The Wages of Sin by
Nancy Allen is the third book of the series that takes place
in Southwest Missouri. It is not necessary to read the previous
books to understand the plot and characters. Readers will
get a very good understanding of how personalities affect
court proceedings. The main issues explored are the death
penalty, domestic violence, and child witnesses.
The novel opens with a pregnant woman being beaten to death
by her boyfriend who is high on drugs. Because the eight-month-old
baby also died the prosecution seeks the death penalty. Readers
will learn certain tidbits, such as the fact that Missouri’s
State Constitution considers life beginning at conception.
Thus, the prosecution decided to seek justice for the eight-month-old
baby rather than his drugged up mother. Because of the horrific
crime the death penalty is sought, making it evident that
the testimony of the lone eyewitness, six-year-old Ivy, will
Elsie Arnold, a prosecuting attorney in rural Barton City,
McCown County, Missouri, wants to win the case to avenge the
death of the mother and her unborn child. But as the trial
nears, Elsie begins to harbor doubts about the death penalty
itself. Allen explores how prosecutors must weigh the horrific
crime versus the heavy burden of seeking someone’s death.
In addition, the author emphasizes how friendships can become
detached over issues. Elsie is “unfriended” by
her fellow prosecutor Breeon over her view on the death penalty.
Instead of realizing people cannot agree on everything she
becomes cold and distant, refusing to be there when needed
Allen knows something about domestic abuse cases since she
practiced law for fifteen years as Assistant Missouri Attorney
General and Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks. She's
tried over thirty jury cases, including murder and sexual
offenses. A quote from the book shows how women in the 1980s
struggled to be accepted, “The necktie rule… they
said no attorney could appear in court without a tie.”
Allen commented, “After getting out of law school,
I was the only woman prosecutor in Southwest Missouri. I guess
I was a little bit of a trailblazer in that day. Women had
to wear a uniform in court in the 1980s. We wore floppy silk
ties, kinda like the Girl Scout tie. I had a little polka
dot one and a little striped one.”
Regarding her female portrayals Allen feels there is a little
of her in all the female characters. “Elsie is a cross
between that TV Show Beverly Hillbillies character Ellie May
Clampett and Amy Schumer in the movie Train Wreck. She echoed
who I was in my youth. Being the only woman in the office
I was thrown sex crime cases. Madeline, the County Prosecutor,
Elsie’s boss, reflected my past experiences of having
to confront, in the 1980s, the ‘good ol’ boys
judicial club’ in Southwest Missouri. Even Ivy, the
six year old witness represented the child in all of us who
tries to please authority figures. Because I am a strong advocate
of victim’s rights and have cut my teeth on child abuse
cases I feel a bond with Ivy. It is a fact that the Ozarks
has the highest rate of sex crimes involving children in all
of Missouri, and this state is one of the top in the nation.”
Allen also gave a heads up about her future book projects.
The next Elsie Arnold book has a standup member of a small
town community charged with a crime. Elsie must bring down
a person who is at the top of the pinnacle in her community.
Allen is also co-authoring a legal thriller with James Patterson,
entitled Juror # 3. It is a new series started by Patterson
that will be part of the Bookshots line.
Anyone wanting to learn about legal issues and court procedures
within a good story should read Allen’s books. She brings
her experience and knowledge to the page to make the plots
and characters believable.