What Doesn’t Kill Us

Catherine Taylor, Times Literary Supplement

‘This book is a must read. Ajay has a uniquely raw and authentic voice. She conjures up atmosphere like no other.‘

Maxine Peake

‘Panoramic … the parallels with failures in today’s criminal justice system are unmissable in this uncompromising novel.‘

Times best new crime fiction
Susan Mansfield, Scotland on Sunday
Val McDermid
David Robinson, Books from Scotland 
Caro Ramsay

‘there are few writers whose work I look forward to reading more … it is the depiction of the social mores of the time that makes this essential reading … Close transports us to the time and place beautifully, evoking all the sights, sounds, smells and attitudes … an even handed and in-depth examination of the growth of the Women’s Liberation Movement and the reasons it was necessary.’

Alistair Braidwood, Snack Magazine  

‘I loved it. This is an immensely humane time-machine of a novel, a book of huge themes and minutely observed characters … I haven’t read a novel that so powerfully creates what that time, its lingo and its values really felt like. I was transported right back into the Northern Britain of forty-five years ago with all its back-chat and its mess of class and sexual politics. I could smell those pubs, and got dizzy with the circular logic of much of the politics. What rich characters and what tragi-comic human messes they struggle with. There’s a warm intelligence, compassion and wit at work in this brave novel.‘

Ewan Morrison
Buzz magazine 
Brian Groom
Edinburgh Reporter

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

Olga Wojtas
On: Yorkshire magazine 
Neil Mackay, The Herald 

‘Set in Yorkshire at the time of the Ripper … What Doesn’t Kill Us … captures, amidst its perceptive social history, the idioms of the age and the creepiness of misogyny from casual abuse to violence, strippers’ audiences to sexual behaviour. The tensions of female identities and lives strained, even broken, by economic hardship, male violence, and changing norms are to the fore in a tale of female assertiveness.‘

The Critic

What We Did in the Dark

‘Ajay Close is a terrific writer … While fully sharing Catherine’s ordeal, we never lose sight of the tragic arc of Herbert’s own story. No heroines or villains here, just the very human and believable collusions, delusions and weaknesses of sensitively realised characters, the messiness of reality. Close displays real skill and insight in making something both moving and compelling out of such challenging material. Highly recommended.’ 

Carol Birch

‘Set in the early 1900s, this is a profound and moving exploration of a disastrous marriage from which the woman rescues herself – physically, emotionally and legally – in an age when the odds against her doing so were immense. Ajay Close recreates the relationship between the young Scottish writer Catherine Carswell and her first husband, Herbert Jackson, with sympathy for both, but Catherine’s heroic determination to make her own future is what drives the narrative forward. The writing is visually rich and packed with detail, and the story is beautifully told. I couldn’t stop reading it.‘

James Robertson

‘Brilliant and compelling … a story about the life of a woman in the early 20th century which speaks across time to all women everywhere.’

Sue Wilkinson

‘A passionate, brutal tale – full of tender moments and barbaric acts.’

Sue Peebles

What We Did in the Dark is an exploration of the limits of a woman’s love with all the ingredients of a spine-chilling gothic thriller, a maelstrom of tension, drama, forbidden passions and her idealistic refusal to give up on her marriage vows … With appearances from real-life academics, painters and writers of the period, Close’s addictive, cleverly crafted novel illuminates an almost forgotten writer and the circles she moved through.’

Alastair Mabbott, The Herald 

‘What We Did in the Dark is an engrossing novel, one which is both insightful and moving. A mix of the romantic and the rational, it is where heart meets head with the understanding that in life we are slaves to both. Ajay Close has never been better than here, with writing which at times takes your breath away. Every description, emotion, explanation and idea are expressed with thought, care and artistry … Fictionalised accounts of real people are tricky to get right, but Ajay Close shows what can be done, taking this little known story from history to comment on universal themes, and even fiction itself. Are you ready to be heartbroken?’   

Alistair Braidwood, Scots Whay Hae

‘From the beginning of the novel Close has a wonderful ability to draw the reader into Carswell’s life and her relationships. Close is a master at creating this sort of novel … What We Did in the Dark is a wonderfully compelling book, bringing to life a fascinating historical character.’

Scotland on Sunday

‘An enthralling read. Put everything else aside.’

Historical Novels Review

‘A triumph … a beautifully written and glorious opening out, full of its own insights.’

The Bottle Imp

‘A hugely impressive novel. [Ajay Close’s] prose has a lovely clarity, reminiscent of both Carswell and D.H. Lawrence at their best. Her plot is well-paced and at times breathtakingly exciting. Best of all are the characters … Cathie, the narrator, is a wonderful creation. She is never idealised – she can be extremely reckless, not least in marrying Herbert – but her passion for the arts, her kindness and her deepening self-knowledge make her very lovable.’

NB Magazine

‘Beautifully written, hard hitting, graphic, compelling … a poignant tale of lives lived in the wrong time, of characters formed by life experiences that have catastrophic effects on their future selves and the people who become involved with them.’

Undiscovered Scotland

‘A riveting read … stylish prose and a page-turning tale.’

The Perthshire Magazine

‘Beautifully crafted, a perceptive novel that has the pace and suspense of a thriller.’ 

Book Oxygen

The Daughter of Lady Macbeth

‘In this intensely emotional reel, Ajay Close creates drama and feeling from even the most fleeting gesture or word. Sensual, wise and raw, The Daughter of Lady Macbeth gets to the heart of what it means to be a mother, or wish you were.’

Rosemary Goring

‘Excruciatingly real … An extremely engaging and absorbing novel.’


‘Close portrays [her characters] brilliantly … The handling of her themes is exceptional … an appropriately visceral setting for a sensual novel which delves deep into the complex and dangerous relationship between mothers and daughters, in which tenderness and toxicity are laced together in an eternal braid.’

Alastair Mabbott, The Herald

‘[The characters’] pain springs off the page, as each woman confronts the demons from her youth. Close has written a gripping read about redemption, love and self-discovery.’

The Lady

‘Both heartbreaking and uplifting … Close is writing about the drama of people’s everyday lives, and does so with an insight which is rare and keenly felt. The writing is memorable and at times displays a sensuality in the descriptions which will bring you to tears’

Scots Whay Hae

 ‘A raw, desperate quality which strikes at the very heart of human frailty …. The Daughter of Lady Macbeth is beautifully written and hugely evocative.’ 

Undiscovered Scotland

‘Moving in places, uncomfortable in others, but always entertaining, it is a work of fiction rooted in unflattering truths and realistic portraits of modern relationships … Each of the novel’s central characters has several identities: Freya is a wife, daughter, friend and working woman; her husband a successful sports reporter, friend and son. Close keenly observes the emotional literacy demanded by these roles and astutely portrays the tension between who her characters want to be and who they are in a way that makes them utterly relatable.’

Scottish Review

A Petrol Scented Spring

‘A fascinating insight into one of the most compelling stories in the history of the women’s suffrage movement.’

The Times

 ‘I was riveted and gripped by it.

Murray Lachlan Young on A Good Read, BBC Radio 4

‘Ajay Close’s writing hums with an electric tension, her dialogue is superb, as is her insight into the complex mix of human imagination and emotion. This is a truly gripping novel, one which had me totally involved with the lives of the central characters.’

Scottish Review

‘Close writes with breathless wit, dizzying passion, a quick sympathy for her two heroines, and an unflinching eye.’ 

Kirkus Reviews


Daily Record

‘A hugely underrated writer who’s always been too bold to be popular but who nonetheless writes with an elegance that will sometimes make you laugh aloud from the sheer rightness of an image or line of dialogue.’

The Tablet, books of the year

‘Uncompromising in its honesty and compelling in its narration … Ajay Close has hit on a real-life story that may prove to be one of the gems of the year.’

The Herald

‘A captivating and nuanced read … Close writes witty and humorous dialogue that has the duck, dive and jab of a boxing match between characters.’

Scottish Review of Books

 ‘A thought-provoking and revealing read … Close’s sophisticated writing is never less than engrossing.’

The Scotsman

‘Cunningly constructed and well written.’

The Sunday Times

‘A beautifully written, accomplished novel that vibrates with authenticity. If you are looking for a novel that brings you into another world and leaves you thinking about it for days after you finish, this is it.’

The Bottle Imp, best Scottish books of 2015

‘An engrossing read filled with rich relationships and keen observations.’

Buzz Magazine


‘A serious book for grown-ups who want the world taken not with a pinch of salt but with something a little stronger … a boon to those who want to be made to think, both about men and women and the relations between them, and about the values we so often assume are shared ones.’

The Scotsman

‘Intelligent and uncompromising,’

The Herald

‘dynamic, detailed and unsqueamish … Highly recommended.’

Morning Star

‘fair blew me away … bedded in truth and a good deal of insight … sharp as a blade’

Weekly Worker

Official and Doubtful

‘Brave, vulnerable, intensely observant and articulate, packed with life’

John le Carré

‘Tucked into this one brief thriller is enough material for another six good novels at least, on the nature of friendship, betrayal, hope and grief. Ajay Close is brilliant. Her eye for the dreadful detail of contemporary life is acute, her pleasure in it is immense … Close makes you glad to be alive and living now.’

Fay Weldon, Mail on Sunday

‘Close is a talented writer – this psychological thriller pulses with life and is riven with sharp observation. As the screws turn, the author’s natural zest and intensity harden into a brittle tension to produce one of the most involving thrillers I’ve read.’

Daily Mail

‘She writes with a sense of emotional claustrophobia that powerfully summons up her characters’ inner lives with an intensity that is at times overwhelming. Reading Official and Doubtful there were times when I felt my head straining backwards, almost as if I were trying to put some distance between myself and these terrible feelings. Yet I didn’t want to put the book down … With this novel Ajay Close stakes her claim to a deserved place in the pantheon of Scotland’s exciting contemporary novelists.’

Val McDermid, Scotland on Sunday


‘Forspoken establishes Ajay Close’s droll, constructive, generous talent. She is a natural writer, with a rare gift of combining tartness and empathy, intellectual reach and an up-to-speed take on contemporary madness. Glasgow has a magnificent addition to its pantheon of fine writers.’

Candia McWilliam

‘A book that engages at every level with questions of imaginative and spiritual depletion and restoration … Forspoken is about the power of fictional imagination itself, the need to believe, even if only in the most improbable of fictions … Ajay Close creates a world that is real, perhaps even hyper-real, but which vibrates with the tense, provocative oddity Saul Bellow gives to his cityscapes. Tracy is a character who stands alongside the Augie Marches and Herzogs.’

Brian Morton, Scotland on Sunday

‘Though there are exceptions – Ajay Close’s Forspoken was one – the impression made by much recent Scottish fiction is how safe it is, how few risks the authors take, how narrow is their range and how limited their ambition’

Allan Massie, The Scotsman

‘Dense vigorous prose, alive with observation and shrewd intelligence … fate, coincidence, memory, romantic love, sibling rivalry, Scottish nationalism, city life – all are here.’

Literary Review

‘A nutter of a book.’

The Big Issue

The Keekin Gless

‘Ajay Close’s script – with its multiple representations of Willie, and of the pain that haunts him – strives boldly and interestingly to understand the inner dynamics of a life so strangely limited, and yet so full of richness and passion, to the end.’

Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman