She began writing in 1996 after a short story of hers was runner-up in a national competition sponsored by Good Housekeeping magazine. A visit to the Roman Baths with crime writer P.D. James germinated the plot of her first novel, Funeral Music (1998), the first in the Sara Selkirk series. lieutenant was nominated for a Dilys Award for the year"s best mystery published in the United States of America. Her later novels have moved increasingly towards literary fiction.
In 2008 she was a Heinrich Böll writer in residence on Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland.
Half Broken Things was adapted as a television film in 2007, starring Penelope Wilton.