Michael McGarrity books in order
Michael McGarrity is an American national bestselling author of mystery, thriller and historical fiction books.
The beneficiary of a Ford Foundation Scholarship as an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico, McGarrity holds a BA with distinction in psychology and a master’s degree in clinical social work. He is also an honor graduate of the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy.
A law enforcement officer with more than twenty-five years in the criminal justice system, his roles included creating treatment strategies for drug offenders, supervising outreach services for juveniles who are at-risk, among others.
McGarrity has received numerous awards throughout his career, including the 2004 New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts — Literature; the 2015 Frank Waters Exemplary Literary Achievement Award; and the 2015 Santa Fe Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts – Literature.
A pivotal contributor in setting up the Hillerman-McGarrity Creative Writing Scholarship at the University of New Mexico, the Richard Bradford Memorial Creative Writing Scholarship at the Santa Fe Community College, and the N. Scott Momaday Creative Writing Scholarship at the Institute of American Indian Arts, McGarrity lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his beloved wife, Emily.
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
- Tularosa (1996)
- Mexican Hat (1997)
- Serpent Gate (1998)
- Hermit's Peak (1999)
- The Judas Judge (2000)
- Under the Color of Law (2001)
- The Big Gamble (2002)
- Everyone Dies (2003)
- Slow Kill (2004)
- Nothing But Trouble (2005)
- Death Song (2007)
- Dead or Alive (2008)
- Residue (2018)
- Head Wounds (2020)
The American West Trilogy
- Hard Country (2012)
- Backlands (2014)
- The Last Ranch (2016)
Detailed book overview
It's been two years since an on-the-job shooting forced ex-Santa Fe chief of detectives Kevin Kerney to retire. He is drawn back into action when Terry Yazzi, his former partner and the man responsible for his wounds, pleads for Kerney's help. Yazzi's son, a soldier, has disappeared in the barren desert surrounding the White Sands Missile Range.
Kerney's investigation resurrects the long-forgotten thrill of the hunt―and other emotions surface after meeting the tough-but-beautiful Capt. Sara Brannon, the Army's investigating officer.
Together, they uncover a crime far greater than an AWOL soldier: a conspiracy of death that snakes from the secretive world of military operations, to the cutthroat alleys of a Mexican border town, leading them to a final, shocking revelation that may cost them both their lives.
First Release: 1996
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Taking a job as a seasonal forest ranger in New Mexico's Gila Wilderness, Kevin Kerney is looking forward to a quiet summer high in the mountains. But the murder of a Mexican tourist, and the discovery of a disoriented old man in the wild, thrust Kerney into an investigation that will carry him back in time to a sixty-year-old feud between two land-rich brothers, Edgar and Eugene Cox.
Enlisting young state game and fish officer Jim Stiles to help solve the crimes, Kerney slowly uncovers evidence connecting the ruthless Cox feud with another suspicious death―and the radical actions of New Mexico's present-day county militia.
But new assistant district attorney Karen Cox―Edgar's alluring daughter―is torn between hiding her father's long-buried secret and helping Kerney find the truth. Now someone wants Kerney dead―and the deeper he investigates, the more he may be digging his own grave...
First Release: 1997
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
After receiving a call from the newly appointed chief of the New Mexico State Police, ex-Santa Fe chief of detectives Kevin Kerney is thrown into an investigation of a small-town cop-killing no one has been able to solve. His only lead: a homeless schizophrenic's ramblings about rape and an uncharted place called Serpent Gate.
Meanwhile, back in Santa Fe, priceless art is stolen from the governor's offices and a beautiful young blonde is murdered in a millionaire's mansion. Kerney follows a trail of clues to Mexico, where he faces off against an old nemesis with powerful government connections. Unwilling to back down, Kerney must use all of his tenacity, raw courage, and knowledge of the criminal mind in a bloody showdown that may cost him his life.
First Release: 1998
Publisher: Gallery Books
When Kevin Kerney, deputy chief of the New Mexico State Police, inherits an unexpected windfall of 6,400 acres of high-county land, the last thing he wants to think about is work. But while visiting his new property, he comes across an ailing stray dog that leads him to the butchered bones of a murder victim near the rugged mountain of Hermit's Peak.
After assigning the case to his subordinates, Kerney returns to Santa Fe to spend time with a woman he cares about, Sara Brannon, a career army officer who is visiting him on holiday. But his time with Sara must wait, as he is called back to Hermit's Peak when another body is found at a remote cabin.
Now, Kerney must unearth the shattering truth about his new land and follow a twisting trail of blood through the majestic landscape of the American Southwest.
First Release: 1999
Publisher: Gallery Books
In a remote New Mexico campground, six people are killed in an apparently senseless murder spree. Deputy State Police Chief Kevin Kerney suspects the slaying wasn’t random at all—but rather a calculated plot to eliminate one high-profile victim, retired judge, Vernon Langsford.
In piecing together the judge’s shocking past, Kerney discovers the victim’s predilection for sexual indiscretions, a history of family betrayal and greed, and a dark marriage that ended mysteriously and violently. But as Kerney gets closer to the heart of a terrible crime, it’s a woman from his own past who emerges with a stunning secret of her own.
First Release: 2000
Newly-installed Santa Fe police chief Kevin Kerney receives a deadly welcome when a U.S. ambassador's ex-wife is brutally stabbed to death in her home. But before Kerney can begin to investigate, the FBI closes the case with trumped-up evidence. And the harder Kerney hunts for the truth, the more he knows that he may not survive the chase.
First Release: 2001
When a fire in an abandoned fruit stand in rural Lincoln County reveals the murdered body of a woman gone missing from Sante Fe years ago, Police Chief Kevin Kerney finds himself cooperating with his estranged son, a man he hardly knows, Deputy Sheriff Clayton Istee. While Kerney digs into the woman's past, hoping to find clues that will lead to a credible suspect, Clayton must unravel two more homicides that seem on the surface totally unrelated.
As Kerney chases down clues that raise questions about the legitimacy of a highly regarded modeling and talent agency, Clayton works to discover the identity of a murder suspect alleged to have ties to prostitution and illegal gambling.
Set against the backdrop of the high mountains of southern New Mexico, where gambling is big business and private sexual encounters for VIPs can be discreetly arranged, Kerney and Clayton must go up against the rich and politically powerful opponents who are willing to protect their reputations at all costs.
First Release: 2002
Santa Fe Police Chief Kevin Kerney and his wife, Lieutenant Colonel Sara Brannon, are on leave and eagerly awaiting the birth of their son when a prominent gay attorney is gunned down outside his office by an unknown assailant.
Called to the crime scene and faced with scanty evidence and no apparent motive, Kerney directs his chief of detectives to delve into the victim's personal and professional life, a decision that ultimately leads to a SWAT team screw-up and the death of two innocent people.
But the killer has just begun. Kerney's horse, a mustang he'd gentled and trained, is vicously and senselessly destroyed; a dead rabbit is left on his doorstep; and a second victim with ties to the criminal justice system is found in her bed with her throat cut along with the warning: Everyone Dies.
As a time of joy turns into a nightmare, Kerney and Sara search desperately for a seemingly unstoppable chameleonlike killer who promises to murder them and their unborn son.
First Release: 2003
Santa Fe Police Chief Kevin Kerney travels to a California ranch looking to buy some prime quarter horse breeding stock. Instead, he finds himself the prime suspect in a possible homicide when the ranch owner, Clifford Spalding, is found dead.
Confronted by a determined cop unwilling to let him off the hook, Kerney decides to conduct his own investigation. As he digs into the victim's background, he learns that Spalding's ex-wife refuses to believe that her son, a soldier killed in Vietnam some thirty years ago, is dead.
Kerney digs deeper and soon finds himself sharing the woman's doubts: Did Spalding's current wife, a much younger woman, orchestrate his murder with the help of a lover? Did a California cop collude with Spalding to keep his ex-wife from learning the truth about her son?
Slow Kill races from West Coast to East Coast, as Kerney tries to extricate himself from a situation that could ruin his career by finding the answers to a thirty-year-old mystery.
First Release: 2004
After years away on the pro rodeo circuit, Johnny Jordan struts into Santa Fe to ask his boyhood friend, Santa Fe Police Chief Kevin Kerney, to serve as a technical advisor on a contemporary Western movie to be filmed along the Mexican border.
Kerney agrees and plans a working vacation on location, in a remote area of the state known as the Bootheel, with his wife, Lt. Colonel Sara Brannon, and their three-year-old son, Patrick. But, a dead man on the road near an isolated border crossing, a federal undercover investigation into immigrant smuggling, the search for a fugitive from military justice hiding somewhere in Europe, and Johnny Jordan's troublesome behavior all ensure that nothing goes as planned.
As separate investigations embroil them in circumstances that will forever change their lives, Kerney must care for Patrick while Sara plays a dangerous game of Pentagon politics.
Packed with family secrets, international intrigue, and memorable characters, this is McGarrity's most ambitious and involving novel to date-- traveling an accelerating arc from Santa Fe to the desert grasslands and mountains of the Bootheel, to the most secret levels of the Pentagon, to a resort town on the coast of Ireland, and back to an adrenaline-charged climax on a desolate landing strip a few miles north of the Mexican border.
First Release: 2005
The bushwhack killing of a deputy sheriff in Lincoln County and the brutal murder of the deputy?s wife in Santa Fe County bring Police Chief Kevin Kerney and his Mescalero Apache son, Sergeant Clayton Istee, back together. The double homicide investigation is soon linked to a major drug trafficking scheme and the cold-blooded slaughter of two women in Albuquerque.
Due to retire at the end of the month, Kerney calls upon Clayton to find the slain officer?s son, discover what triggered the killings, and give him the ammunition he needs to bring a murderer to justice.
First Release: 2007
Living in London while his wife serves as a military attaché at the American Embassy, recently retired Santa Fe police chief Kevin Kerney gets an early morning phone call that changes everything and sends him hurrying home to his New Mexico ranch. Riley Burke, his partner in a horse-training enterprise, has been mowed down on Kerney’s doorstep by an escaped prisoner cutting a murderous swath through New Mexico.
As the killings mount, Kerney teams up with his half-Apache son, Lieutenant Clayton Istee of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department, to hunt for a psychotic murderer with a growing appetite for blood—who has no intention of being taken alive.
First Release: 2008
Former police chief Kevin Kerney returns―this time as the prime suspect in a brutal cold-case murder investigation.
Against the backdrop of the harsh desert and high mountain country of southwestern New Mexico, a high-octane quest for the truth untangles a complex history of dark family secrets, cold-blooded murders, rogue cops, a devastating plane crash, and the possibility of one family’s reconciliation.
A long-unsolved missing person case becomes a homicide investigation when the bones of Kim Ward are unearthed in Las Cruces, New Mexico, forty-five years after her disappearance. Compelling forensic and anecdotal evidence quickly shifts suspicion to Ward’s old college boyfriend: former Santa Fe Police Chief Kevin Kerney.
With damning evidence against him compiled by his own son, New Mexico State Police Lieutenant Clayton Istee, Kerney is arrested. He has no alibi and not a single witness to speak for him. Under intense media scrutiny and 24/7 police surveillance, Kerney must rely solely on the help of his wife, Sara, and a renowned criminal defense lawyer to discover if there are any remaining clues that can exonerate him or lead to the killer.
As the trio begin to reconstruct the events leading to Ward’s murder, Istee reexamines his suspicions about Kerney’s guilt and decides to risk everything to help prove his father’s innocence. Working together to identify one person who can clear Kerney’s name and expose the killer, the four soon discover that Ward’s murder isn’t the only crime to be solved.
First Release: 2018
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Clayton Istee, son of retired police chief Kevin Kerney, goes up against an elusive Mexican hitman in a mesmerizing story of murder, revenge, and redemption.
Given a chance to salvage his law enforcement career, Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Detective Clayton Istee catches a bizarre late-night double homicide at a Las Cruces hotel. Both victims, a man and a woman, have been scalped with their throats cut.
The murders show all the signs of a signature hit, but national and state crime databases reveal no similar profiles. Digging into the victims’ backgrounds, Clayton discovers that six months prior the couple had walked out of a nearby casino with $200,000 of a high-stakes gambler’s money.
He also learns the crime had been hushed up by an undercover federal DEA agent, who resurfaces and recruits Clayton for a dangerous mission to seize the Mexican drug lord responsible for the killings.
Thrust into the nightmare world of borderland drug wars and corrupt cops, Clayton duels with a cunning assassin poised to kill him and his family in a ferocious climax to the Kevin Kerney series that is sure to stun.
First Release: 2020
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
The American West Trilogy
Hard Country is a rare and extraordinary story of one family’s struggle to settle and endure in the vast, untamed territory of New Mexico.
In the wake of the death of his wife as she gives birth to his son, and the killing of his brother on the West Texas plains, John Kerney is forced to give up his ranch, leave his son behind, and strike out in search of the murderous outlaws and a place where he can start over. He drifts south until he meets a man who offers him work trailing cattle to the New Mexico Territory and forever changes his life.
Spanning the years of 1875 to 1918, Hard Country is the Western reinvented and enlarged into a saga that above all celebrates the people and the land of the great Southwest.
First Release: 2012
Scarred by the loss of an older brother he idolized, estranged from a father he barely knows, and deeply troubled by the failing health of a mother he adores, young Matthew Kerney is suddenly and irrevocably forced to set aside his childhood and take on responsibilities far beyond his years.
When the world spirals into the Great Depression and drought settles like a plague over the nation, Matt must abandon his own dreams to salvage the Kerney ranch. Plunged into a deep trough of dark family secrets, hidden crimes, broken promises, and lies, Matt must struggle to survive on the unforgiving, sun-blasted Tularosa Basin.
First Release: 2014
When Matthew Kerney returns to his ranch in the remote, beautiful San Andres Mountains of New Mexico, honorably discharged after serving in Sicily during World War II, he must not only endeavor to recover physically and emotionally from a devastating combat injury, but he must also fight attempts by the U.S. Army to seize control of his land for expanded weapons testing.
Yet keeping his land is only half the battle as he struggles with an aging father no longer able to carry his load at the ranch, an ex-convict intent on killing him, and a failing relationship with a woman he dearly loves.
As Matt’s personal and family life unravels, a punishing drought pushes him to the brink of ruin, and he is forced to draw upon all his mental and physical resources to keep his world—and the people in it—from collapsing.
First Release: 2016