Books by Karen Campbell

Paper Cup (Canongate, 2022)

What if going back means you could begin again?

Rocked by a terrible accident, homeless Kelly needs to escape the city streets of Glasgow. Maybe she doesn’t believe in serendipity, but a rare moment of kindness and a lost ring conspire to call her home. As Kelly vows to reunite the lost ring with its owner, she must return to the small town she fled so many years ago.

On her journey from Glasgow to the south-west tip of Scotland, Kelly encounters ancient pilgrim routes, hostile humans, hippies, book lovers and a friendly dog, as memories stir and the people she thought she’d left behind for ever move closer with every step.

Full of compassion and hope, Paper Cup is a novel about how easy it can be to fall through the cracks, and what it takes to turn around a life that has run off course.

The Sound of the Hours (Bloomsbury, 2019)

Divided by loyalties, brought together by war

September, 1943. Tuscany, Italy.

In the hilltop town of Barga, everyone holds their breath. Even the bells fall silent. Everything Vittoria Guidi knows and loves is at risk. German troops occupy the mountains around her home, as America’s Buffalo Soldiers prepare to invade. As Vittoria’s country is torn in two, so is her conscience. Should she side with her Scots-Italian father or her Fascist mother? Should she do what she is told – or what she believes in?

Frank Chapel, a young, black American soldier fighting with the Buffalo soldiers for a country that refuses him the vote, is unlike anyone Vittoria has ever met. In the chaos, they find each other – but can their growing love overcome prejudice and war?

Rise Paperback

Rise (final cover)Rise (Bloomsbury, 2015)

Justine is running for her life. Escaping a city and a man who between them have almost broken her she heads north to the mountains and the valleys of the Highlands. She is looking for somewhere to hide.

Michael and Hannah are also running. With their two sons and their tattered marriage they have come to the village of Kilmacarra. They are looking for somewhere they can once again call home.

In a place of standing stones – an ancient landscape in a country on the brink of change – a shocking accident causes their lives to intertwine. Tangled together in threads of guilt and love, with Scotland rushing towards a referendum and the community around them fracturing, each must question where they truly belong.

‘Not every novelist has Campbell’s powers of observation or forensic sense of empathy … one woman’s struggle towards [independence] set against a nationwide attempt to define it’ The Herald

Soars and sears in equal measure … Brilliant, unputdownable storytelling’ Mel Giedroyc

Engrossing, entertaining, and thoroughly readable’ James Robertson

A beautifully written novel about freedom and forgiveness … Heated, political and lyrical, this is an excellent, topical novel’ Viv Groskop, Red Magazine

‘Campbell is a vivid, distinctive writer who creates characters and stores we really care about […] Gratifyingly, Campbell avoids easy answers, showing us that the pieces of most unions, personal and political, rarely fit neatly together, that true feelings comes into them unexpectedly, beyond the parts of our lives we think we can control’ New York Times Book Review

‘Campbell’s protagonists are sympathetic, distinctive, and believable and she writes with a strong sense of irony that lends dark humor to the story’ Publishing Trends



This is Where I Am (Bloomsbury, 2013)

So we walked in the freezing night air, my daughter weeping into my neck, and me trying to shelter her inside my own thin coat. I could accept the sun had left us, but I struggled to understand where the moon was. At home, the moon and stars are so big, you can see by them, work by them through the night. Only thin glimmers here, cold specks in the muddy sky.
Glasgow. A city of colour and contrast. A place where two worlds collide – and are changed forever. When the Scottish Refugee Council assigns Deborah Maxwell to act as Somali refugee Abdi’s new mentor, the two are drawn into an awkward friendship. They must spend a year together, meeting once a month in a different part of Glasgow. As recently-widowed Deborah opens Abdi’s eyes to her beloved city and its people, he teaches her about the importance of family – and of laying your ghosts to rest. All Abdi has brought with him is his four-year-old daughter, Rebecca, who lives in a silence no one can reach.
Until, one day, little Rebecca starts talking. And they realise why she stopped.
‘Bold, gritty and fearless’ The Sunday Times

KarenCampbellProofofLifeRProof of Life (Hodder, 2011)

 Chief Inspector Anna Cameron is a woman with everything to lose. Her career is back on track, her home and future is filled with ‘small, bright proofs of life’- but the mistakes she made in the past are about to come back to haunt her. When a body is discovered in a Glasgow canal, secrets Anna wants desperately to forget also rise inexorably to the surface. As the police force she loves undergoes sweeping change, and Glasgow pulses with the threat of terrorist attack and growing civil discontent, Anna has much more than just her job to protect.

‘This is the type of rule-breaking that separates the good from the great. Proof of Life places Campbell firmly in the latter camp.  Ambitious, entirely authentic, and razor-sharp in its observations’

‘Campbell, an accomplished wordsmith, excels here. You can touch and smell her Glasgow November dreichness, but always her images are unexpected, her prose tight, and her narrative unflinching. As a former Strathclyde Police officer, she has no illusions about the pressures and compromises, the dogged determination and unlooked-for heroism, of the job. This is no police procedural – her officers are raw and real… The denouement is head-behind-cushion nightmarish, brilliantly done’ Scotsman

Karen Campbell-Shadow Play

Shadow Play (Hodder, 2010)
You are a police officer. This is what you do. You speak for the dead, and the desperate living.

Promotion to uniformed Chief Inspector in a new division should be a turning point for Anna Cameron. But, as her mother grows desperately ill and an old woman disappears from a Glasgow care home under suspicious circumstances, Anna is forced to confront the realities of her own aging, and the choices she’s made in life. Dedicated to a profession that seems to offer her less and less, the spectre of her new, bullying female boss makes her question the politics of policing afresh. The gang-related murder of a young Asian boy, and an assault on one of her officers only serve to turn the screws tighter – can Anna be both a good cop and a good person?

‘A fine, accomplished novel . . . The characterisation is impeccable… a true literary talent’ Scotsman

‘As to be expected from a former police officer, Campbell portrays her milieu with harsh authenticity, and Anna Cameron is wholly believable in her unheroic role. Glasgow and its citizens are described with vivid passion’ The Times

KarenCampbell - AftertheFire

After The Fire (Hodder, 2009)
Someone is dead because of Jamie. Yesterday they were alive. When we woke up yesterday and argued about how many pairs of shoes I could take, that person was alive, making coffee maybe. Scratching her arm or yawning in the mirror…

Newly qualified as a firearms officer, Jamie Worth is called to a domestic disturbance. Events get out of hand, and he shoots and kills an unarmed girl. Already wracked with guilt, he is horrified when, with the media baying for blood, he is accused of murder. How can a cop survive in prison, when he suddenly finds himself on the wrong side of the law?

‘Bigger than the sum of its parts, and transcending its thriller label, this is a canvas of human nature . . . of love and loss and heartbreak and how ordinary people recover after the fire’ Scotland on Sunday

‘The plot is wonderful, the characterisation of a family in crisis sharp and sympathetic, and the author does not shy away from examining the less palatable aspects of relations between the police and the public’ Guardian



The Twilight Time (Hodder, 2008)
Two women, each wanting the other’s life: Anna Cameron, a new sergeant in Glasgow’s Flexi Unit discovers on her first day that she’ll be working with her ex lover, Jamie. In at the deep end emotionally, she’s also plunged headlong into the violent underworld of Glasgow’s notorious Drag – the haunt of working girls, drug dealers and sad, seedy men. Cath Worth, Jamie’s wife, watches jealously from the sidelines, having given up police work to raise their child. Anna’s life could have been hers; hers could have been Anna’s. When Cath attempts to get involved in a situation she is no longer equipped or entitled to tackle, the consequences for both women is dire.

‘Powered by stiletto-sharp prose…this vividly illustrates the physical and emotional damage caused to police officers by the vile reality of their work’ The Glasgow Herald

About Karen Campbell