Murder in Utopia (Fr: Éditions Traversées 2006/En: Cockatoo Books 2009) was inspired by the irony of such a name for the desolate, impoverished Central Desert location. The novel is a minimal-detection thriller centring on a reformed alcoholic surgeon from New York who is redeemed by his work at a medical centre in a neglected Aboriginal community in the red centre of Australia. Soon Jack Nugent becomes involved in solving a series of local crimes involving tribal law as he is made a stand-in coroner for the local police. Nugent is irresistibly drawn into the local web of mystery but finds his way out by hooking up with a local Aboriginal lawyer who becomes his lover and fiancée. McLaren is nuanced in his depiction of interracial contact and relationships, while the setting near Alice Springs allows him to address the conflict between tribal and western law, as well as the exploitation of Aboriginal artists.