Author details

Helen Forbes


I’m an author and a lawyer, living in Inverness. My second crime novel Madness Lies was published in October 2017.  It is second in a series featuring Detective Sergeant Joe Galbraith.  The series began with my debut novel In the Shadow of the Hill, which was published in 2014.  I have also written historical and contemporary fiction. I have been writing for over 20 years and I enjoy writing novels and short stories. I particularly enjoy crime fiction, hence the reason that I turned to crime myself, but I also enjoy other genres, and especially writing set in Scotland. I am very interested in the Gaelic language – despite having Gaelic speaking parents, I am not fluent in the language, so it is unlikely that I will ever write fiction in Gaelic; however, words and phrases appear regularly in my work.  

About writer's work

My crime novels are police procedurals set mainly in Inverness and the Outer Hebrides. I felt both areas had been neglected in crime fiction and they provide a great backdrop for the sinister events in the novels.  

I have recently completed a standalone psychological thriller Deception, which is set in Edinburgh.  It was there that I started writing.  I lived there for eight years and it still has a special place in my heart – I enjoyed frequent trips for research purposes.

My other works include a contemporary novel set in North Uist – Breathing of the Vanished – and a novel set in 18th century St Kilda – Lament for the Children. I am particularly interested in fiction set in the Highlands and Islands. There is a significant amount of literature about St Kilda, but little of it is fictional.  When reading the accounts of early visitors to the islands, I was struck by the negative way in which visitors portrayed the native people. I wanted to give the islanders a voice by portraying a more balanced, fairer view of their lives. I visited St Kilda when I was researching the novel. I also used primary source material for research purposes. The 18th century in St Kilda was a time of great change and actual events provide fantastic material to use with fictional characters. 

I have been working on a sequel to Lament for the Children which features the real-life character of Lady Grange, the wife of a judge, who was abducted from Edinburgh in 1727 by associates of her husband, and taken eventually to St Kilda, where she was kept for 7 years. Her time on St Kilda must have had a significant effect on the islanders and I am enjoying developing the story. 

Websites featuring the author

Helen Forbes: facebookAuthor's website

Current events and projects

I’m available to do events, readings and residencies. I am interested in crime fiction as a genre. I am also interested in research for all types of fiction, with a particular interest in research for historical works. I would be delighted to read from my published novel or my works in progress, and engage in dialogue with audiences on all aspects of my work.

I am interested in discussing how the reader perceives my work – it is fascinating to hear readers speak of underlying themes that the author hasn’t intended.

I am also interested in critiquing the work of other writers, whether in a workshop setting or in adjudicating a competition.

I would also welcome the opportunity to discuss the difficult process of balancing a career with writing. I recently gave an after-dinner speech to the Moray Business Women, focussing on the process of writing In the Shadow of the Hill while working as a full-time court lawyer.

My work is aimed at adult/teen readers so I am keen to work with those groups.

In April 2016, I was excited to be asked to video-link to Professor Tom Coyne’s creative writing class at St Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, to discuss In the Shadow of the Hill

Other work

My short stories have been placed in national and international competitions. Dead Scorched Birds was commended in a short story competition back in 2007. It concerns two neighbouring boys with very different lives. Someone mentioned that it would be fascinating to find out what happened to the boys as they grew up. I took that idea forward and the story became the prologue to In the Shadow of the Hill. The story was also published in Northwords Now and Global Shorts Anthology in 2010. 

I am also interested in international themes. My short story Death has no smell was about Captain Oates, who died in Scott’s Antarctic expedition in 1912. The story was placed third in the 2007 Writers Bureau Annual Short Story Competition and published in Freelance Market News.

More recently, my short story The Curse of Naples, which concerns the tragic life of a Roma child in Italy, was placed first in the Scottish Association of Writers’ 2015 general short story competition, and highly commended in the Remembering Oluwale competition in 2016.  It was published in the Remembering Oluwale anthology.

Contact details

Phone: 07931257039


Local authority where they are based


Local authorities where they can work

Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles), Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow, Highland, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Moray, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Orkney, Other1, Outer Hebrides, Perth and Kinross, Renfrewshire, Scottish Borders, Shetland, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian

Age groups

Teens, Adults

LL funded


BRAW network


Author type




Books written

Madness Lies cover

Madness Lies

Author(s): Helen Forbes
When an Inverness Councillor is murdered in broad daylight in the middle of town, Detective Sergeant Joe Galbraith sees a familiar figure running from the scene.

In the Shadow of the Hill

Author(s): Helen Forbes
An elderly woman is found murdered in Inverness. A picture of a hill on the Isle of Harris is left at the scene and brings up unwanted memories for DS Joe Galbraith, who lived there as a child.