Was this review helpful?

Ansel Packer has 12 hours left until his execution. He knows he killed those women but he never though he’d end up here on death row. He knows objectively what he did was wrong, but in another universe things might have been different. But while Ansel Packer may have murdered those women, this isn’t his story. This is the story of the women who interacted with Ansel and who were most impacted by Ansel’s actions. It’s a brilliant way to tell the story of a serial killer, while making the victims the main characters, and the killer a side character. As Kukafka states at the beginning of the novel, “I am tired of seeing Ted Bundy’s face. This is a book for the women who survive.‘

How do I even do justice to this book with a review? That has been my question since I read the last page of Notes on an Execution. Plain and simple this is a thought provoking and powerfully written story.

Told through fastbacks from Ansel and three women he’s encountered in his life. I loved that we spend 90% of the book with the women . Lavender, his mother, whose own unsafe conditions lead to very specific events in Ansel’s life. Hazel, who se relationship with her twin is irrevocably impacted by Ansel. Saffy, the detective who put Ansel away and who’s path crossed with Ansel as children and is also my favorite character. I could go for a whole detective series with Saffy as the main character. Each women brought such a different perspective to the mix and had such unique voices. Kuukafka has done a great job of having these women show us who Ansel is, while also focusing more on the women themselves.

This isn’t an easy book to digest as it does deal with some tough topics, trigger warnings below. This is my first 5 star read of 2022, and while the book is great to read, the audio narration is also amazing. If you’re looking for something to listen to, I would highly recommend it.

TW: Small scenes of animal cruelty, domestic violence

A River Enchanted is out now. Huge thank you to William Morrow for my advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my instagram @speakingof_books.

Was this review helpful?

Kukafka has a great way of describing the thoughts and emotions of each character so that the reader can conceptualize them in unique ways. I enjoyed the countdown aspect of storytelling along with the shifts between characters and timelines. Those who are drawn to the psychology of criminal behavior will likely enjoy the insight into the thought processes and experiences of Ansel from childhood into adulthood. I felt that the characters developed nicely and remained solid throughout the novel. The way that Ansel's story is told by both himself and the women in his life provides a nice balance in that the reader is left to objectively observe and try to understand what motivates Ansel's behavior. Overall, an interesting read!

The narrators were great as well!

Was this review helpful?

I received the approval for this audiobook and realized that it is being published tomorrow. I will not have time to listen and review this title before the publication date and therefore would rather not download it at all.

Thank you for the opportunity to listen to this audiobook but it came too late.

Was this review helpful?

Gripping, disturbing, and heavy as hell - this one is going to invade my thoughts for a while.⁣

The storytelling is masterful and I was mesmerized by every point of view - the writing is just that brilliant.⁣

This one tells the story of Ansel Packer through the eyes of the women who knew him. He sits on death row, convicted of being a serial killer, and is hours away from the end of his life.⁣

If you love true crime stories and murder mysteries - or just smart, and breathtaking prose - pick this one up.

It’s a haunting experience on audio.

Was this review helpful?

From my blog: Always With a Book:

A few years back, I picked up a copy of Girl in Snow, the debut novel by Danya Kukafka and I absolutely loved! So when I saw she had a new book coming out I knew I had to read it…and I think I loved it even more!

This character-driven novel grabbed me from the get-go and I just loved the way it was told – we are given Ansel’s story, a serial killer on death row in the hours leading up to his execution, and three women’s stories who are linked to him and have somehow been affected by his violence. As much as I was fascinated by all that was going on with Ansel in his final hours, I found myself completely captivated by these three women. This is really their story and that is what makes this book so unique – as much as it’s a “serial killer” book, Danya Kukafka managed to make it unique by focusing on the victims and those left behind.

This is a haunting and powerful story that I know I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Even as I was listening to it, I kept pausing it to reread certain parts in the print copy. Not that I didn’t understand, but just because it was so powerful or the part was important to the overall arc of the story and I wanted to make sure I really got the point the author was making. And yet at the same time, I could not put this one down and ended up finishing it in one day…it was just that good!

This is likely to stir up many emotions as you make your way through it, but sometimes those are the very best books in my opinion. Yes, it’s a little slower paced, but there is a gradual building of suspense throughout, and I absolutely loved it. This is one book I will definitely be recommending to everyone and I cannot wait to see what comes next from this uber talented author!

Audio thoughts: This book translated so well onto audio. The two narrators, Mozhan Marno and Jim Meskimen, did a fantastic job bringing it to life. They both infused just the right emotion and tension into their voices as needed and their pacing was spot on. It was a great audio that kept me completely engaged in the story.

Was this review helpful?

WOW, Notes on an Execution, is just brilliant. I would like to say that its too early to call a book my favorite of the year but I do not think I can help it with this one. This book is just absolutely mind blowing and remarkable. WOW WOW WOW. I am in complete awe.

Be prepared to feel just about every emotion possible. I understand that this book is about a serial killer but it has you constantly going back between nature and nurture.

This book is told with multiple points of view and just so well written. I can not rave any more about how much I absolutely loved this book.

Do yourself a favor, make sure this is on your list of books that must be read asap!

Now excuse me while I go dry my tears.

5 stars.

Was this review helpful?

Ansel is on death row and set to die in 12 hours. He wants to be remembered, but while this story is about him…we don’t hear much from him. Instead, we hear from three women in his life. HIs mother, his sister in law, and a homicide detective on his case…

This book was so unique! I listened to it on audio and it was so good! I honestly don’t even really know how to review it. The writing was beautiful, but telling such a dark and messed up story. I loved that the author wanted to focus on the women that survive, instead of focusing on the killer and his life and reasons behind what he did. If you are looking for something totally different and unique I highly recommend this book!

Was this review helpful?

What would you choose for your last meal?

In the author’s note that precedes the novel, Danya Kufafka writes, “Average men become interesting when they start hurting women. Notes on an Execution was born from a desire to dissect this exhausting narrative.” Seriously! What is our fascination with serial killers?
This book focuses on the women around the killer. Ansel Packer is counting down the hours prior to his execution, but between his missives are the stories of his mother, his sister-in-law, and the detective who followed her gut and caught him.
This is brilliant story telling and the writing had me from page one. I’m in awe at her writing skills taking an uncomfortable subject and making this compelling.


Notes on an Execution publishes January 25th. Thank you to @williammorrowbooks for the #gifted book and thanks to @harperaudio and @netgalley for the ALC. The audiobook was fantastically done.

Was this review helpful?