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

June 12, 2013 Crown Books, Crown Publishers, Review, Thriller 4

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (June 11, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 038534743X
  • Source: Publisher

Ten years ago, accused of first-degree murder, Noa P. Singleton not once spoke up in her own defense. Now, just six months away from her execution date, Noa is visited by Marlene Dixon, a powerful Philadelphia lawyer and the mother of the young woman Noa was convicted of killing.  Marlene’s view of the death penalty has changed; she is now willing to work to commute Noa’s sentence to life in prison if Noa will do just one thing: share what happened that fateful day.

Up until this point, Noa has refused to share her story. She shares a secret with Marlene, one that ties them both to the murder. Noa feels that Marlene doesn’t deserve the salvation and closure that she so desperately demands.

The author leads the reader through the past revealing Noa’s tumultuous life, raised by her selfish, self-absorbed mother. It isn’t until she’s an adult that Noa ever meets her father.  As the pages turn and the reader learns more about Noa’s life, she develops into quite the sympathetic character. Surprisingly sane despite spending the last decade in prison, the extent of Noa’s intense desire to take the blame for this young woman’s death is truly heartbreaking.

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is an intense psychological thriller filled to the brim with twists and turns. While the reader knows immediately that Noa is imprisoned, it isn’t until much later in the novel that the crime she is convicted for is revealed.  Learning of Noa’s less than healthy upbringing, readers will want to sympathize with her, but since she is a convicted killer I found myself struggling with who to trust. Both Noa, given her crime, and Marlene, given her emotional connection to the crime, are incredibly unreliable characters.  Through Noa’s flashbacks and Marlene’s letters to her dead daughter, we are slowly given access to the motivations and feelings exhibited by each of these characters. The parallel narratives battle with one another, challenging the reader to come to his/her determination about the culpability and believability of each of the characters.

Silver’s knowledge of the justice system is quite profound. She has her own way of criticizing our current system, particularly on the side of the defendant. Noa had no one to speak up for her when she refused to do it herself, no one to examine the procedures and practices enforced both before and during her trial. Had someone been her advocate, done a little digging around into the crime itself, it is quite possible she wouldn’t be preparing for her own execution.

I found it quite shocking to read that this is Silver’s first novel. Her talent at teasing the reader, revealing information bit by bit and thereby increasing the intensity page by page, seems like it would come from a veteran writer. This skill, and the fact that I was kept guessing up until the very end, has me applauding for this author’s skilled talent.

A completely captivating, intellectually stimulating psychological thriller, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is the perfect evidence to indicate that this is an author to watch. Highly, highly recommended!

About the author:

Silver, a writer, attorney, and former English teacher, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, the MA Program in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia in England, and Temple University Beasley School of Law. She studied capital punishment with some of the nation’s leading anti-death penalty attorneys at the University of Texas School of Law at Austin, where she worked on a clemency petition, and later worked as a Judicial Clerk for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. As part of the clemency investigation, she visited death row, interviewed inmates and met with victim family members. While exploring the provocative and polarizing issues of the death penalty, Silver wanted to present both sides of the issue, and thus her novel was born. Silver’s taut writing, which has brought recognition from Glimmer Train, funding from the NEA, and writing residencies in Spain and France, carries the reader forward to the story’s shocking end.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Please be sure to check out the other stops in this tour; I guarantee this book will have people talking!

4 Responses to “Review: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth Silver”

  1. Becky
    Twitter: BeckyLeJeune

    I agree – this did NOT feel like a first book! Really phenomenal writing on Silver’s part.

  2. Rita

    Thanks for the review! This book has been on my radar and I am excited to get it now that it is available. Your review helped me make up my mind to definitely get it as soon as I am able. 🙂

  3. Beth F
    Twitter: BethFishReads

    Humm. I’m seeing mixed reactions to this one. I may need to read it for myself to find my own opinion.