Hazel Holt originated from Birmingham, England, where she attended King Edward VI High School for Girls. She studied at Newnham College, Cambridge, and went on to work at the International African Institute in London, where she became acquainted with the novelist Barbara Pym, whose biography she later wrote. She also finished one of Pym's novels after Pym died. Holt has also recently published My Dear Charlotte, a story that uses the actual language of Jane Austen's letters to her sister Cassandra to construct a thrilling Regency murder mystery.
Holt wrote her first novel in her sixties, and is a leading crime novelist. She is best known for her "Sheila Malory" series. Her son is the novelist Tom Holt.