Friday, November 20, 2015

The Ozark Mysteries and The Tanqueray & Tonic

Today on Mystery Playground, Nancy Allen, author of the Ozark Mysteries joins us with a fabulous drink and the story behind the story of her novels: The Code of the Hills and A Killing at the Creek.

I’m Nancy Allen, author of the Ozarks Mystery series, and baby, have I got a drink for you: the classy classic, Tanqueray & Tonic.

I know, I know—it’s not exotic. But I’d like to pitch it today for its many HEALTHY and MEDICINAL properties.

Did you know: gin was originally created as a medicine! This is true, a fact I confirmed through Wikipedia. A medicine for what? Well, I’m not actually certain. But it is full of antioxidants!

I mix it with tonic water, which contains quinine. More good news! I won’t get malaria!

Now squeeze a wedge or two of lime into the drink. Lime juice is tart and tasty and—here we go again—full of vitamin C!

I like to drink my Tanq & Tonic from a tall glass. Because it’s bigger. Which should certainly increase the power of this medicinal potion. And as soon as I consume it, my mood magically improves. I believe all followers of this recipe will discover the same mood-elevating effect.

CAUTION: Do not drive a car or operate machinery when drinking gin. Also, you’ll find that when drinking gin, you will believe (for a limited time) that you are the most entertaining person on the planet. Don’t drink gin with your boss. Or a preacher. 

Nancy Allen

The Story Behind the Story of My Ozarks Mystery Series, The Code of the Hills & A Killing at the Creek

Elsie Arnold, the protagonist of my Ozarks Mystery series, is a cussing, hell-raising, beer-chugging wild child of the Ozark hill country. It’s a good thing that Elsie is dedicated to her job as assistant prosecutor in her home town in the Ozarks, and passionately committed to seeing justice done in her neck of the woods. If not for Elsie’s stellar trial skills, her boss, the refined Madeleine Thompson, would have shown her the door years ago. Elsie is not Madeleine’s idea of a model employee. But Elsie’s grit and determination make her the right woman for the job, especially in cases that pose a challenge.

In the first book of the series, The Code of the Hills, Elsie is handed a difficult sex case. 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. 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.  
To uncover the truth, she'll have to break the code of the hills …
In A Killing at the Creek, the second Ozarks Mystery, prosecutor Elsie is handed her first murder case. She’s been waiting for a murder to come along and make her career. So when a body is found under a bridge, throat cut, Elsie jumps at the chance to work on the case. 
But when the investigation reveals that the deceased woman was driving a school bus, and the police locate the vehicle, its interior covered in blood, the occupant and only suspect is a fifteen-year-old boy. 
Elsie’s in for more than she bargained for.
Win or lose, this case will haunt her. No one has successfully prosecuted a juvenile for first-degree murder in McCown County. If she loses, it’s her career on the line and a chilling homicide unresolved; if she wins, a boy’s liberty will be taken from him before he reaches his sixteenth birthday. 

We took these photos at Bouchercon
Readers may wonder: do I have the chops to write these legal thrillers? Has something in my background prepared me to craft the stories and courtroom battles in The Code of the Hills and A Killing at the Creek?

Oh hell yeah. In my career, I served as prosecutor in the Ozarks, and some of my cases involved  similar scenarios. When I arrived at the prosecutor’s office after graduating from law school, I was the only woman on the staff of attorneys. I was assigned a heavy load of sex cases. My home county has the highest rate of sex crimes involving children in the State of Missouri. 

And once I gained courtroom experience, I was assigned my first homicide: a murder prosecution of a juvenile. I tried and convicted a sixteen-year-old boy for the crime of first-degree murder.

Those cases provide background and inspiration for my novels. I must stress: my books are fiction; all characters are solely the product of my imagination. But the cases provided a seed for me to craft my stories, and give me the professional experience to write courtroom novels that ring true.

In The Code of the Hills and A Killing at the Creek, there are plenty of surprises; everything is not always as it seems. But that's also a reflection of our justice system. As an old trial salt with dozens of jury cases under my belt, I've seen plenty of twists and turns, things that would curl your hair. The bright side is: my experience provides inspiration and a wealth of raw material to weave into more adventures for my protagonist with feet of clay, the flawed yet loveable Elsie Arnold.

To find out more about Nancy Allen read our Q&A with her.

To check out other Drinks with Reads, click here.  


  1. What a fun post Nancy! Thank you so much.

  2. Wow, Nancy, if this post is a reflection of your books - I'm all in! I can't wait to read about Elise, sounds like you in many ways. Thanks for the great post and of course - the drink.

  3. Sharon, thanks so much! Can't wait for you to meet my Ozarks girl, Elsie!

  4. This is a fabulous book cover and Elise sounds like someone I want to meet!

    1. Kim, then you and Elsie should meet without delay! Check her out--you won't be disappointed, honest to god.