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Book Review: The Code of the Hills

Author: Nancy Allen
Publisher: Harper Collins, April 15, 2014
Genre: Legal Mystery

Why I read this book: I like looking at issues through the double lens of the law and people who come up against the law. In the past I’ve spent a little bit of time in the Ozark hills and I’m acquainted with the culture there. I was curious to see if anything has changed.

Summary (from the publisher):

Code of the HillsTo uncover the truth, she’ll have to break the code of the hills …
In the Missouri Ozarks, some things aren’t talked about … even abuse. But prosecutor Elsie Arnold is determined to change that.

When she is assigned to prosecute a high-profile incest case in which a father is accused of abusing his three young daughters, Elsie is ready to become the Ozarks’ avenging angel.

But as Elsie sinks her teeth into the case, everything begins to turn sour. The star witness goes missing; the girls refuse to talk about their father, who terrorizes the courtroom from the moment he enters; and Elsie begins to suspect that their tough-as-nails mother has ulterior motives. To make matters worse, Elsie receives gruesome threats from local extremists, warning her to mind her own business.
While Elsie swears not to let a sex offender walk, she realizes the odds—and maybe the town—are against her, and her life begins to crumble. But amidst all of the conflict, the safety of three young girls hangs in the balance …

My Thoughts:

It took me quite a few chapters to get into this novel. The parts of the story about Elsie as a prosecutor and the cases involving children were very good. Elsie (and I think the author) has a passion for this side of the job. It showed the very nasty and frustrating side of prosecuting cases of incest and rape. My heart broke for the victims. I applaud the author for bringing these problems to the forefront.

I also liked the everyday look into the life of a small town prosecutor. It’s not all glamour or necessarily meaningful work. The author showed there are those days spent prosecuting traffic cases and other petty cases.

My problem with the book has to do with the main character, Elsie. On the one hand she’s a good prosecutor, even if she’s only been at it four years. But, when it came to her personal life, she acted like a fourteen-year-old. I thought she had very bad taste in men. She seemed to only like the good-looking guys without thinking about how they treated her.

This is Nancy Allen’s debut novel. She’s spent her career as a prosecuting attorney in the Ozarks. That gave her novel a nice note of authenticity.

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