The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth Silver

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth Silver ©2013 Crown Publishing Group

Poor Noa P. Singleton is on death row, all appeals failed, six months from execution, when lo and behold the mother of Noa’s alleged victim, Marlene Dixon—the woman who was instrumental getting Noa the death sentence in the first place—shows up wanting to file a clemency petition on Noa’s behalf.  Noa is suspicious of Marlene’s change of heart, but a young lawyer working for Marlene convinces Noa to open up, somewhat, to assist in the clemency petition.  Thus, the ignition is turned on the machine by which we will find out the truth about Noa’s crime.

The problem, for Noa’s lawyer and Silver’s reader, is that Noa will never truly open up or engage in her own defense.  It was a problem at Noa’s trial, too, where she was convicted without putting up a fight.  You never really like Noa because:  A. She’s guilty, or B. She’s an idiot.  Silver does a good enough job bleeding out the (oh, bad pun) details of the crime to keep it kind of interesting, but the story would have been better if Noa had openly engaged with another character.  The reveals happen only within Noa’s head, which might have been okay if Noa was a thoroughly fascinating character, but she wasn’t.

Now the real reason Noa is on death row, which involves Noa’s past and her mother, was fascinating and the strongest part of the book.  But this back story didn’t make the present Noa someone you sympathized with.  Another strong point was Marlene’s possible involvement in the crime, which hinted at Noa’s innocence.  This kept the story interesting far more than its main character.  However, I disliked Silver’s use of “letters” from Marlene to her late daughter to tell parts of story unavailable to Noa’s first person viewpoint.  These weren’t letters, just third person POV shifts in italics.

Silver does a nice job painting a picture of a certain person on death row, thankfully without neatly tying up every single loose end.  Noa doesn’t stand for any particular class or type of death row inmate.  She’s just who she is.  Go into it with that attitude, and Execution is a satisfying read.  If you start thinking it will be a whodunit or a debate on capital punishment, you’ll be disappointed.  It was a split jury, but Execution avoided the recycling bin, and instead gets life on my shelf.

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