Monday, June 17, 2013

Book Review: "The Execution of Noa P. Singleton" by Elizabeth L. Silver

No matter where you stand on the capital punishment debate, there's no denying the fact that a number of people sentenced to die for their crimes were actually innocent, wound up being convicted because of incompetent representation, or there was far more behind what they did than their court cases might have divulged.

While Elizabeth L. Silver's riveting The Execution of Noa P. Singleton doesn't truly approach capital punishment from these angles, these questions do come up. Noa Singleton is a convicted murderer, sentenced to death in a capital murder case. She doesn't deny what she did. She didn't testify on her own behalf during her trial, didn't offer much information to her attorneys during the laborious appeals process, and has essentially resigned herself to her fate.

Six months before her scheduled execution, she is visited by Oliver, an eager young lawyer representing a nonprofit organization, Mothers Against Death, and they are committed to blocking Noa's execution. Surprisingly, this nonprofit is headed by high-powered attorney Marlene Dixon, who happens to be the mother of the woman Noa was convicted of killing. Marlene tells Noa she has changed her mind about the death penalty and Noa’s sentence, and will do everything she can to convince the governor to commute the sentence to life in prison. But what Marlene wants is answers: why did Noa kill her daughter? What is her story?

For someone conditioned through a tumultuous life (somewhat of her own making) not to trust anyone, and someone whose true secrets have remained so for too long, Noa at first doubts Oliver and Marlene's motivations. But as she begins her recounting of her life and the events that led up to the murder, you begin to wonder who was truly at fault for Noa's turning out the way she did. Was there more to the murder and the trial then meets the eye? And, like Noa, you begin to wonder whether Marlene truly represents her last chance at avoiding death, if she were to want to in the first place.

Some of what unfolds in this book is surprising, some not so much if you've watched any episode of the Law and Order franchise. But that doesn't make the book less compelling, or Noa's character more mercurial. You can't figure out whether to feel sorry for her or loathe her for her actions until everything is divulged, and even then, you're still not 100 percent sure how you should feel.

While The Execution of Noa P. Singleton has the makings of a great beach read, especially for fans of legal thrillers, it's far more than that. It's the story of a woman buffeted by circumstances beyond her control, yet who chooses to cede control when she shouldn't. This is a good one.

No comments:

Post a Comment