Sarah Dunant (born Linda Dunant 8 August 1950, in London, England) is the author of many international bestsellers, most recently Sacred Hearts, the completion of her Italian historical trilogy.
She attended Godolphin and Latymer School in Hammersmith, London and read history at Newnham College, Cambridge and has worked in theatre, radio and television. She lives in London for most of the year.
Sarah Dunant began as a writer for various publications. As a broadcaster she was one of the principals responsible for hosting The Late Show on BBC2 and has also presented Woman's Hour and A Good Read on Radio 4. She also hosted the BBC2 series Did You See...? whilst regular host Ludovic Kennedy was absent due to ill-health.
Sarah Dunant's work ranges over a number of genres and eras, going from hard-boiled detective fiction to historical thriller. Her narratives are hard to categorise due to their inventive treatment of time and space, and a favoured device of hers is to run two or more plot strands concurrently, as she does to great effect in Mapping the Edge. A common concern running through her work is women's perceptions and points of view, but the serious stuff is always embedded deep below the surface. Her work is polished and taut, and her handling of narrative pace is nearly always impeccable.
Her characters are frequently women of the world, able to hold their own against men and open to sexual experimentation and rule-breaking, which drives a lot of her plots' energy. This is probably because even when she sets her story in Renaissance Florence, as she does in The Birth of Venus, the 'whodunit' plot construct still persists, and the quest to solve a mystery or a crime carries on alongside the emotional involvements of the characters. Having said that, it would not be adequate to say that she writes 'thrillers', since there is much more to be found in the books than generic thriller-type entertainment.
Sarah Dunant is the creator of the female private detective Hannah Wolfe who features in the trilogy Birth Marks, Fatlands and Under My Skin. Superficially genre fiction, these books nevertheless show the experimental boldness that characterises Dunant's later works. In Birth Marks Hannah sets out to investigate the death of a young girl who is eight months pregnant, and is drawn into a gripping story involving the ethics of surrogate motherhood. Fatlands has Hannah playing nursemaid to the difficult teenage daughter of a scientist. As she investigates the Vandamed Corporation she is caught between the ethics of large scale industrial animal experimentation and the concerns of NGOs and activists on the other. In Under My Skin Hannah ends up at a health farm and in the process of investigating a series of sabotage attacks, confronts issues to do with the beauty industry and women's relationships with their bodies. Hannah herself is a hard-boiled, wisecracking, tough character in the hard-core tradition of detective fiction, but with her own individual twists. She could be compared with Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski and Cordelia Grey in P. D. James's works, but she is closer to Ellery Queen, Georges Simenon's Inspector Maigret or Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade in her attitude to her work and the 'feel' of her character.