Edgars, Again

The Mystery Writers of America has announced its lineup of finalists for this year’s Edgar Awards!  Awards will be given on April 27 in New York City.   I’m planning to read, review and rate again this year and (fingers crossed), see how well my picks line up against the award winners.  Alert:  I’m not trying to forecast who MWA will pick.  I’m doing the “who should win” according to Literary Lunchbox.

Nominees for Best Novel include:

  1. Devil House by John Darnielle
  2. Like a Sister by Kellye Garrett 
  3. Gangland by Chuck Hogan 
  4. The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias 
  5. Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka 
  6. The Maid by Nita Prose 

Of these, I had only read The Maid prior to the announcement of nominees, so I’m excited to check out the other titles.

So – let’s get started with Notes on an Execution!  The plot overview:  Ansel Packer is on death row, soon to be executed.  This is not a legal thriller about an innocent man and his dogged attorneys… Ansel is a bad guy who has done horrible things, even more than he was prosecuted for.  

But it’s not that simple.  His childhood was harsh and violent, his teen years painful, and he makes some progress as an adult.   If the definition of tragedy is a man undone by his own flaws, then Notes is a tragedy.

A tragedy, and a highly affecting one, skillfully told.  We peel back the layers through multiple perspectives:   Ansel’s mother Lavendar; his childhood friend Saffy, who is now a police detective; his wife’s twin sister, Hazel; and Ansel himself.    We’re in real time as the hours count down to the execution, but also weaving back and forth from 1984 to present day.  What emerges is a nuanced look not just at Ansel, but at the women on whom he has such a devastating impact.   

Danya Kukafka has written an engrossing and emotionally affecting book, upending the typical serial killer plot mechanisms and character reduction.   Its complexities and the richness of the detail require a focused read.  That works for the book, but also against it – I found it easy to put down.

As the first book read and reviewed, it goes to the top of the rating!

Literary Lunchbox Rankings:  Best Novel

  1. Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka 

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