Martin Edwards was born in Knutsford and educated in Cheshire (at Sir John Deane's Grammar School, where one of his teachers was Robert Westall, who later became a successful children's author) and at Balliol College, Oxford University, where he took a first class honours degree in Jurisprudence in 1977. He qualified as a solicitor in 1980 and joined the firm of Mace & Jones, where he became a partner in 1984. He is now head of employment law at the firm. In 1988 he married Helena Shanks and they have two children, Jonathan and Catherine.
Martin Edwards is an award-winning crime writer. His first novel, All the Lonely People, introduced Liverpool lawyer Harry Devlin and was published in 1991, earning a nomination for the John Creasey Dagger for best first crime novel of the year. To date, Edwards has written eight novels about Devlin; the most recent is Waterloo Sunset. The Coffin Trail was the first of four books set in the Lake District (The Lake District Mysteries) featuring Detective Chief Inspector Hannah Scarlett and historian Daniel Kind; it was short-listed for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Award for best crime novel of 2006. The Arsenic Labyrinth was short-listed for the Lakeland Book of the Year Award in 2008. Edwards has also written a stand-alone novel of psychological suspense, Take My Breath Away, and completed The Lazarus Widow by the late Bill Knox. 2008 also saw the publication of his first historical novel, Dancing for the Hangman, a fictional account of the life and misadventures of Hawley Harvey Crippen.
Edwards has written over 40 short stories, which have appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies. His early stories were collected in Where Do You Find Your Ideas? and other stories, which had an introduction by Reginald Hill. ‘Test Drive’ was short-listed for the Crime Writers' Association Dagger for best short story in 2005. Edwards went on to win the award for best short story in 2008 with 'The Bookbinder's Apprentice.' He has edited the Crime Writers' Association’s annual crime anthology since 1996.
Since 1987, Edwards has reviewed crime fiction. He writes extensively about the genre and has contributed to various reference works, including The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing. He has also published Urge to Kill, a study of true crime and homicide investigation.
Edwards was a founder member of the Northern Chapter of the Crime Writers' Association and of the Murder Squad collective of crime writers. He chairs the Association's CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger Award sub-committee; this is British crime fiction's premier crime writing award, the final decision being made by the CWA Committee from a short-list of candidates nominated by CWA members. In 2007, Edwards was appointed Archivist of the Crime Writers' Association. In 2008 he was elected to membership of The Detection Club.
There has been increasing critical interest in and appreciation of Edwards' work, and his skill in marrying people and place with plot. In The Mammoth Encyclopaedia of Modern Crime Fiction, Mike Ashley noted that the author's legal knowledge 'provides a solid reliability to the Devlin books, but their strength lies in the evocation of Liverpool both past and present'. Similarly, Russell James noted in Great British Fictional Detectives that the Devlin books 'are all solid and well-informed'. In Scene of the Crime, Julian Earwaker and Kathleen Becker described the Devlin series as 'a blend of classic detection and urban noir', pointing out that 'The bleaker tones of the early books...are superseded by the lighter tone and more complex plotting of the later novels.' In Whodunit?, Rosemary Herbert said that 'Edwards rapidly made a name for himself as a writer whose law expertise informs fiction set in a well-drawn Liverpool...Edwards' work as an anthologist is highly regarded.' In British Crime Writing: an encyclopaedia, Michael Jecks described him as 'a writer of imagination and flair' and as possessing 'a rare skill for acute description'. In the same volume, Philip Scowcroft praised Edwards' books set in the Lakes 'which he describes idiomatically and evocatively in a series of well-plotted mysteries'. Jecks summed him up as 'a crime writer's crime writer. His plotting is as subtle as any; his writing deft and fluid; his characterisation precise, and his descriptions of the locations give the reader the impression that they could almost walk along the land blindfolded. He brings them all to life.'
Edwards has written many articles and has published seven books on equal opportunities, employment law and other legal subjects. Originally, he established distinct reputations in the fields of employment law and commercial law; his first published book concerned legal aspects of business computer acquisition, and in 1985 he acted as legal adviser to the makers of the feature film Letter to Brezhnev. Since 1990, he has specialised solely in employment law. He was a founder member of the Law Society’s Standing Committee on Employment Law. He regularly receives high rankings in independent legal directories such as The Legal 500 and Chambers Directory UK. In 2007, he was described in the former as 'one of the leading employment lawyers in the country', and in the latter as 'Mr. Employment'. He has acted for many high profile clients, including the Football Association, Wembley Stadium, Alder Hey Hospital, Health and Safety Executive, Liverpool Football Club and National Museums Liverpool. In 2008 he was included in EN Magazine's list of the top 50 professional advisers in the North West and was also short-listed for the Insider Profesional Liverpool Lawyer of the Year award.