cover image Notes on an Execution

Notes on an Execution

Danya Kukafka. Morrow, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-305273-4

This masterly thriller from Kukafka (Girl in Snow) opens on death row in a Texas prison, where Ansel Packer is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in 12 hours. However, Packer, who’s killed multiple women across the country, including in Texas and New York, isn’t worried. That surprising attitude is accounted for by the early revelation that he befriended one of the prison guards and is plotting a last-minute escape. Flashbacks, starting with Packer’s birth to a 17-year-old mother in 1973, trace his path from childhood to what seem to be his final hours. He grew up with an abusive father and began killing and mutilating animals when he was three. Those sections alternate with passages from the points of view of his mother, who was also abused, and of a New York State police investigator devoted to getting justice for Packer’s victims. Kukafka skillfully uses the second-person present tense to heighten the drama, and toward the end she makes devastatingly clear the toll taken by Packer’s killings. Megan Abbott fans will be pleased. Agent: Dana Murphy, Book Group. (Jan.)