He read history at Trinity College, Cambridge. Together with the mystery writer Gary Humphreys he co-authored six thrillers under the joint pseudonym of Patrick Lynch. Their third book, Carriers (1995), was adapted as a TV movie of the same name in 1998. They also collaborated on the stage play Lip Service, which was premiered at the Finborough Theatre in London in 2000.
His first solo novel, Zoia's Gold, was published in November 2006 by Simon & Schuster. The Einstein Girl was published in August 2009 by Harvill Secker, part of Random House. His third solo novel, The Valley of Unknowing, was published in 2012, also by Harvill Secker.