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N. N. Light's Book Heaven presents Jo A. Hiestand #authorspotlight #britishmystery #mystery #mustread

Hi! I’m Jo Hiestand, a mystery writer. What do I write?  Well, at the moment, I write one British mystery series—the McLaren Mysteries—and one cozy amateur sleuth series based in mid Missouri—the Cookies & Kilts Mysteries.  The McLaren novels feature ex-police detective Michael McLaren, who investigates cold case murders on his own.  The Cookies & Kilts books highlight animal bakery shop owner Kate Dunbar, and (except for the first book, Shortbread and Dead) spotlight a dog or cat who plays some role in each story.


These two series keep me busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love to write. I have to write. It’s something within me that compels me. And it has to be English or Scottish mysteries, or at least contain a peppering of England and Scotland within the pages. Nine years ago I discovered that I have English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh ancestors, and the lines literally stretch back more than a thousand years.  Do genes mean anything? They must. I thought I chose my writing career, but it chose me. You see, I come by crime and canon honestly and historically, given a helping hand by many of those relatives’ DNA. I suppose most of my obedient and honorable tendencies have come from a massive number of ancestors in the Middle Ages: I'm related to a dozen or so High Sheriffs, a Justiciar of Scotland, an Exchequer, and a Lord Great Chamberlin of London. But not all my genes sit on the side of the law. Three of my ancient ancestors were beheaded in the Tower of London for one crime or another; two women murdered their husbands; one son killed his father so he could inherit the kingdom; and two men were poisoned during meals. Lady Macbeth is also my thirty-fourth great grandmother. I sympathize with the victims in my books too, for one of my ancestors was walled up and starved to death by order of King John of England in 1211, another relative was captured in battle and beheaded by the Normans, and a female relative was strangled in the mid 1100s. Honest!  You think I could make this stuff up???    But enough about my fabulous family and their influence on me…  


Before I knew about my ancestry or had even contemplated visiting Britain, I grew up reading Dumas, Twain, duMaurier, Dickens and the Brontes.  I loved the atmosphere of those books. Add watching the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce movies and the moods of 1940s/50s movies like Brief Encounter, Night Must Fall, and The Thirty-Nine Steps, and I knew I wanted to write mysteries, and the books had to be set in Britain. That was a must even though I knew only what I’d seen in the movies and read in the novels. 


Luckily, I had many experiences throughout my school- and young-adult years that I banked for use in my novels: camping in my Girl Scout years, working summers as a canoeing instructor and camp counselor, singing in a folk group, attending a citizen police academy, learning to fire a gun, riding along with police officers on patrol…  Which was all well and good, but I needed to immerse myself in the British countryside and villages for the mysteries I wanted to write.  I wanted the ‘feel’ of the locations and perhaps chat up a village police bobby (the sort frequenting those movies and novels I had devoured in my youth) to get my questions answered.  England beckoned and I accepted.


I bee-lined it to Derbyshire, feeling it was the ‘home’ of my fledgling first book.  It was, offering an amazing variety of landscape (caves, rivers, dales and mountains, moorland). Eventually, Derbyshire also bestowed the essential English police contacts and transformed me into an incurable Anglophile. Well, ‘Britophile’, because I also drooled over Scotland. The bond with Britain became stronger when a retired Derbyshire Detective Superintendent of C.I.D. and two working Detective Sergeants agreed to read my manuscripts for police procedure accuracy and to provide investigation techniques information. And to answer my myriad of questions.


Which got me to thinking after I had a slew of books out: other would-be writers might benefit from my twenty years of knowledge, failures, and hints (which have birthed thirty-three novels so far). So, for ten years, a St Louis-area police friend and I taught a mystery writing class at the local community college. He also helps me occasionally by answering my general police questions for my own books.  And he’s been a big help! “Like pie crust pastry,” he jokes.  “The wealth of shortening transforms mundane flour and water into something incredibly flaky.”  He refuses to divulge how flaky I was before he came along.


Since that first trip I’ve been lured back nearly a dozen times, and lived there for a year during my professional folk singing stint.  But that trip, as I hinted at in the beginning of this monologue, served me well for my own books. I’ve explored the rural beauty, participated in and watched customs, performed in folk music clubs, cooked British food, toured English police stations, wandered around castles and manor houses and villages…


At various times I was incredibly lucky to have a book signing at Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire, procure a live BBC radio interview, and get a half-page article in the Derby Telegraph newspaper.


Mystery novel writing aside, 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.  At present, I live in the St. Louis, MO area with my cat, Marlowe, and way too many kilts.


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Title Dark Deed on a Dark Moor

Author Jo A. Hiestand

Genre British mystery


Book Blurb


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.




“Tell me again how you got this...this...” Michael McLaren, having arrived not five minutes before at his friends’ home, tapped the base of the gritstone slab with the toe of his boot. The action had no effect on the gigantic stone chunk; it didn’t budge from where it slanted against the back wall of the garden. He took a breath, confused and curious about the item and the reason for its sudden appearance, and looked at his friend, as though the answers were etched on his face. “ you got this...”


“Millstone,” Jamie, his best mate, supplied, his gaze on the circular mass. His frown seemed to hint that he wasn’t too happy about it either.


“Millstone. Right.” McLaren nodded, the tone of his voice betraying his opinion even if he didn’t vocalize it in a few choice words. He opted for diplomacy over opinion and instead of expressing his judgment, said, “How’d you get this reminiscence of Derbyshire’s bygone days? Granted, it’s a lovely bit of Olde England, but it’s so...large...and bulky to give to someone.”


Paula Kydd, Jamie’s wife, ran her fingertips over the top section of the stone's curve. Her green eyes appeared nearly black as she stood in the shade of the birch, a whiff of wind disarraying her dark blonde hair. “It came two days ago. We very nearly weren’t home for delivery.”


“But we were. Bloody bad timing.” Jamie looked as though he was swallowing something unpleasant.


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Author Biography


A month-long trip to England during her college years introduced Jo to the joys of Things British.  Since then, she has been lured back nearly a dozen times, and lived there during her professional folk singing stint.  This intimate knowledge of Britain forms the backbone of the McLaren mystery series.


Jo graduated from Webster University in 2001 with a BA degree in English and departmental honors.


She founded the Greater St. Louis Chapter of Sisters in Crime, serving as its first president.  Besides her love of mysteries and early music, she also enjoys photography, reading, creating recipes, and her backyard wildlife.  She lives in the St. Louis, Missouri-area but wishes she lived in Britain.


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Title The Low Road

Author Jo A. Hiestand

Genre British mystery


Book Blurb


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.


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Title Overdue

Author Jo A. Hiestand

Genre British mystery


Book Blurb


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.




Melanie wandered back into the front room. A slant of sunlight lit upon his plaid shirt draped over the arm of an upholstered chair. She hadn’t seen it before, her attention on him and his risky undertaking. But now it lay in a sort of pseudo spotlight, beckoning her.


She picked it up. The fabric was surprisingly warm to her touch. As though he had just slipped it off and tossed it there. She brought it closer. The scent of his aftershave still clung to it.  She hugged the shirt to her heart and breathed in the aroma. Her fingers traveled over the garment as though they could conjure up McLaren’s arms wrapping about her.  But when she felt the patch of dried mud, she paused. Was this from another encounter, one that had gone wrong? Would today’s encounter see him hurt? No. Jamie and Holton would be with him. He would be alright.


Laying the sleeves on her shoulders, she pressed the shirt’s bodice against her, trying to feel his muscular arms and the beat of his heart. She rubbed the fabric against her cheek and his face grinned at her, as though amused at her attempt to envelop herself in his scent and assure herself that he would return home unscathed. 


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Title The Cottage

Author Jo A. Hiestand

Genre British mystery


Book Blurb


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.




“It was a horrendous final week for Mum, Mr. McLaren. She was under suspicion that she had actually burgled the Hall or at least had set it up so that her accomplice did the work.” Chelsea’s tone sharpened, betraying her emotions that were still raw. She frowned, and the sunlight highlighted the lines creasing her forehead. They were the only flaws in her smooth skin. “There was no proof for any of it, and I knew that mistrust was preposterous, but that didn’t stop some of the Hall’s employees from thinking that. The rumors began the seventh of November, the day after the break-in. That was the same day that my dad went missing.”


McLaren looked up from his notetaking. His eyebrow rose, mirroring his uncertainty. “Pardon? You said your father disappeared?”




“Is this in connection to the burglary?”


“Conjecture hinted as much, but mum and I never believed it. I mean, why would he leave home? We would have sworn on anything holy that he had no hand in the break-in, so he had no need to wander off. It’s ludicrous to think so.”


“Your father couldn’t explain his absence when he returned?”


Chelsea shook her head, her cheeks and neck reddening. “No. We never saw him again. The police think that’s when he was murdered.”


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Title Christmas at Corbie Hall

Author Jo A. Hiestand

Genre British mystery


Book Blurb


Former police detective Michael McLaren is looking forward to spending Christmas at his grandfather's ancient Hall with his grandfather, uncle, and his lady love, Melanie. 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.


Both men played in Scottish pipe bands and worked at the same bank. Are the two murders connected? 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.




Brandon nodded, wincing. “Yes. It’s Duncan Oliphant. He’s employed—well, was employed—at Saltire National Bank. I’ve had dealings with him before. Awfully decent chap. I...can’t believe this.” His tone dropped as he glanced at Neill.


“Ach, the poor laddie. Tae die like this, in the snow an’ on such a cold night.” Neill angled his head slightly as he studied McLaren’s face. “Wha’ be ye thinkin’, Michael?”


McLaren took a deep breath, as though some spell was broken and he could think once again. “A lot of things. First, how’d he get here? There’s no car. Well, none that I can see at the moment,” he added as he glanced at the driveway and parking area. “Second, why is he here? Did you or Uncle Brandon have an appointment with him? I ask because you say he’s employed at your bank.”


Both Brandon and Neill shook their heads, muttering they hadn’t seen Duncan Oliphant for several weeks.


“I think it’s odd that he’s on your doorstep, then,” McLaren continued, the questions piling up in his mind. “He doesn’t live here in Auchtubh, I assume.”


“He doesn’t,” Brandon answered, his voice rough with emotion.


McLaren nodded. Auchtubh was a hamlet where Grandfather Neill’s branch of the family had established the magnificent Corbie Hall and the nearby family brewery in the 1700s. He cleared his throat, puzzled and angry and frustrated. “Then the question still stands. How’d he get here and why did he come?”


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1 comentario

N. N. Light
N. N. Light
19 jun

Thank you, Jo, for sharing your writing journey and books with our readers!

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