Discover more from Read More Books
What to Read Next (No. 285): Fictional Serial Killers
Happy Friday, readers!
After two weeks of non-fiction, this week I’m delving back into my crime-focused summer with a couple of great books centered on serial killers. The titles I’m featuring today are gritty and disturbing, but the writing is top-notch and the storytelling is immersive. In exploring the darkest parts of human nature, these authors also expose the brightest, most resilient parts, too.
Let’s jump right to it.
As always, I’d love to hear what you’re reading and enjoying this summer!
Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka
My Rating (out of 5): 5
Genre: Fiction (Crime)
I’ve never read a story quite like Danya Kukafka’s debut adult novel.
Chapters alternate between a countdown to the execution of serial killer Ansel Packer and the perspectives of three women in Packer’s orbit.
The shift in tone between the chapters is especially interesting. In the chapters from Packer’s perspective, I think we’re meant to feel some sympathy for him. His childhood was horrific (which is nearly universal among serial killers), society disregarded him in adulthood, and the prison system beat down any remaining glimmers of hope for rehabilitation.
Then the chapters from the women’s perspectives are totally different. They aren’t focused on Packer, as you might expect, but on their own life experiences — with Packer just sort of looming in the background as an ever-present force. Ansel’s mother, Lavender, reckons with the truth about her child. Saffy, a detective, strives after her career and battles loneliness at every turn. Hazel, the twin sister of one of the victims, tries to make a life amidst unspeakable loss.
Notes on an Execution was an emotionally intense slow burn that opened me up to a new perspective on both the justice system and the people affected by a killer being, well, a killer. There’s a bit of hope thrown in too, so it’s not entirely bleak. This one is absolutely unique in the genre and fully deserving of its recent Edgar Award. Five stars from me!
All the Sinners Bleed by S. A. Cosby
My Rating (out of 5): 5
Genre: Fiction (Crime/Thriller)
Few authors seem to have reviews as universally praiseworthy as S. A. Cosby, who’s a newcomer on the thriller block. Since his debut was published in 2020, he’s cranked out another bestseller each year.
In this story, Sheriff Titus Crowne is up against something — someone — he never could have prepared for. A school shooting reveals a deeper, more sinister evil rooted in abandonment, extremism, and a twisted sense of retribution. There are some serious Hannibal Lecter vibes here.
Not only does Crowne need to solve a newly uncovered series of previous killings, but also prevent more before it’s too late for those he cares about most deeply. It doesn’t help that Titus is the county’s first Black sheriff — let’s just say that not all of the residents of Charon County trust or respect him.
I so appreciate Cosby’s protagonists because they don’t fit into the stereotypical mold of the genre. Male cops in thrillers are often sarcastic, over-confident, and hyper-masculine. Titus Crowne is sometimes unsure of himself and perhaps most surprisingly, he’s earnest — a trait that all of Cosby’s characters share.
All the Sinners Bleed is gruesome at times and it should be noted that children are harmed within its pages. That would almost always keep me from reading it, but Cobsy’s writing is so captivating that I couldn’t put it down.
I read all of S. A. Cosby’s four books in a 10-day blitz in June. Two of them, including All the Sinners Bleed, got 5 stars from me (I’ll let ya know the other one later this month). Cosby’s newest title is well worth the hype it’s gotten this spring. If you’re at all into dark and gritty noir thrillers, he should be added to your must-read list ASAP.
Thanks so much for reading! I deeply appreciate the time and inbox space.