Welcome to the official website of Keith McCafferty, award-winning author of The Royal Wulff Murders, The Gray Ghost Murders, and the just released, heart-pounding third novel in the series, Dead Man’s Fancy. Here you will find information about the books, the author, and links to many of his articles. Be sure to also check out the The Deadwater Blog, which explores subjects ranging from the art of fly-tying to the art of writing about murder and everything in between.

Poisoned Pen with Nevada Barr on April 8th

To help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ, founded by the indomitable Barbara Peters,  I will be signing books and doing a podcast with one of my favorite mystery writers, New York Times bestseller Nevada Barr, on Tuesday, April 8.

If you’re in driving distance I hope to see you for the get together, which starts at 7 p.m.  I’ll be baking chocolate chip cookies.  Below is a copy of Nevada’s slightly fantastical  take on this event.  It’s true, though.  I do like cats, snakes and fishing in  freezing weather!

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Good news from the Division of Shameless Commerce for the Sean Stranahan Detective Series:

The Penguin Books softcover edition of The Royal Wulff Murders is selling out and Penguin has ordered a reprint!  In other news from the front, the novel, my first in the Sean Stranahan detective series, has been chosen as one of 13 books to be featured in the Barnes & Noble First in Series Favorites: Mystery promotion.  The promotion will run in all Barnes & Noble stores from June 19th through July 3rd.

I’ve also been informed that Dead Man’s Fancy is included in Penguin’s corporate Mystery e-Newsletter, which is great exposure as it is circulated to 10,000 subscribers. Wish me luck!


DEAD MAN’S FANCY: A SEAN STRANAHAN MYSTERY is now available in hardcover.

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* Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review

“The politics of wolves drives Keith McCafferty’s beautifully written third mystery featuring Montana fly fisherman and sometimes PI Sean Stranahan…”

Read the entire review here.

For a free, personally signed postcard/bookmark for Dead Man’s Fancy, please leave your name and mailing address in the contacts form here. Signed books, including personalized inscriptions of your choice, can be ordered by phoning the Country Bookshelf at (406) 587-0166.

Now available in softcover, THE GRAY GHOST MURDERS is a novel OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB “CAN’T PUT DOWN”

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From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:



When writer Keith McCafferty arrives for his interview, he has a fly intentionally hooked in his cap.

It’s one of his own inventions, he said, one of thousands he has tied over the years.

McCafferty has found a small niche amongst the sea of novels released each year, combining his considerable skill as a writer with his first love — fly fishing.

The titles of his books are based on flies — “The Royal Wulff Murders, “The Gray Ghost Murders” and the latest, set for release Jan. 6, “Dead Man’s Fancy.” Each sports an artist rendering of one of McCafferty’s flies, this time on the inside flap of the book jacket.

McCafferty has been tying flies since he was 5 years old. He recalls setting up shop in the Burton’s Landing Campground on Michigan’s Au Sable River, quickly earning the favor of the fishermen.

Shortly after came a love for mystery novels, prompted by the varied adventures of one Sherlock Holmes.

“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” Holmes asks in “The Sign of the Four.”

McCafferty uses this, one of Holmes’ most famous sayings, in “Dead Man’s Fancy.” It’s an exchange between his mystery series’ main characters, the renaissance man of sorts, guide and artist Sean Stranahan, and Sheriff Martha Ettinger.

“They are characters I would like to hang around myself,” he said.

While he appreciates novels with iconic Western lawmen, McCafferty said they do not exist in the West as he knows it. He and wife, Chronicle reporter Gail Schontzler, have lived in Bozeman for over 30 years. As the world around him changes from one based on mining and agriculture to one driven by outdoor recreation, or “fish lines” as he likes to say, McCafferty seeks to capture its reality.

Read more here.

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Fourteen months after moving to Montana, fly fisherman, painter and sometime private detective Sean Stranahan is still sleeping in his office-cum-art studio, cobbling together a livelihood as a fishing guide while hawking his riverscape watercolors. No longer a newcomer, he now knows the rivers and has a new love interest in Martinique, a cat lover who earns tuition money for veterinary school by selling coffee as a bikini barista.

But a life of romance and the perfectly painted horizon are not to be. A search dog has discovered the graves of two men on Sphinx Mountain. Sheriff Martha Ettinger suspects murder, but with a bear having scavenged the bodies and the only evidence a hole in a skull that might or might not have been caused by a bullet, she once more turns to Stranahan for help. He already has a case, having been hired by a group of eccentric fly fishermen called The Madison River Liars and Fly Tiers Club to find a valuable fly  hat they suspect stolen.

Could the disappearance of a vintage Gray Ghost from a riverside cabin in the Madison Valley be connected to the gray ghosts who haunt Sphinx Mountain? Stranahan will cross paths, and arms, with some of the most powerful people in the valley to find out while enlisting the help of his friend and fellow guide, the irascible Rainbow Sam.

How to Tie a Grey Ghost Fly

Learn how to tie the Grey Ghost, the fly for which my second novel The Grey Ghost Murders is named. A historical and beautiful pattern… Click on the images below that link to videos.

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*The Royal Wulff Murders is a finalist for 2013 High Plains Book Award in the Fiction category.*
The other finalists are Canada, by Richard Ford, and The Round House, by Louise Erdrich. This puts The Royal Wulff Murders in excellent company. Mr. Ford is the Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner Award winner for Independence Day. Ms. Erdrich is the National Book Award winner for The Round House and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for The Plagues of Doves.

A clever and fast-paced murder mystery full of wit, suspense, and fly fishing.

When a fishing guide reels in the body of a young man on the Madison, the Holy Grail of Montana trout rivers, Sheriff Martha Ettinger suspects foul play. It’s not just the stick jammed into the man’s eye that draws her attention; it’s the Royal Wulff trout fly stuck in his bloated lower lip. Following her instincts, Ettinger soon finds herself crossing paths with Montana newcomer Sean Stranahan.

Fly fisher, painter, and has-been private detective, Stranahan left a failed marriage and lackluster career to drive to Montana, where he lives in an art studio decorated with fly-tying feathers and mouse droppings. With more luck catching fish than clients, Stranahan is completely captivated when Southern siren Velvet Lafayette walks into his life, intent on hiring his services to find her missing brother. The clues lead Stranahan and Ettinger back to Montana’s Big Business: fly fishing. Where there’s money, there’s bound to be crime.



The fishing guide known as Rainbow Sam found the body. Or rather, it was the client casting from the bow of Sam’s driftboat, working a fly called a Girdle Bug in front of a logjam that parted the current of the Madison River. When the float indicator pulled under the surface, Sam winced, figuring a snag. The client, whose largest trout to date had been the size of a breakfast sausage, reared back as if to stick a tarpon.

The body submerged under the driftwood shook free of its tether, bobbed to the surface and floated, face down, the hook buried in the crotch of the waders.

The client’s reel screamed. The bloated corpse took line, steadily, implacably, in the manner of a large carp. Leaning hard on the oars, Sam closed the gap between his boat and the body. Calmly, in a voice that had coaxed a thousand neophyte anglers, he instructed his client to drop the long-handled net over the dead man’s head. The catch so enmeshed, he angled his Clackacraft downstream at the pace of the current, fanning the oars gently toward a bay at the bank.

“We got him!” the client beamed.

Sam thought, “Holy shit.” But he made a mental note to convert all his monofilament leader material to Orvis Superstrong in the future, just the same. The eight pound tippet had held like a stout steel cable.

“I’ll tell you what, Buddy,” Sam muttered, as he stepped out of the driftboat and gingerly lifted the meshes of the net over a hank of flowing hair. “You may not be God’s gift to trout fishin’, but you just got yourself a whopper of a story.”

Sam worked the hook from the waders, then rolled the body face-up. For the next few moments neither man spoke. The client, his florid face suddenly ashen, leaned over the gunwale and threw up, starting with the tin of kippered herring he’d had for a snack after Sam’s bankside lunch. He was a big eater and it took a half dozen heaves to get it all up.

Rainbow Sam just stared. It wasn’t only the ruptured left eye socket, from which a splinter of stick protruded like a skeletal finger, that riveted his attention. It was the lower lip, grotesquely swollen and purple as a plum. He bent down for a closer look. In the center of the lip was a trout fly. It was a Royal Wulff, a hair wing dry fly pattern about the size of an evening moth. Tied on a #12 hook, Sam decided. The barb was buried in the flesh; from the hook’s down-turned eye dangled a strand of monofilament leader material.

“Ah shit,” Sam said, having recovered from the shock of the mutilation. “I think I know this kid. Goddammit anyhow.”

For the angler was a very young man, little more than a teenager, Sam thought. He had floated past where the angler was wade fishing only a few weeks before, on a stretch of river not far upstream. He remembered the occasion because the fisherman wasn’t cut from the same khaki and Gortex cloth that stamped most Madison River pilgrims. Sam disapproved of anglers who dressed like pages out of catalogues. They projected a GQ quality that might serve one in good social stead at an upscale fishing lodge, but emphasized particulars to which trout paid no attention.

By contrast, this man’s waders were stained and patched and he fished without a vest, let alone one sporting the obligatory ten pockets. “How are you doing, Mr. Sam?” the young man had called out that morning as Sam glided by. And Sam, momentarily taken aback before realizing that the angler had read his name from the logo stenciled on the bow, had tipped his cap in reply. It was a grace note in the day, considering that wade fishermen and boat anglers competed for the same water. Tensions could become strained on a popular river like the Madison.

“Now why the fuck did this have to happen to a nice kid like that?” the fishing guide muttered to himself.

He waded ashore, sucking the back of a tooth.

“Stay here,” he said. “I’m going to call the sheriff. Don’t touch anything while I’m gone.” Sam’s client, having clambered out of the boat, was sunk to his knees in the shallows, a string of drool hanging from his stubbled chin. A few feet away, a school of tiny fish flashed under the yellow wash of vomit. The man nodded dumbly.

Rainbow Sam climbed the steep riverbank. For just a second he took in his surroundings, the river reflecting lavender evening clouds and the deeper purples of the mountains, its current running between banks of wild roses. It was part of what attracted anglers from around the world to the Madison—the setting and the water quality, a champagne of intoxicating clarity that poured in one effervescent riffle from Quake Lake to the small fishing town of Ennis. And then, too, there were the trout, with their ruby stripes and polished flanks, as hard as metal and as perfect as God ever made.

Well, Sam thought, this poor bastard has caught his last one.

He noted the nearest residences, a log mansion sporting panoramic riverfront windows and, just upstream, a chinked-up homestead cabin with a rusted half-ton in the drive. He spat, automatically registering the twenty-first century Montana paradox—Big Sky native cheek to jowl with summer gentry—whose house being the eyesore depending upon your point of view. Well, one ought to have a phone, anyway. He cinched the belt around his waders and began to walk.

—from The Royal Wulff Murders

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