By Nancy Allen
We’re talking with Elsie Arnold, the protagonist of THE CODE OF THE HILLS: AN OZARKS MYSTERY
Tell us a little bit about yourself, Elsie. Where are you from and what do you do for a living?
I’m Elsie Arnold, assistant prosecutor of McCown County, Missouri. The county seat is Barton, my home town in the Ozark hill country. I’m a trial lawyer; I prosecute felony offenses. Right now, I’m focusing on a sex crime, State of Missouri v. Kris Taney.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Shoot—I wish I could say that I unwind at the gym, or maybe at church, but that would be a flat-out lie. After a hard day in court, I like to go do the Baldknobbbers bar. It’s a local dive, the place where the cops hang out. I avoided it for a couple of weeks after a recent visit that went sour. Got all beered up and had fight with my boyfriend, then ended up falling on my butt on the barroom floor. I swear it wasn’t my fault. I think the floor was slick; I slipped on a wet spot. It was embarrassing, though.
What are your favorite TV shows?
I’m not a TV snob; I’ll own up to watching reality TV. I check out the Kardashians pretty regularly, and always watch The Bachelor and Dance Moms. But like most of the U.S., I tune in because I want to disapprove of them. Is that a bad thing?
Aside from reality shows, I’m hooked on some HBO series. My two favorites are Girls—maybe because Lena Dunham is so funny, or maybe I love it that she’s fatter than me. And I am nuts about True Detective. Whether it’s my law enforcement background, or the combo of Magic Matthew and Woody that keeps me fascinated, it’s hard to say.
What songs are most played on your Ipod?
It’s an eclectic mix. Of course I have Country/Western on my Ipod; I’m from the Ozarks. I listen to the classics, like Hank and Patsy Cline. But I have some other faves, like Willie Nelson and Toby Keith singing “Beer for my Horses.” And I love the duet Brad Paisley sings with Alison Krauss: “Whiskey Lullaby.” But Lady Gaga is on there, too. I sing “Bad Romance” at the top of my lungs when I’m driving. I think it may be my personal theme song, for reasons best left unsaid.
Who is your favorite author?
No contest. Harper Lee.
What book has most influenced your life?
We can reference the last question and answer, because it’s To Kill a Mockingbird, hands down. We read it in 9th grade English class, and I was swept away. The story inspired me; I wanted to be like Atticus Finch, and go out and save the world. That probably influenced my career path, with a couple of differences. Atticus was a defense attorney; I’m trying to save the world as a prosecutor. And Atticus was a gentleman, while I am no lady. Being refined and soft-spoken is incompatible with my DNA.
The Code of the Hills
by Nancy Allen
on Tour April 14 - May 16, 2014
Book Details:Genre: Legal Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Number of Pages: 400
Synopsis:A powerful debut thriller set in the Ozark hills, about a young female prosecutor trying to do right by her vulnerable clients-but by breaking their silence, she herself may fall victim to THE CODE OF THE HILLS.
Elsie Arnold may not always have it all together, but a raucous night at the bar now and then is just how she blows off steam after a long week of hard-fought trials. When she is chosen to assist on a high-profile incest case, Elsie is excited to step up after four years of hard work as an attorney for the prosecutor’s office, and ready to realize her ambition of becoming the Ozarks’ avenging angel. There might even be media attention.
But as soon as Elsie she begins to sink her teeth into the State of Missouri vs. Kris Taney, things start to go wrong -which is when her boss dumps the entire case on her. The star witness and victim’s brother, who has accused Taney of sexually abusing his three daughters, has gone missing. The three girls, ages six, 12, and 15, may not be fit to testify, their mother won’t talk, and the evidence is spotty. To make matters worse, it seems that some people in town don’t want Elsie to lock Taney up - judging by the death threats and chicken parts left for her to find.
Elsie is determined to break the code of silence and find out what really happened, refusing to let a sex offender walk, but the odds - and maybe the community - are against her. Even as Elsie fights the good fight for her clients, she isn’t so different from them: her personal life is taking a one-two punch as her cop boyfriend becomes more and more controlling. And amidst all of the conflict, the safety of the three young Taney girls hangs in the balance.
Read an excerpt:
Kudos:“Highly recommended for terrific command of suspense, authenticity and utterly engaging central character, prosecutor Elsie . . . some of the best courtroom scenes I’ve ever read, some of the nastiest people encountered in fiction and for all that, it’s illuminated by passion and kindness . . . a truly marvelous debut.”
— FRANCES FYFIELD, AUTHOR OF GOLD DIGGER
Nancy Allen is a member of the law faculty in the College of Business at Missouri State University. She practiced law for 15 years, serving as Assistant Missouri Attorney General and as Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks. When Nancy began her term as prosecutor, she was only the second woman in Southwest Missouri to serve in that capacity. During her years in prosecution, she tried over 30 jury trials, including murder and sexual offenses, and she served on the Rape Crisis Board and the child protection team of the Child Advocacy Council. THE CODE OF THE HILLS is her first novel.