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Michael McGarrity

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Michael McGarrity holds a BA with distinction in psychology and a master's degree in clinical social work. As an undergraduate, he held a Ford Foundation Scholarship at the University of New Mexico. Additionally, he is an honor graduate of the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy.


His career in criminal justice includes work in corrections, law enforcement, security,  police officer training, and serving as an expert witness to the court.  As a deputy sheriff for Santa Fe County he worked as a patrol officer, community relations officer, training and planning supervisor, and lead investigator for the sex crimes unit, which he established.  He also has served as an instructor at the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy, an investigator and caseworker for the Public Defender's Office, and an investigator for a state government agency.  In 1987, he was honored as Santa Fe's Police Officer of the Year.


Michael McGarrity is the author of Dead or Alive; Nothing But Trouble; Tularosa; Hermit's Peak; The Big Gamble; Under the Color of Law; Everyone Dies; Mexican Hat; Serpent Gate; Slow Kill; The Judas Judge; and, Death Song.

Publisher’s Weekly said of Nothing But Trouble, “Returning from 2004's Slow Kill, stoic Sante Fe police chief Kevin Kerney receives an unexpected visit from Johnny Jordan, a childhood friend and now cantankerous former rodeo pro, who convinces Kerney to serve as a technical adviser in the shooting of a local western film. Eager for a break, Kerney heads to the location in southwestern Bootheel with his lovely wife, Army Lt. Col. Sara Brannon, and his young son, Patrick, in tow. But what starts out as a working vacation in this seventh Kerney outing quickly detours into a bloody crime scene when the body of an undercover Border Patrol agent is dumped onto Highway 81. In no time, U.S. Customs joins Kerney's investigation into a possible illegal immigrant and drug smuggling operation. Meanwhile, Sara's army job unexpectedly takes her to Ireland where she must track down and seize the notorious George Spalding, a gemstone smuggler and wartime deserter. McGarrity focuses on the details of the settings and on the characters' tactical maneuvers career- and parenting-wise. The result is slightly amplified sleuthing, deftly swapped out at surprising moments to the POV of the bad guys, and with fine but low-grade intensity.”

Amazon.com said of Hermit's Peak, “Kevin Kerney might just be the best cop currently working the mean streets of mystery fiction. As deputy chief of the New Mexico State Police, he is not tortured by the doubts, angst, alcoholism, or mixed motives that seem to overwhelm many of his fictional colleagues. His methods are rarely flashy or excessively macho, and he treats other cops of all ranks with a minimum of attitude. Author Michael McGarrity, who worked for Santa Fe's sheriff's department before retiring to write, has managed to make Kerney human without loading him with excess baggage.

As we've come to realize in three previous books--Mexican Hat, Serpent Gate, and Tularosa--Kerney works as a police officer to make the money he needs to buy a cattle ranch like the one he grew up on. In Hermit's Peak, that dream comes closer to reality when a woman painter leaves Kerney a large portion of her own property on a mesa northeast of Santa Fe. McGarrity describes this land with the keen simplicity of natural poetry. Reality (in the form of a huge inheritance tax bill) darkens the picture. But the discovery of a very rare cactus plant and the unexpected arrival of Sara Brannon (the career army officer with whom Kerney had a romance in an earlier book) let in a few rays of sunlight. Meanwhile, Kerney and a tough local cop have to deal with a rape and murder, plus enough everyday crimes to keep them seriously busy without busting the boundaries of believability.”

Publisher’s Weekly said of The Big Gamble, “Smooth writing, well-drawn characters and several neat plot twists distinguish the seventh Kevin Kerney novel from Anthony Award-nominee and former deputy sheriff McGarrity (Tularosa). Never losing sight of his people in the forensic detail, the author skillfully makes us want to know what happens next without unnecessary violence or contrivance. When two murder victims turn up after a fire in an abandoned fruit stand on a rural highway, Kerney, now the police chief of Sante Fe, N.Mex., takes a personal interest in the case. One blackened corpse is a John Doe, stabbed three times, who is soon identified as a homeless Vietnam vet. The other remains belong to a 29- year-old college student, Anna Marie Montoya, who disappeared 11 years before. As it happens, Kerney was involved in the search for the missing Anna Marie. Investigating the John Doe is Kerney's estranged son, Clayton Istee, now a deputy sheriff for the Lincoln County (N.Mex.) police, whose mother was a full-blooded Mescalero Apache. Clayton, a sympathetic character struggling to support a wife and two small kids, eventually finds himself in charge of a task force looking into a much more complex crime. Kerney would like to effect a reconciliation between himself and his son, but the process proves awkward for them both. McGarrity keeps the parallel plots moving nicely along toward a rational solution. This is an exceptionally intelligent, humane mystery in a series that deserves a wide readership.”

Publisher’s Weekly said of Under the Color of Law, “Popular cop Kevin Kerney acquires new depth and substance in this sixth installment in McGarrity's solid series. In his previous job as deputy chief of the state police, Kerney killed a cop gone bad. Now he is settling into his new job as police chief of Santa Fe, N.Mex., and his new subordinates are of two minds whether they should trust him or not. They have ample opportunity to observe him in action, because as the book opens, Phyllis Terrell, the estranged wife of an ambassador and ex-military honcho, is found stabbed to death in the kitchen of her hilltop mansion, and Father Joseph Mitchell, an ex-soldier turned priest researching the government's covert operations, turns up dead in the Christian Brothers Residence at the College of Santa Fe. The police investigation has barely begun before evil Feds, who dismiss Kerney as merely "an over-the-hill lightweight cop who occasionally got lucky," move in and start sanitizing the crime scenes. The chief keeps digging on the sly, of course, as every possible witness ends up dead. McGarrity (Tularosa; The Judas Judge; etc.) writes well, with chapters that march the reader along, and is very convincing on procedural matters his credentials include a stint as deputy sheriff for Santa Fe County. Unfortunately, when he moves into action movie territory, the material does not seem natural for him, and in particular the main antagonist a human killing machine never comes off as anything more than an image taken from film. The strengths of this book are in the quiet moments, the procedural detail, the local scene and Kerney's reflections on his history and his future.”

Publisher’s Weekly said of The Judas Judge, “McGarrity's novels keep getting richer as they change focus slightly with each new publisher. This novel, the fifth in the series, is the first to be issued by Dutton, McGarrity's third publisher; it's also the most personal book of the series, with Kerney, Deputy Chief of the New Mexico State Police, now married to career U.S. Army officer Lt. Col. Sara Brannon and about to become a millionaire by selling the huge tract of land he inherited in Hermit's Peak (1999) to the Nature Conservancy. The story opens with a slam-bang scene in which Kerney is forced to shoot a crooked cop. The theme recurs, but the meat of the novel involves the murders of six people in quick succession. The police at first think they're "spree" killings, but Kerney soon identifies the last crime as different and its victim, a retired district court judge, as the real target. Most of the action focuses on Kerney's methodical and excruciatingly detailed police work, as well as on his spot-on intuitive hunches. Although this volume moves a little slower than the previous four, it still rivets attention not with shoot-'em-ups and car chases, but by gradually uncovering secrets hidden by a large cast of well-drawn suspects, with McGarrity serving up enough red herrings to sate the population of Stockholm. It's the discovery of the murderer's means, opportunity and psychological make-up that makes this such a difficult case and a book that's hard to put down.”

Publisher’s Weekly said of Dead or Alive, “McGarrity's 12th Kevin Kerney novel (after Death Song) displays the author's usual fine sense of place along with an unusual amount of gore. When escaped convict Craig Larson goes on a rampage that includes the murder of Riley Burke, a neighbor and business partner of former Santa Fe police chief Kerney, that's enough to bring Kerney, at least temporarily, out of retirement—and back from London, where Kerney's wife is a U.S. embassy employee. Larson's crime spree becomes more deadly as he tacks back and forth as far south as Texas and north almost to Colorado. Kerney, acting as a special investigator with the New Mexico State Police, and his lawman son, Clayton Istee, partner up for the statewide manhunt. McGarrity is particularly adept at portraying multijurisdictional investigations. While this isn't a good starting place for newcomers, series fans will relish the deepening relationship of Kerney and Istee, who only recently learned they were father and son.”

Publisher’s Weekly said of Slow Kill, “In McGarrity's latest Kevin Kerney procedural, Kerney, police chief of Santa Fe, N.Mex., is drawn into a messy murder investigation while vacationing at a California ranch. A wealthy hotel magnate, Clifford Spalding, dies of poisoning in the guest room next to Kerney's. Finding himself a suspect, Kerney decides to pursue the case on his own for a few days, uncovering some peculiar circumstances and characters in Spalding's background. They include an unfaithful trophy wife and her shady boyfriend, a deranged and bitter ex-wife and a missing son who presumably died in Vietnam 30 years ago, as well as a couple of police officials who are not as forthcoming as one would expect. Within a few days, Kerney is cleared by California authorities and returns home to more familiar ground. But because of the case's Santa Fe connections, he and his stable of detectives continue the pursuit. As in McGarrity's eight previous Kerney novels (Everyone Dies; etc.), the author excels at detailing police procedures as well as creating a homespun, wry tone that suits setting and characters. His action sequences are shakier, however, and several highly dramatic moments—the arrest of the main suspect, her release and eventual capture—are flat and hurried. A bit more attention to pacing and momentum could give this appealing series a needed shot of adrenaline.”

The Library Journal said of Tularosa, “Kevin Kerney is a tough ex-cop turned modern-day private eye. His godson, a soldier assigned to White Sands Missile Range in desolate southern New Mexico, is reported missing. The military authorities believe he has gone AWOL, but Kerney correctly suspects foul play. He travels to Tularosa and joins forces with Captain Sara Brannon to investigate the disappearance. The two face many challenges and risks, including attempted murder, and become romantically involved while determining the innocent soldier's whereabouts. Eventually, his body is discovered. This is a fast read that also informs a bit about the Southwest, the military, and Native American traditions.”

Nothing But Trouble : A Kevin Kerney Novel (Kevin Kerney Novels)
Michael McGarrity  More Info

Michael McGarrity  More Info

Hermit's Peak (Kevin Kerney Novels (Paperback))
Michael McGarrity  More Info

The Big Gamble
Michael McGarrity  More Info

Under the Color of Law
Michael McGarrity  More Info

Everyone Dies
Michael McGarrity  More Info

Mexican Hat (Kevin Kerney Novels (Paperback))
Michael McGarrity  More Info

Serpent Gate (Kevin Kerney Novels (Paperback))
Michael McGarrity  More Info

Slow Kill (Kevin Kerney Novels (Paperback))
Michael McGarrity  More Info

Dead or Alive
Michael McGarrity  More Info

The Judas Judge (Kevin Kerney Novels)
Michael McGarrity  More Info

Death Song: A Kevin Kerney Novel (Kevin Kerney Novels)
Michael McGarrity  More Info

About the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office is a full-service law enforcement agency which contains the following divisions and units: Accident Investigation & Reconstruction Division; Administration; Animal Control; Community Support Services; Court Security Services; Criminal Investigations Bureau; DUI/DRE Unit; Evidence; Fleet Maintenance; K-9 Unit; Narcotics Division; Patrol Division/Team Offices; Records Division; Reserves; and, Warrants Division.

Unlike many other sheriffs’ offices, the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office does not have direct supervision of the County Correctional Facilities.  This is done through another County agency.

Publisher’s Weekly said of Everyone Dies, “The questions and concerns of relationships, both everyday and extraordinary, personal and professional, lie at the heart of McGarrity's ninth entry in his Kevin Kerney series of police procedurals (The Big Gamble; Tularosa; The Judas Judge). Kerney, chief of the Santa Fe police force, and his wife, Sara Brannon, pregnant and due to give birth at any moment, have just begun a much needed vacation. Sara is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Military Police and will be assigned to the Pentagon just six weeks after the baby is born-a career move that Kerney opposes. A vicious killer slashes his way into the midst of this family crisis, beginning by shooting a Santa Fe lawyer, and in quick succession murdering Kerney's beloved horse, a forensic psychologist and a probation officer. It doesn't take long for Kerney to realize that his entire family has been targeted, especially after the killer begins leaving messages that say, "Everyone Dies." Area law enforcement personnel rally around the chief and begin a massive investigation. The large and varied supporting cast is sometimes difficult to keep straight, but McGarrity's fondness for his characters is evident, as is his love for the harsh but beautiful mountain and desert landscape they inhabit. Readers familiar with the series will be happy to settle back with the chief, his complicated family and the men and women of the department for another enjoyable installment.”

Publisher’s Weekly said of Serpent Gate, “McGarrity delivers another complex and powerful suspense novel in this follow-up to Mexican Hat (1997). Retired New Mexico cop Kevin Kerney is hired by his friend Andy Baca, now New Mexico State Police Chief, to investigate the murder of Paul Gillespie, a patrolman in the town of Mountainair. Kerney's persistence and seasoned intuition help him follow the convoluted rantings of his only lead homeless schizophrenic Robert Cordova about rape and a place called Serpent Gate to a difficult conclusion. When the governor's offices are robbed of $8 million worth of art, Baca appoints Kerney deputy chief and assigns him the case. We know already that Mexican drug lord Enrique DeLeon, Kerney's nemesis from Tularosa (1996), masterminded the theft. His accomplice, a Santa Fe businessman, launders the money through investments in elite real estate development. The governor's nephew and his law partner are also involved, allowing McGarrity to examine the interplay of politics and law enforcement. McGarrity, a former deputy sheriff and an astute storyteller, joins the murder and the theft only tangentially when three DeLeon thugs, sent to murder Kerney, follow him in a blizzard as he's searching for the now-missing Cordova at Serpent Gate. Assembling a large cast of vivid characters in a splendidly evoked locale, McGarrity produces another outstanding mystery, subtle yet full of action, with a chilling closing scene that sets up the next book.”

According to the book description of Death Song, “The bushwhack killing of a deputy sheriff in Lincoln County and the brutal murder of the deputy’s wife in Santa Fe bring Police Chief Kevin Kerney and his Mescalero Apache son, Sergeant Clayton Istee, back together in a double homicide investigation an investigation that is soon linked to a major drug trafficking scheme and the cold-blooded slaughter of two women in Albuquerque. With few clues, no known motives, and no suspects, the investigation turns into a search for the son of the slain officer, eighteen-year-old Brian Riley, who left Santa Fe under suspicious circumstances before his father’s death. Due to retire at the end of the month, Kevin Kerney isn’t about to let the murder of a police officer’s wife go unsolved on his watch, especially since the dead woman was the sister of a dear friend; and crime scene facts strongly suggest that the killer may have also ambushed the deputy sheriff. Kerney assumes command of the combined investigation and calls upon Clayton to find Brian Riley, discover what triggered the murders, and give him the ammunition he needs to bring a multiple murderer to justice. Death Song is McGarrity in full stride and at his best.”

The Library Journal said of Mexican Hat, “Kevin Kerney, a disabled policeman working as a forest ranger, discovers a poaching incident in the Gilla Wilderness of New Mexico. He than discovers is stranded tourist, Dr. Jose Padilla, who has returned to Catron County after 60 years to solve the mystery surrounding his father's murder. Tragically, Kerney next finds Padilla's grandson, Hector, murdered a case of history repeating itself. Karen Cox, a sexy assistant district attorney, appoints Kerney as special investigator. Kerney, who made his debut in Tularosa (Norton, 1996), successfully solves another series of crimes in this entertaining thriller. Like Tony Hillerman's Southwestern mysteries, this novel features authentic detail and realistic description. The dialog has an easy, natural flow. The characters may not have great depth, but this is an exciting, well-crafted story with a likable, sympathetic hero, appealing heroine and secondary characters, and appropriately vile villains.”

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