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The McLaren Mystery Series

The McLaren Mysteries feature ex-police detective Michael McLaren, who now investigates cold cases on his own in England and Scotland.  


Cold Revenge


One year ago, Marta Hughes won a purse-choking sum of money at a local casino.  She never returned home.  Her body was discovered in a ditch twelve miles from her home; her car was in her driveway.

     Linnet Isherwood cannot let her friend's unsolved murder rest.  She convinces ex-cop Michael McLaren to return to the work he loves.  He sifts through a confusing tangle of lies, misconceptions and veiled motives.

     Are anonymous late-night phone calls, a vanished hitchhiker, and a stalker wielding empty beer bottles somehow related to the case?  Or maybe the woman he broke off with is seeking revenge.

Last Seen


     One dark night, popular singer Kent Harrison goes missing after his performance at Tutbury Castle.  When his body's found in a forest, the police investigation focuses on Kent's ex-wife, a local herbalist, a covetous colleague, and even the curator of another castle.

     But his occasional singing partner, Dave Morley, seems to have the biggest motive.  He's dying to make his name, money, and the big time, especially at the medieval Minstrels Court reenactment, where Kent's appearance guarantees SRO.

     To entire him into investigating, McLaren's girlfirend plays detective.  But Dena ends up in great danger.  now McLaren must not only solve Kent's murder but also rescue her, a hard task when a web of jealousy, anger, and lies covers the trails.

Shadow in the Smoke


Janet Ennis tragically died five years ago in what the police labeled an accidental fire. But Janet’s mother, Nora, believes it to be murder and arson. And she’s hoping ex-cop Michael McLaren can prove it quickly, for she’s losing her memory to dementia.As McLaren pokes through the case details, he becomes emotionally involved with the dead woman. Yet, Janet isn’t the only person who threatens mental well-being. A series of arsons on his own property hint that he’s upset someone connected with this case.

     Motives for Janet’s murder rise like the smoky tendrils of a fire. And, motive aside, the murder scene seems a bit too pat: a drought-stricken landscape eager to lap up flames, and a conveniently locked door barring Janet’s escape.

     Will McLaren solve the case while Nora can still comprehend the resolution, or will Harvester’s plans see McLaren’s career go up in smoke?


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The Wall


University art student Amy Jarvis died one year ago in a murder that shocked the area.  Although John Pooley had been detained by the police, they’d released him on insufficient evidence.  Which didn’t stop public opinion from mentally trying and symbolically hanging John.  When he conveniently died, the case seemed to die with him.  Except that the local radio shock jock stirred the cold case embers to inflame citizen outrage on the one year anniversary of Amy’s death.  And he again played the song mocking John, the song calling for a hit to be made on the ‘released murderer,’ the song that the DJ made into a hit.

     When McLaren realizes the brooch’s significance he closes in on the murderer.  But the killer has other ideas and flees.  As McLaren follows the twisting trail of the killer, he hopes it doesn’t end in a different type of hit — his own planned murder.


An Unfolding Trap


Since his infancy, Michael McLaren has been the target of his paternal grandfather’s anger. So when the patriarch sends an invitation to heal the rift, McLaren travels to Scotland, eager to meet and finally end the feud. But the welcome never happens. In fact, the older man is furious McLaren’s appeared on the family home doorstep, convinced it’s some trick.  McLaren, however, is confused:  if the grandfather hadn’t sent for him, who had?  And why? In Edinburgh, a man standing beside McLaren in a bus queue is killed in a hit-and-run accident. But McLaren wonders if the driver got the wrong person. And after an attack leaves him for dead on a wintry moor, McLaren’s convinced someone from his past is trying to murder him.  As McLaren trails the hit-and-run driver from the medieval ‘underground city’ of Edinburgh to the Boar’s Rock -- the MacLaren Clan’s ancestral meeting place -- the assaults intensify, and he’s plunged into a very personal hunt for a World War II treasure. The puzzle is fascinating; he just has to stay alive to solve it.

No Known Address


Luke Barber went missing from his village, leaving no clue to his whereabouts or why he left. Now, three years later, Luke’s father hopes ex-cop Michael McLaren can find a trace of Luke, alive or dead. 

As McLaren pokes through the case details, he wonders if the pressure of succeeding in tennis or music, or his upcoming marriage, was too much for the lad and he simply ran away. And McLaren’s suspicion may be correct, for he soon is assaulted and left for dead—a hint that he’s upset someone connected with this case.

McLaren eventually unearths the lies and false identity shoved at him, and uncovers what became of Luke, a discovery aided by idolatrous love and an ancient stone man.  

An Unwilling Suspect

ISBN-13:  978-1546620471 

McLaren gives in to Jamie's suggestion to retreat to Windermere, Cumbria in order to heal after Dena's death.  While there, McLaren becomes acquainted with his next-door neighbor when he helps her with a few odd jobs.  But he soon becomes the prime suspect in her death and finds himself sinking deeper into the tangle of her murder.

     The late night arson of his cabin and personal attacks nearly kill him.  The ferocity of the attacks is unlike anything he's known, and he wonders if the attacker's mistaken him for someone else.  The missing puzzle piece slips into place during a desperate race against Time and Tide...a race he's determined to win.

Arrested Flight
ISBN-13:   978-1977912978 

Ex-police detective Michael McLaren is determined to have a peaceful holiday after the fiasco of his first attempt at Windermere, so he stops at a bed-and-breakfast in Moorton, a village in Cumbria.  But mystery and murder seek him out, and he soon succumbs to the B&B owner’s plea to investigate the year-old death of her daughter’s fiancé, a young musician.

The Lake District parish seems peaceful, but a rival musician’s jealousy and a business partner’s anger boil beneath the façade.  Mix that with ‘Barmy Barry’s’ sightings of fairy lights at the castle, references to Uther Pendragon's return and the secrets in the woods, and McLaren finds his sanity shaky.

When the vicar is attacked and Barry disappears, McLaren sets a trap for the killer.  But as it plays out, his concern shifts from the potential capture to praying he and his friend can escape with their lives.

Photo Shoot  

Michael McLaren returns home from working a cold case in Cumbria to learn that he’s missed his uncle’s wedding in Scotland.  Angry and fearful that his absence has re-opened the family rift just as it’s healed, he drives to the ancestral home, hoping his appearance and explanation will be accepted. He’s more than welcomed. His uncle asks him to investigate the murder of his first fiancée.

Fiona Lennox was found in a rowboat on a Scottish loch, shot to death during a late night photo shoot. Why would she rent a boat after dark? Did she take it out to photograph the moonlight on the water? She could’ve done, being a professional photographer, but she was also a proponent of civic and environmental causes, which she documented with her camera. Did someone linked to one of her crusades kill her, or was the motive personal?

As McLaren uncovers layers of Fiona’s life and the reason for her nocturnal outing, he and his family are targets of intensifying attacks. But it’s not until he races against a kidnapper’s deadline and the threat of a loved one’s watery death that he realizes who killed Fiona--implications that are as deep and dark as the Scottish loch.

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Empty Handed

One dark night artist Craig Saxton went missing from his village.  His body was found thirty-two hours later in the river, floating like a bobber on a fishing line. 

Rumors swell like tidal waves: did his ex-wife or his fiancée’s father kill this likeable young man? Or was it simply a case of jealousy by the village’s other artist? Now, two years later, Craig’s fiancée hopes ex-police detective Michael McLaren can find out.

From speaking to villagers, McLaren quickly realizes that what appears to be a straightforward investigation is fast becoming as tangled as fishing lines. Are the fish poaching incidents, the reappearance of the local ghost, and assaults on him merely to muddy the investigative waters, or are they connected to Craig’s death?

McLaren has his hands full. They become even fuller when a nemesis from his past appears one night, bent on revenge. And the inevitable struggle opens a new future for one man…and leaves the other empty handed.

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Black Moon

Each April the members of a mystery writing group gather on Stanton Moor for camaraderie and to fuel their plots. The moody area seems the perfect setting for hatching a whodunit. Unfortunately, an unscripted mystery materializes like an unsolicited manuscript on a publisher’s slush pile—the leader of their group is found on the moor, her head bashed in and very dead.

     Lesley Keeton’s murder takes on the aspects of a novel’s first draft: the suspects shadowy and the killer unnamed. Now, a year later, ex-police detective Michael McLaren is asked to tidy up the plot and expose the killer.

     McLaren investigates and discovers anger and jealousy cropping up as often as editor’s red marks on a manuscript page. The group members crafted more than stories—they planned a mass exodus, fleeing Lesley’s tutelage, dictatorship and tongue lashings. Add a tinge of blackmail, an illegal business and an affair to this framework, and the deadly combination has the earmarks of a bestseller.

     In the midst of this, McLaren’s lady friend arrives unannounced and disrupts the case…and unbalances his emotions. Both are tested one night in a churchyard when she stumbles into the arms of the killer…and McLaren must rescue her without letting evil go free.

2019 Winner

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Hide And Seek

Playing a mystery game seems the perfect way to celebrate Jamie Kydd’s promotion to Detective Sergeant rank.  But the game turns real when a body turns up in the pretend crime scene.  Perhaps worse than spoiling the party, the corpse is someone Jamie knows.
     Even though the police take on the case, Jamie asks his friend, former police detective Michael McLaren, to also investigate—concerned that the victim’s criminal past may dampen the Constabulary’s usual fervor to nab his killer. It seems to have been a smart decision, for the police aren’t expending a lot of energy on the inquiry.
     Suspects float around McLaren…half truthful, hard to find.  More like wraiths than flesh and blood.  If the victim’s burglary partner, ex-wife, or childhood friend didn’t kill Dan, who did?   It’s a desperate game between McLaren and a killer who’s playing Hide and Seek.


5 stars+ rating!

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2020 Winner

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Related By Murder

From the moment ex-police detective Michael McLaren arrives at his friend’s house, he’s plunged into a nightmare of a case. Two men, hanged a year apart, each killed on a Good Friday. A barrister. A solicitor. Related careers. Related by murder. Related motives? 

Pottery shards, a torn newspaper article, and biscuits are found in each man’s pocket. What do they signify? And the blackmail letters Melanie receives… Are they related to the murders, or are they separate, terrifying in their own way?

Professions, calendar date, McLaren’s attack. Could it all be entwined? Or is the motive for murder something else, something so secret that keeping it is worth attempting a third one?


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Haunted Water

Cameron Rutter drowned two months ago in a lake on a Cheshire moor. Some say a morgen—a spirit who drags men to a watery grave—was responsible. Others say it was the phantom Grey Lady. The police say Gareth Gynne was the guilty one. Whoever—or whatever—killed Cameron needs to be sorted out. And ex-police detective Michael McLaren is asked to do just that.

McLaren’s not keen on delving into the mystery. The accused is the nephew of McLaren’s nemesis, Charlie Harvester. And if there’s one thing McLaren doesn’t want to do is to associate with another Harvester, no matter what generation he is.

Suspects and motives seem nearly overwhelming. There's the opinion that a villager opposed Cameron’s crusade to keep the moor in its pristine state, rather than develop it for the tourist trade. Equally as plausible is that someone Cameron had arrested came back to kill him in a vindictive attack.

Or was the morgen really responsible?

Can McLaren discover the killer, or will he too become a victim of the haunted water?


2021 Winner

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Dark Deed on a Dark Moor

Under usual circumstances, being a beneficiary in a person's will is heart-warming and perceived as an honor. However, this circumstance is not usual, for the bequest is a two-ton granite millstone. And the beneficiary of this gift wants former police detective Michael McLaren to find out who the gift-giver is and why she received it.

McLaren reluctantly agrees to delve into the questionable gift and soon becomes enmeshed in the larger mystery of a bride left at the altar and two murders--one old and one contemporary. Both of which send him on a chase for a killer in a rain-soaked night and threaten his very life.



The Low Road

Former police detective Michael McLaren arrives in Scotland, ready to immerse himself in the fun of the Highland Games and to enjoy a holiday with Melanie. But the old saying of plans oft going awry rears its ugly head: Simon Shaw, a member of McLaren's folk group, dies. Murdered a year to the day following his uncle's death.

McLaren is determined to find out who killed Simon. Needing justice for his friend is only half of his incentive. He also needs to appease his guilt for suggesting the group sing there in the first place.

As McLaren becomes immersed in the investigation, he wonders if the two deaths are linked, or have to do with the family or their clan. Perhaps Simon's former wife killed him, bent on revenge more powerful than mere divorce. Or was the killing tied to an old hunt for diamonds? After all, diamonds aren't only a girl's best friend. Sometimes they birth greed and murder. And entrap the innocent.


A spate of three murders in as many months has Derbyshire’s local police and populace in near panic. And there will most likely be a fourth killing in two weeks unless something happens to stop the cycle.

Former police detective Michael McLaren is that “something” that his best mate, Jamie Kydd, is counting on to end the alarming deaths. He enlists McLaren’s help to look into the events, hoping his friend can solve what, so far, has confounded the Constabulary.

Each of the three crime scenes is the same, yet different: the same types of things but not the same specific things left with each body.

As McLaren becomes enmeshed in the hunt for the killer, his friend Melanie arrives for a planned visit. Can his days become more complicated than simultaneously playing host and unmasking a killer? They can when he’s aware that each tick of the clock brings them closer to the next planned murder. And perhaps an unplanned one...thrown in for fun.

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The Cottage

Former police detective Michael McLaren is at the home of his lady friend, Melanie. The house is sold, the removal van is booked.  All that is left is to help her pack her belongings for her move to his village. But the laborious task is interrupted when one of Melanie’s neighbors asks McLaren to investigate the circumstances of her parents’ murders.

McLaren’s reluctance to take it on and abandon Melanie appears to be solved when his best mate, Jamie, steps in to help with the packing. 

It’s not the easy investigation McLaren was hoping for, however. Sightings of Mordred and a ghost, and a burglary at the local Tudor Hall complicate the murder inquiries.

What had seemed to McLaren a perfect remedy with Jamie close at hand now disintegrates into a horrendous mistake. And McLaren questions if the investigation is really worth it, especially when he puts the people he cares about most in danger. 

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Christmas at Corbie Hall

Former police detective Michael McLaren is looking forward to spending Christmas at his grandfather's ancient Hall. Not only because it will be his first holiday with his grandfather and uncle, but also with his lady love, Melanie. 

Everything seems perfect for the Scottish Highland getaway. Even Mother Nature is contributing snow, adding a festive and romantic overtone to the gathering. But McLaren’s holiday plan gets snowed under when a dead man is discovered outside his grandfather’s house--in circumstances similar to an older murder. And it’s not long before McLaren is asked to look into the previous death.

The victim was a drummer in a local pipe band. He also drummed at the Christmas market, where his body was found on a snowy, cold evening. The man found dead at the door of his grandfather’s house also played in a pipe band. Are the two murders connected? Or did their jobs at the bank have to do with their deaths?

Can McLaren wrap up the cases in time to unwrap Christmas gifts with Melanie? It’s a race against the calendar and weather if he wants the Day—and his future with her—to be merry and bright. 

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The Swim - a "Crossed Paths" prequel novella

The Swim is not one of my usual mysteries featuring former police detective Michael McLaren. It's a prequel novella giving a picture of his life from teenager to the strong man he is today. He's real to me, and I want you to understand him. I want you to understand a man whose need to help others find justice became his incitement in a world like today. He's been through a lot from his ordeal beginning with the "swim", his move from the Force, and his cold cases. He's made enemies, friends, and he has loved and lost. Like many of us.

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