Cath Staincliffe

Cath Staincliffe

Cath was brought up in Bradford and hoped to become an entomologist (insects) then a trapeze artist before settling on acting at the age of eight. She graduated from Birmingham University with a Drama and Theatre Arts degree and moved to work as a community artist in Manchester where she now lives with her family.

Looking for Trouble, published in 1994, launched private eye Sal, a single parent struggling to juggle work and home, onto Manchester’s mean streets. It was short listed for the Crime Writers Association’s John Creasey best first novel award, serialised on BBC Radio 4, Woman’s Hour and awarded Le Masque de l’Année in France. Cath has published a further seven Sal Kilkenny mysteries. In 2006 Cath was short-listed for the CWA Dagger in the Library.

Cath is also a scriptwriter, creator of ITV’s hit police drama, Blue Murder, which ran for five series from 2003 – 2009 starring Caroline Quentin as DCI Janine Lewis. Blue Murder has been sold around the globe in places as diverse as Fiji, Iceland and Yemen. Cath writes the Blue Murder novels. She was commissioned to write the Scott & Bailey books based on the popular ITV1 crime drama.

Cath writes for radio and created the Legacy drama series which features a chalk-and-cheese, brother and sister duo of heir hunters whose searches take them into the past lives of families torn apart by events.

Trio, a stand-alone novel, moved away from crime to explore adoption and growing up in the 1960s. Cath’s own story, of tracing and being re-united with her Irish birth family and her seven brothers and sisters, featured in the television documentary Finding Cath from RTE.

Cath is writing a series of stand-alone novels about ethical dilemmas, where ordinary families find themselves caught up in extraordinary events. Letter To My Daughter’s Killer was selected for the Specsavers Crime Thriller Bookclub on ITV3 in 2014.

In 2012 Cath and fellow Squad member, Margaret Murphy were joint winners of the CWA Short Story Dagger, for their stories, respectively Laptop and The Message, in the Murder Squad anthology Best Eaten Cold.

Cath is a founder member of Murder Squad and an avid reader who likes hill-walking, messing about in the garden and dancing (with far more enthusiasm than grace.)


The Silence Between Breaths

The Silence Between Breaths

Eight strangers. One deadly secret.

Passengers boarding the 10.35 train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston are bound for work, assignations, reunions, holidays or new starts, with no idea that their journey is about to be brutally curtailed.

Holly has just landed her dream job, which should make life a lot easier than it has been, and Jeff is heading for his first ever work interview after months of unemployment. They end up sitting next to each other. Onboard customer service assistant Naz dreams of better things as he collects rubbish from the passengers. And among the others travelling are Nick with his young family who are driving him crazy; pensioner Meg and her partner setting off on a walking holiday and facing an uncertain future; Caroline, run ragged by the competing demands of her stroppy teenage children and her demented mother; and Rhona, unhappy at work and desperate to get home to her small daughter. And in the middle of the carriage sits Saheel, carrying a deadly rucksack…

Half the World Away

Half The World Away

Every parent’s darkest gap year nightmare

A thriller about estranged couple Jo and Tom Maddox reunited in a desperate search for their daughter Lori missing in China. Landing in a totally unfamiliar country and receiving scant help from the local authorities, Jo and Tom are forced to turn detective, following in their daughter's footsteps. The hunt for Lori is an unbearably difficult challenge exacerbated by cultural differences and the language barrier. And as the days pass, the fear that Lori is lost for good grows ever larger.
Letters To My Daughter's Killer

Letters To My Daughter's Killer

Grandmother Ruth Sutton writes to the man she hates more than anyone else in the world: the man who brutally murdered her daughter Lizzie four years earlier. Ruth's burden of grief and hatred has only grown heavier with the passing of time and her avid desire for vengeance ever stronger. In writing to him in prison, Ruth hopes to exorcise the corrosive emotions that are destroying her life, to find the truth and with it release and a way forward. But whether she can truly forgive him is another matter - and the letters are her last, best hope.

Exposing the aftermath of violent crime for an ordinary family, this hard-hitting novel explores fundamental questions of crime, punishment and the very human desire for revenge.

Blink of an Eye

Blink of an Eye

In a heartbeat, life changes.
A sunny, Sunday afternoon, a family barbecue. Driving home, Naomi Baxter’s recklessness causes a fatal accident, leaving nine-year-old Lily Vasey dead, Naomi fighting for her life, her boyfriend bruised and bloody and the lives of three families torn apart. Naomi’s mother Carmel is forced to break the shocking truth of the child’s death to her. If convicted of causing death by dangerous driving Naomi will face a jail term of up to 14 years. In the months before the trial, Carmel strives to help a haunted and remorseful Naomi cope with the consequences of her actions.

Blink of an Eye is a novel about the nightmare that could be just around the next bend for any one of us.

Bleed Like Me

Bleed Like Me

Real women. Gritty lives. Gruesome murders.
The second book – and prequel to the second ITV series – featuring the straight-talking Manchester detective duo Rachel Bailey and Janet Scott, and their dynamic boss Gill Murray.

The Journey’s Inn, Lark’s Estate, Manchester. Three bodies have been found, stabbed to death in their beds. The husband and father of two of the victims has fled. The police are in a race against time to find him – especially when they discover his two young sons are also missing…

Manchester Metropolitan police station. Having survived a near-fatal attack, DC Janet Scott is quietly falling apart. And her best friend and colleague DC Rachel Bailey is reeling from a love affair gone bad. DCI Gill Murray is trying to keep the team on track, but her own family problems are threatening tip her over the edge.

Finding the desperate man is their top priority. But none of them knows where he is going or what he intends to do next. Or what will they have to do to stop him…

Looking for Trouble

Looking for Trouble

She's a single parent. A private eye. And liking it. Until, that is, Mrs Hobbs turns up asking Sal Kilkenny to find her missing son. Sal's search takes her through the Manchester underworld, a wasteland of deprivation and petty theft, of well-heeled organised crime and, ultimately, murder.

"Struggling single mother Sal Kilkenny is compassionate, gutsy, bright enough to know when it's clever to be scared and tenacious as a Rottweiler. Cath Staincliffe's tour of the mean streets and leafy suburbs of Manchester reveals the city as the natural successor to Marlowe's Los Angeles. With a cast of characters drawn from the gutter to the high ranks of business and officialdom, she probes the city's underbelly in an exciting tale of corruption, exploitation and brutality."

Val McDermid

"Remarkable for its keen sense of actuality... and warmed by its affection for family and friends. Compassionate, exciting, and down-to-earth. Infused also with that rare and precious ingredient: true feeling."

Literary Review

"Sal Kilkenny manages a fine juggling act with a horribly messy case and a hectic home life."

Liza Cody

Looking for Trouble, the first Sal Kilkenny mystery, has now been reissued as an eBook.

Split Second

Split Second

A split second is all it takes to make a decision – but what if it is the wrong one?

A winter’s evening and a trio of unruly youths board a bus and gang up on teenager Luke Murray, hurling abuse and threatening to kill him. The bus is full but no one intervenes until Jason Barnes, a young student, challenges the youths with devastating consequences. Split Second tackles questions of bravery, fear and kindness and explores the real human impact of violent crime.

Dead To Me

Dead To Me

DC Rachel Bailey has dragged herself up from a deprived childhood and joined the Manchester Police. Rachel’s boss thinks her new recruit has bags of raw talent but straight-laced DC Janet Scott, her reluctant partner, has doubts. When a teenage girl is found, brutally murdered in her squalid flat, Scott and Bailey must find a way to work together and hunt down the killer.

The prequel to the hit ITV1 series starring Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp.

More about Cath Staincliffe

FAQs: Time and again at readings or book launches the same questions come up. Here are ten of them and my answers.

A Day in the Life: Cath describes a typical day.

Heart of the City Violation

Cath’s eBook short stories Violation and In The Heart Of The City are ready for download. Violation examines the impact of media intrusion on a grieving family while In The Heart Of The City is her fictional response to the riots.

Crying Out Loud

Crying Out Loud

Work gets up close and personal when Sal Kilkenny finds an abandoned baby on her doorstep. Meanwhile Sal’s latest client wants to know why the man convicted of killing her lover is now retracting his confession. And there are further bombshells to come, with fall-out that threatens everything that Sal holds dear.

Published by Severn House, October 2011. ISBN 978-0-72788-020-8
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Witness (paperback)


Four bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time. Witnesses to the shocking shooting of a teenage boy. A moment that changes their lives forever.

Fiona, a midwife, is plagued by panic attacks and unable to work. Has she the strength to testify? Mike, a delivery driver and family man, faces an impossible decision when his frightened wife forces him to choose – us or the court case. Cheryl, a single-mother, doesn’t want her child to grow up in the same climate of fear. Dare she speak out and risk her own life? Zak, a homeless man, offers to talk in exchange for witness protection and the chance of a new start.

Ordinary people in an extraordinary situation. Will the witnesses stand firm or be prevented from giving evidence? How will they cope with the emotional trauma of reliving the murder under pitiless cross-examination? A compassionate, suspenseful and illuminating story exploring the real human cost of bearing witness.

Published by Robinson, April 2011 ISBN 978-1-84901-344-4 (paperback)
Buy from Amazon in these formats: paperback Kindle audiobook

The Kindest Thing

The Kindest Thing

When Deborah reluctantly helps her beloved husband Neil end his life she finds herself in the dock for murder. As the trial unfolds and her daughter Sophie testifies against her, Deborah, still reeling with grief, fights to defend her actions. Deborah seeks solace in her memories of Neil and their children and the love they shared.

A love story, a modern nightmare and an honest and incisive portrayal of an ordinary woman caught up in an extraordinary situation, The Kindest Thing tackles a controversial topic with skill and sensitivity. A book that begs the question: what would you do?

Published by Constable, April 2010. ISBN 978-1-84901-273-7
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Intelligent and heartfelt.’ She
A compelling novel.’ Star
Excellent.’ Big Issue
Compelling to read.’ Catholic Herald
An involving novel.’ Natasha Cooper, TLS



‘People disappear every day. Most of them choose to. Have you ever been tempted?’ Sal Kilkenny has just found one person when another two go missing: mother Janet Florin failed to pick her children up from school and hasn’t been seen since; and asylum seeker Berfan has disappeared in Manchester. Meanwhile as summer kicks into gear, the temperature is notched up on the domestic front when Sal’s housemate Ray wants to share much more than the chores.

Missing (Allison & Busby, hardback publication: June 2007) ISBN 978-0-7490-8025-9
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Hit and Run

Hit and Run

A corpse in the river, a child mown down, a fugitive slaughtered - three untimely deaths means three murder investigations - unless, of course, they are all part of the same case...Life is tough as a cop at the top - and tougher still with a new baby at home - but DCI Janine Lewis is used to balancing her home life with the challenges of bringing killers to justice. Starting back at work after maternity leave, Janine finds herself in the thick of two major investigations. The badly battered body of a young woman is recovered from the River Mersey and a schoolgirl is killed in a hit and run. As Janine and her team fight to unravel the story behind each death, she struggles with equally demanding dramas at home.

Hit and Run (Allison & Busby, published: November 2006) ISBN 978-0-7490-8176-8
Buy from Amazon: paperback or hardback or large print or audio CD or audio cassette.

Read an extract from Hit and Run.

Blue Murder

Blue Murder: Cry Me a River

Janine Lewis is a pregnant, single mother whose life has become rather hectic. As well as juggling three lively children single-handed, she has ruffled a few feathers by becoming Greater Manchester's first female Detective Chief Inspector. At last, Janine has been given her first murder enquiry to head. The body of a local deputy head teacher is found with a slashed stomach and left to die. With a suspect on the run, an elderly dying man and a seven-year-old child as the only available witnesses, Janine knows this won't be an easy case to crack.

Blue Murder: Cry Me a River (Allison & Busby, published: July 2004) ISBN 978-0-7490-8335-9
Buy from Amazon: paperback or hardback or large print.

Read an extract from Blue Murder.

Bitter Blue

Bitter Blue

On her first day back after the Easter break Manchester based Private Investigator, Sal Kilkenny takes on two new cases. The first is to discover who is sending offensive poison pen letters to hotel receptionist Lucy Barker. The second is surveillance work for a couple who want reassuring that there are no nuisance neighbours or criminal activity in the area they're planning to buy a new home.

As Sal prepares to stake out the streets a bitter cold snap plunges the country into arctic conditions. Her stress levels are not helped by the escalation of the campaign against Lucy Barker and her inability to nail the perpetrator who maddeningly avoids capture. Plus there's trouble at home as Sal's daughter Maddie seems unable to settle at school. When Sal's normally mundane surveillance duties bring her face to face with a grim discovery and violent crime she's sure that it just can't get any worse before it gets better. Unluckily for Sal there is more than one surprise in store for her and a nightmarish sequence of events may well turn out to be a matter of life and death...

Bitter Blue (Allison & Busby, published: May 2003) ISBN 978-0-7490-8171-3
Buy from Amazon: paperback or hardback or large print or audio cassette.

Read an extract from Bitter Blue.

Earlier crime novels
Towers Of Silence
Stone Cold Red Hot
Dead Wrong
Go Not Gently



A compelling and perceptive story of adoption, motherhood, love, loss and the search for identity. 1960, Manchester. The Pope has banned Catholics from watching unsafe TV, Kennedy is to run for the US presidency, the government is considering a bill to curb the activities of Teddy Boys and Cliff Richard is the latest heart-throb. Three young Catholic women find themselves pregnant and unmarried. Three hopeful mothers-to-be, approved by the Adoption Society wait for news that will tell them a child is available. Three little girls are born, relinquished and placed with their adoptive families. Trio follows the lives of these mothers and daughters over the ensuing years.

Trio (Fresh Press, p/b) ISBN 978-0-9548301-0-6
Buy from Amazon: paperback or hardback.

Read more about Trio, including an extract.

‘Staincliffe turns part Marge Piercy, part Rosamunde Pilcher ... a captivating story filled with tears, tragedy, humour, and happiness’


‘Poignant and true to life. I couldn't put it down; I really wanted to know what happened to the characters’

Maureen Crank, MBE, Chief Executive and founder member of After Adoption

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Murder squad logo John Baker Chaz Brenchley Ann Cleeves Martin Edwards Kate Ellis Margaret Murphy Stuart Pawson Chris Simms Cath Staincliffe

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Martin Edwards

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Cath Staincliffe

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Chaz Brenchley

Stuart Pawson

John Baker