Here's what I knew going in: this book is about a prison and the woman who investigates death penalty sentences and tries to get the prisoners off death row. I had also heard there were some magical realism elements.
I read this book practically in one sitting. The writing is beautiful. Just really gorgeous, especially considering the setting. The prison is an old, rambling, stone building. The narrator is a prisoner in the basement death row section of the prison. Death row inmates do not see windows; they are not allowed outside; they are not allowed any human touch. Food is shoved through a slot in the door.
Our narrator does not speak aloud. And he appears to be omniscient: he tells us the thoughts and actions of the other characters even though he could not know them from his prison cell.
The main characters, besides the narrator, are "the lady", who is the death sentence investigator, and the "fallen priest", the prison chaplain, and "York", the current client of the lady who doesn't want to be saved. There are various other characters and they are horrifying. This is a horrible place.
I really liked this book. Sometimes awful things happen, and you can see why in this awful place. The descriptions of the prison are unflinching. I flinched, though.
The narrator talks about men with picks and hammers in the walls. He can hear them hammering and talking. No one else can hear them. He also describes horses that live underground beneath the prison, and near an execution they run around under the ground and make the whole prison shake. When this happens all the people lie down on the floor. I feel like this might be earthquakes, but they purportedly only happen near executions.
I really liked this book. I am giving it 8/10 bookmarks, but I might raise that rating later.