Mabel Seeley, née Hodnefield, was born in Minnesota and attended Mechanic Arts High School in St. Paul, where she was encouraged to write by a teacher. She won a college scholarship and graduated from the University of Minnesota with honors in 1926. She married Kenneth Seeley, a fellow student, with whom she had a son; they later divorced. Mabel became an advertising copywriter for a St. Paul department store. In 1938, she published her first mystery novel, The Listening House, followed by several more critically acclaimed, bestselling mysteries written from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. Her works were set in the towns and rural areas of Minnesota, or occasionally in towns identified only as being in "the midwest." Her self-reliant heroines were not private investigators or amateur sleuths but ordinary midwestern women such as a librarian, a copywriter, or a stenographer, caught in extraordinary circumstances. She became an early member of the Mystery Writers of America and served on its first Board of Directors. In 1954, while promoting her latest book, Mabel met Henry Ross, a lawyer. She married him two years later and settled with him in New Jersey. She never wrote another novel.