After her birth in Bishop’s Stortford to a serving army officer, Capt Samuel Jebb (Royal Signals) and his wife Colleen, the first 10 years of Minette’s life were spent moving between army bases in the north and south of England. Following the death of her father from kidney failure in 1960, Minette spent a year at the Abbey School in Reading, Berkshire, before being granted a free Foundation Scholarship at the Godolphin boarding school in Salisbury.
During a gap year between school and Durham University, 1968, she went to Israel as a volunteer with The Bridge in Britain, working on a kibbutz and in a delinquent boys’ home in Jerusalem. She graduated from Trevelyan College, Durham in 1971 with a BA in French. Minette met her husband Alec Walters (University College) while she was at Durham and they married in 1978. They have two sons, Roland and Philip.
Walters joined IPC Magazines as a sub-editor in 1972 and became an editor of Woman’s Weekly Library the following year. She supplemented her salary by writing romantic novelettes, short stories and serials in her spare time. She turned freelance in 1977 but continued to write for magazines to cover her bills.
Her first full-length novel, The Ice House, was published in 1992. It took two and a half years to write and was rejected by numerous publishing houses until Maria Rejt, Macmillan Publishers, bought it for £1250. Within four months, it had won the Crime Writers' Association John Creasey award for best first novel and had been snapped up by 11 foreign publishers. With her next two books, The Sculptress and The Scold's Bridle, Walters won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award and the CWA Gold Dagger respectively, giving her a unique treble. She was the first crime/thriller writer to win three major prizes with her first three books.
Walter’s themes include isolation, family dysfunction, rejection, marginalisation, justice and revenge. Her novels are often set against real backgrounds and real events to draw her readers into the ‘reality’ of what she is writing about. With no series character tying her to particular people, places or times, she moves freely around settings — a sink estate (Acid Row), a Dorset village (Fox Evil), a suburb of London (The Shape of Snakes) — although every setting is ‘claustrophobic’ to encourage the characters ‘to turn on each other’.
Walters describes herself as an exploratory writer who never uses a plot scheme, begins with simple premises, has no idea ‘whodunit’ until half-way through a story, but who remains excited about each novel because she, along with her reader, wants to know what happens next.
As part of a British project ‘Quick Reads’ to encourage literacy amongst adults with reading difficulties, Walters wrote a 20,000 word novella called Chickenfeed. In competition with other best-selling authors such as Ruth Rendell, Maeve Binchy and Joanna Trollope, Chickenfeed has now won two awards as the best novella in the ‘Quick Reads’ genre. It has also been translated into several languages.
In September 2007, Walters released her fourteenth book, The Chameleon's Shadow, in the UK.
On 3—7 March 2008, BBC2 aired Murder Most Famous, a five part TV talent contest series, where Walters tutors and judges six competing celebrity writers, with the winner having their crime fiction novel published by Pan Macmillan on World Book Day 2009. The series was won by the actress Sherrie Hewson, whose debut novel The Tannery was published in March 2009.
In addition to full-length novels, Walters has written feature articles for magazines and the broadsheets, some short stories including "English Autumn, American Fall" and two novellas, The Tinder Box, published in 1999, and Chickenfeed, published in 2006. The latter was published for World Book Day 2006 as part of the 'Quick Reads' initiative.