Mal Peet grew up in North Norfolk, and studied English and American Studies at the University of Warwick.
Later he moved to south west England and worked at a variety of jobs before turning full-time to writing and illustrating in the early 1990s. With his wife, Elspeth Graham, he has written and illustrated many educational picture books for young children, and his cartoons have appeared in a number of magazines. He and Elspeth live in Exmouth, Devon.
He is the author of several novels for young adults. His first, Keeper, was published in 2003, and won the Branford Boase Award. His second, Tamar (2005), the story of two men caught up in secret operations during World War II, won the 2005 Carnegie medal. His third novel, The Penalty (2006), returns to the South American location of Keeper, and sets a modern-day story of crime and corruption against an historical narrative of slavery and occult religion. It was shortlisted for the 2007 Booktrust Teenage Prize.
His latest novel is Exposure (2008), a modern re-telling of Othello and winner of the 2009 Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.