Denise Mina was born in Glasgow, Scotland to an oil engineer whose work caused the family to move 20 times as she grew up, from Paris to The Hague, to England, Scotland, and Norway. She left school at age 16 and worked in a variety of low-skilled jobs, including barmaid, kitchen porter, cook, and hospice nurse. At age 21, she returned to school and earning a law degree from Glasgow University.
It was while researching her PhD thesis in criminal justice at Strathclyde University in the 1990s that she decided to write her first novel, Garnethill. It was published in 1998 and won the John Creasy Award for best first crime novel. She turned to writing fiction full-time and her work has been described as Tartan Noir. Her 2005 novel The Field of Blood, the first in a trilogy featuring the young Glaswegian journalist and amateur sleuth Patricia "Paddy" Meehan, was adapted into a television film by the BBC in 2011. The Dead Hour was filmed and broadcast in 2013. She lives in Glasgow with her partner Stephen Evans and their son.