A Slaying Song Tonight
My Own Ship Press, September 2019
Set in 1932, Susannah Lou Packard is on trial for the murder of a state representative, the son of a state senator who she murdered several years previously for which she is now serving a life sentence. Nancy Lou Remington, a young reporter for a local newspaper, having talked her editor into letting her interview Packard, visits her in the prison where she is being held to try and uncover the details of Packard’s vicious crimes. The woman Nancy finds is not at all what she expected but after a few opening skirmishes, driven by Packard’s need to establish who is in charge, they begin talking. The first thing Packard does is set some ground rules including that she will tell Nancy her whole story uninterrupted and Nancy can ask her questions only after she is done. She also extracts Nancy’s promise not to talk to any of her family until the story is complete. Reluctantly, Nancy agrees because she really wants the story and she feels that if she can get to Packard’s motives, a potential Pulitzer Prize may be in her future.
As the story unfolds, Nancy is drawn more and more into Packard’s life as Packard tells her that the two murders Packard admitted to committing are not her only crimes. Nancy soon fills several notebooks with details of Packard’s crimes but is left to wonder at some discrepancies that creep into the stories. But whenever Nancy tries to explore those, Packard insists that Nancy keep to the deal she made – no questions until she is finished. Eventually Packard’s trial and her stories come to an end at which point Nancy visits Packard’s sister who helps clear up some of the discrepancies with information that astonishes Nancy.
In A Slaying Song Tonight, Stewart has painted a detailed portrait of a woman obsessed with killing and with making sure that the details of her chilling crimes are told. For those who are not completely freaked out by serial killer stories I think you will find this book and the mind of a murderer fascinating.
Reviewed by Melinda Drew, January 2021.