Book Review: The Wages of Sin by Nancy Allen

The Wages of SinThe Wages of Sin
An Ozarks Mystery #3
Nancy Allen
Witness Impulse, April 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-243875-1

From the publisher—

In rural McCown County, Missouri, a young pregnant woman is found beaten to death in a trailer park. The only witness to the murder is Ivy, her six-year-old daughter, who points to her mom’s boyfriend—father of the unborn child. County prosecutor Madeleine Thompson promises the community justice, and in the Ozarks, that can only mean one thing: a death sentence.

When Madeleine’s first choice for co-counsel declines to try a death penalty case, she is forced to turn to assistant prosecutor Elsie Arnold. Elsie is reluctant to join forces with her frosty boss, but the road to conviction seems smooth—until unexpected facts about the victim arise, and the testimony of the lone eyewitness Ivy becomes increasingly crucial. Against Elsie’s advice, Madeleine brings in the state attorney general’s office to assist them, while cutthroat trial attorney Claire O’Hara joins the defense.

Elsie will not let the power of prosecution—of seeking justice—be wrested from her without a fight. She wants to win the case, and 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. Meanwhile, the child Ivy is in greater danger than anyone knows.

How credible is a 6-year-old witness to a crime? Certainly that question has been a concern in the past and will continue to be so in the future but, in the case of Ivy’s mother’s boyfriend and the murder of her mother, it’s really critical because the stakes of conviction are so high. Can…or should…a prosecutor seek the death penalty based on that small child’s testimony even when the man confesses? After all, we all know confessions are frequently false for a variety of reasons.

There are many people who do not believe the death penalty is just or effective but many others who truly do believe it’s sometimes necessary because of the nature and/or the heinousness of the crime. I won’t get into my own opinion but I was captivated in The Wages of Sin by the zeal of both Madeleine and Elsie to carry this prosecution to it’s farthest reaches although their reasons may not be entirely altruistic.

There are other threads in this story, such as domestic violence and the effects of poverty and, together with the central issue of the death penalty, Nancy Allen has provided the reader with much to contemplate. At the same time, her characters and the Ozarks setting are as compelling as any I’ve seen in a while and I’m glad to have “discovered” this fine author.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2016.



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About the Author

Nancy AllenNancy Allen practiced law for 15 years as Assistant Missouri Attorney General and Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks. She has tried over 30 jury trials, including murder and sexual offenses, and is now a law instructor at Missouri State University. Her first novel,The Code of the Hills, was published by HarperCollins in 2014.

The Wages of Sin is the third book in her Ozarks mystery series.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Wages of Sin by Nancy Allen

  1. This just reeks with intrigue. Putting a 6 year old in as a witness will stir interest, but putting that same 6 year old in danger, raises the alarm level. Good premise. Great review.


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