Sal Kilkenny

Created by Cath Staincliffe

Don’t be fooled by the domestic, “women’s issues” nature of her cases — this aint no cosy, this ain’t no foolin’ around. SAL KILKENNY is the real deal; one of the more appealing, post-boom female eyes, a British single mother and no-nonsense private eye working out of a rented basement in a neighbour’s house in Manchester; who’s a well-rounded and refreshingly earthy character. Sal’s our kinda gal–tough, sensitive, compassionate, clever, and just hard-boiled enough (or at least thinks she is) to take a licking, and keep on ticking. It’s probably just as well, because the mean streets of Manchester that she goes down can turn particularly mean (Sal’s on her way to meet a client at one point when she gets blown away by an IRA bombing).

Don’t you just hate when that happens?

Yet, Sal never loses her humanity. Yeah, she’s a dick, but she also has to juggle work with the joys of raising Maddie, a feisty four-year-old at the start of the series. She shares a house and childcare arrangements–but not a bed–with a single father, Ray, who has a young boy of his own, Tom. The books are a nice blend of the dramatic and the domestic, where bread and butter low-profile domestic cases rub shoulders with some pretty grim cases, made all the more horrifying for Sal’s basic decency.

There’s also a great sense of place and atmosphere used here, and the cosmopolitan make-up of Manchester provides a vivid, colourful backdrop to the series.

Author Cath Staincliffe was raised in Bradford, and graduated with a degree in Drama and Theatre Arts from Birmingham University. Her poetry and short stories have been published in anthologies and she has also written science fiction. She’s also involved in freelance community arts projects, and is a keen crime reader and aspiring gardener. A member of the Crime Writers Association and Sisters In Crime, she lives in Manchester with her partner and their three children.

Sal’s debut, Looking For Trouble, was nominated for the Crime Writers’ Association Best First Crime Novel Award, and was also serialized on British radio. The series has received much praise, particularly from her fellow Sisters-In-Crime. She’s also a member of a British crime writers group called Murder Squad, which also includes John Baker (Sam Turner), Stuart Pawson, Martin Edwards (Harry Devlin), Chaz Brenchley, Margaret Murphy and Ann Cleeves.


  • “Take my advice, Sal, there’s only so much punishment a body can take. Get serious about self defence, we couldn’t bear to see you being beaten up one more time!”
    — Margaret Murphy
  • “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.”
    — Philip Oakes (December 1998, Literary Review)
  • “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
  • “Sal Kilkenny manages a fine juggling act with a horribly messy case and a hectic home life.”
    — Liza Cody
  • “Ms. Staincliffe writes exceptionally well.”
    — Marcia Muller

  • Looking For Trouble (1994) | Buy this book
  • Go Not Gently (1997)Buy this book
  • Dead Wrong (1998) Buy this book
  • Stone Cold Read Hot (2001) Buy this book
  • Towers of Silence (2002) Buy this book
  • Bitter Blue (2003) Buy this book
  • Missing (2007) Buy this book
  • Crying Out Loud (2012) Buy this book Buy the audio  Kindle it!


    (BBC Radio 4)
    Serialised on the program “Woman’s Hour”


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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