What Doesn’t Kill Us

“This book is a must read… a uniquely raw and authentic voice.”  Maxine Peake

A killer stalks the streets of Leeds. Every man is a suspect. Every woman is at risk. But in a house on Cleopatra Street, women are fighting back.

It’s the eve of the 1980s. PC Liz Seeley joins the squad investigating the murders. With a violent boyfriend at home and male chauvinist pigs at work, she is drawn to a feminist collective led by the militant and uncompromising Rowena. There she meets Charmaine – young, Black, artistic, and fighting discrimination on two fronts.

As the list of victims grows and police fail to catch the killer, women across the north are too terrified to go out after dark. To the feminists, the Butcher is a symptom of wider misogyny. Their anger finds an outlet in violence and Liz is torn between loyalty to them and her duty as a police officer. Which way will she jump?

Ajay Close combines the tension of a police procedural with the power and passion of the women’s lib movement. By turns emotional, action-packed and darkly funny, What Doesn’t Kill Us reveals just how much the world has changed since the 1970s – and how much it hasn’t.

“Vivid and visceral.”

Val McDermid

“Beautifully written, stark and relevant.”

Caro Ramsay

“An immensely humane time machine of a novel, a book of huge themes and minutely observed characters … with a warm intelligence, compassion and wit.”

Ewan Morrison

“Taut, atmospheric and beautifully observed.”

Brian Groom

“Powerful and compelling. A page-turner that forces us to question how far we’ve progressed in the past fifty years.”

Olga Wojtas

Ajay Close is a novelist and dramatist. Her first novel, Official and Doubtful, was long-listed for the Orange Prize. It was followed by Forspoken; Trust; A Petrol Scented Spring (longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction); The Daughter of Lady Macbeth and What We Did in the Dark.

Her latest novel, What Doesn’t Kill Us – a fictional reworking of real events in the 1970s – is published by Saraband.

The Keekin Gless, a play about Scots poet William Soutar, premiered at Perth Theatre. The Sma Room Seance, a musical play based on Soutar’s life and work, toured Scotland and was revived at the Edinburgh Fringe. Cat and Mouse, about the Scottish suffragettes, premiered at Goodlyburn Theatre, Perth.

Ajay’s first career was in journalism, where she won many awards.