Notes on an Execution

Morrow. Jan. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9780063052734. $27.99. SUSPENSE
In Kukafka’s unshakable, deeply compassionate second novel (following Girl in Snow), a Death Row inmate’s final hours spark a meditation on murder and our society’s morbid fascination with the violent men who commit them. Ansel Packer, inmate number 999631, killed three girls as a teenager, the justifications for which he has included in a grand Theory that will outlive him and assert his importance. But Ansel is not the only character in his story, and Kukafka smartly foregrounds her narrative on three women in his orbit: his mother Lavender, who fled the abuse of her husband by abandoning Ansel and his infant brother; Hazel, the twin sister of Ansel’s ex-wife; and Saffron, a young homicide detective who once lived with Ansel in foster care. Their ordeals, which span more than four decades and intertwine in unexpected ways, show how acts of violence echo through the generations. Kukafka wrings tremendous suspense out of a story that isn’t a whodunit or even strictly a why-dunit, suspense born out of a desire to see these women transcend the identities consigned to them.
VERDICT A contemporary masterpiece that sits alongside The Executioner’s Song and Victim: The Other Side of Murder in the library of crime literature.
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