I do love it when authors visit the blogs to help us get to know them a bit better. But I do absolutely adore it when we get to meet their characters in a new light! Today we get to meet Michael McLaren from Related by Murder by Jo A. Hiestand in this character interview. You can also check out an excerpt from the story and then follow the tour for more. Remember to leave questions and comments along the way. Best of luck entering the giveaway!
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?
McLaren sat up and leaned against the remnant of a broken-off column. How long had he been there? Forty-five minutes, his wristwatch announced. It was time to end this farce.
He didn’t, though. A beam of light near the river changed his plan. He crouched down, hugging the column, and watched.
The torchlight moved up the riverbank, a slow and steady progress that implied the walker was picking his way over rocky ground. The light bobbed several times as the person holding it evidently lost his footing. But it remained focused ahead, toward the main grounds of the Abbey. The progress was now more sure, signifying the rocks and sand had been left behind and the walker was now on firm soil. The light never flicked from side to side, as it would if the person was unsure of the land and was looking for obstacles. Several times the light slid behind a portion of the stone wall or a taller column remainder, but it always appeared again within seconds, still moving straight ahead.
Who the hell would be here at this hour?
Suggestions whispered to him, and he moved quickly to the cemetery section of the Abbey. Hoping to blend in and look like another pile of rocky foundation, he crouched beside a stone coffin. He turned his head and held his breath, not wanting any sound to give away his location.
When he looked up, the light had vanished.
In what situation is your self esteem most at risk?
I guess it depends who you ask. That sounds flippant, but you’ll get different answers from Jamie, Melanie, my sister or me. But since you’re asking me, I’ll say when I’ve taken on someone’s case. People expect me to solve these cold cases in a snap. Some have been as old as five years, and witness memories aren’t as good as they were. It’s hard to search a crime scene so long after the fact—things aren’t the same. My experience as a former police detective, my present day skill, and my reputation are at stake. It’s a lot of pressure. Add to that, I’m working alone, and I now have an audience of sorts: my mate, my girlfriend, and the person who employed me. I don’t want to fall on my face and let the grieving family down. So yeah, my self-esteem could suffer if I fail.
What are you keeping a secret?
My claustrophobia and fear of the dark.
That I can make a marriage commitment. Maybe it’s obvious to everyone, even my girlfriend. I’m reluctant to talk about the future and our developing relationship. It’s not that I don’t love her—I love her more than my life. But I’m scared of what might change inside me if we marry. I want to continue helping people with my investigations, but marriage should involve putting the spouse first. I don’t know if I can do that when someone’s counting on me to find the killer of his or her loved one. So I’m in a dilemma. If I don’t marry Melanie, I might lose her from my life. And I couldn’t live with her gone. But marriage might limit the time I can help others. So the easiest way out is to tell myself and her that we’ll set the wedding date “next month” and then “next month” and so on.
What scares you about this person?
She can read my soul.
How do you know you love someone?
Wanting to be with her constantly, sharing joy and pain, helping her through rough times, laying down my life for her if it would help her.
What are you most afraid of?
Dying alone and unloved.
If you had one wish, what would it be?
There’d be no crime in the world.
My tenacity. If I’ve told a person I’m going to find his or her loved one’s killer, I’ll keep at it until I do. Or die trying.
What do you like least about yourself?
My tendency to be pessimistic and cynical. I guess it comes from being lied to when I was in the job—witnesses, suspects and even some colleagues lying to cover their backsides. I have to remind myself not everyone’s like that, but it’s difficult when I continue to encounter that even now in my private investigations.
What do you like best about your best friend?
Jamie’s the most loyal mate a bloke could have. He’d literally die for me, I think, but I hope it’ll never come to that. I place a high value on loyalty. It’s the reverse of the lies and treachery I get from others.
What do you think other people think of you?
Teachers: a curious chap. He might make something of his life if he can focus his energy
Best friends: always there for them, supportive, good fun in a small group
Parents: sensitive, thoughtful, steadfast
Sibling: bit of a bore, too staid but can ask him for opinions and help
Colleagues: trustworthy, he’ll watch his partner’s back, honest. However, Charlie Harvester, my former colleague, is another matter. Besides hating my guts, he thinks I’m a know-it-all who’s overdue for a downfall
If you could change anything about your life what would it be?
My first visit to England was during my college years and that cemented my joy of Things British. Since then, I’ve been lured back nearly a dozen times, and lived there for a year during my professional folksinging stint.
What do I write? Well, at the moment, I write two British mystery series: the McLaren Mysteries and the Peak District Mysteries. The McLaren novels feature ex-police detective Michael McLaren, who investigates cold case murders on his own. The Peak District books feature a different British custom/tradition that is the backbone of each book’s plot. These are a combo cozy/police procedural, and members of the Derbyshire Constabulary CID Murder team work these cases.
I combined my love of writing, mysteries, music, and board games by co-inventing a mystery-solving treasure-hunting game, P.I.R.A.T.E.S.
I founded the Greater St. Louis Chapter of the international mystery writers/readers organization Sisters in Crime, serving as its first president.
In 2001, I graduated from Webster University with a BA degree in English and departmental honors. I live in the St. Louis, MO area with my cat, Tennyson, and way too many kilts.
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