Alice Thompson

Alice Thompson grew up in Edinburgh and read English at Oxford University. After spending the 80s playing keyboards with the almost, but not quite famous, post-punk band The Woodentops, she turned to writing. She was formerly Writer in Residence for Shetland and in 2000, won a Creative Scotland Award. Her first novel, Justine, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, and her second, Pandora’s Box, was shortlisted for the Stakis Prize for Scottish Writer of the Year. Her third, The Book Collector, was published in 2015.

Alice’s website:

Alice Thompson is represented at Jenny Brown Associates by Jenny. For all enquiries contact

Books by Alice


Salt, May 2023

Alice Thompson’s gripping, deep space novel sees scientist and dream investigator Artemis travelling to the distant moon of Oneiros. Her ship, the Chimera, has been sent to look for organisms that will help assuage Earth’s global warming, but it becomes clear on the journey that there are other disturbing reasons for the mission.

Accompanied by dryads, sophisticated AIs with synthetic bodies, nothing is quite as it seems, even desire. This is a story of transfiguration, dreams and identity. Are we just a template of memories and experiences, or is there something that makes us uniquely human? And what is the role of emotion in forming consciousness?

A poetic, icy quality in Thompson’s writing reflects the snow-capped moon of dreams called Oneiros.

Praise for Chimera

Chimera is a restatement of that old science fiction question, ‘What is it that makes us human?’, but Thompson takes a very distinctive approach, the notion of ‘dreams as poetic metaphors of thought’ allowing for explorations of the nature of consciousness and where it resides, the fear of losing one’s identity, the omnipresence of AI, the frightening implications of virtual reality and the suggestion of forces powerful enough to override both machine programming and human nature – all overlapping and interacting with each other in interesting and inventive ways
– The Herald

Set in a not-so-distant future, Alice Thompson’s eighth work of fiction, Chimera, is just that: a chimera of a novel. It also happens to be the name of the spaceship sent on a follow-up expedition to the Moon Oneiros. The mission is to look for micro-organisms that might alleviate the critical levels of carbon dioxide on Earth. But soon enough, we sense there is also a darker purpose

The book opens with a prologue in which a couple have been reunited following the woman’s return from Oneiros, a distant moon. Whatever happened during her mission has left her with impaired memory, and lacking the resentments felt before she left. She starts to write a novel, and it is this that makes up the bulk of the tale
– neverimitate

Alice Thompson is one of British fiction’s best kept secrets. She has produced playful and provocative novels in several genres – supernatural, espionage, crime and postmodern metafiction. Chimera, her first book in eight years, is profound, accessible and entertaining sci-fi
– Morning Star

Novels about artificial intelligence are formally obliged to ask what it means to be human … this conundrum is the crankhandle of Chimera’s inventively unsettling plot. It will have you second-guessing the schlockier details: the technocratic ruling class being called the ‘ElITe’, a character opening a dryad’s ‘cranium hardware’ and deadpanning the line: ‘his sense of self had gone askew’. It will also convince you that giving away our dreams and words on the cheap might prove just as catastrophic as pillaging the Earth
– The Glasgow Review of Books

[A] brilliant new sci-fi novel … Chimera is above all interested in what makes humanity human, in the face of madness, loss, betrayal and the cold silence of outer space

The Book Collector

Salt, November 2015

In Edwardian England, Violet has a fairy tale existence: loving husband, beautiful baby son and luxurious home. She wants for nothing. But soon after the birth of her baby the idyll begins to disintegrate. Violet becomes obsessed by a book of fairy tales her husband has locked away in a safe. Paranoid hallucinations begin to haunt her and she starts to question her sanity. Meanwhile, vulnerable young women are starting to disappear from the nearby asylum. Soon Violet herself is interned in the asylum for treatment only to discover, on coming out, that her husband has hired a nanny while she has been away, the beautiful, enigmatic Clara. The brutality of the asylum is nothing compared to the horrors that now lie in wait.

Praise for The Book Collector

With a nod to Angela Carter, Thompson takes the myth of Bluebeard, the murdering husband who keeps a tally of his dead wives, sets it down in that Edwardian summer just before the guns of the First World War go off. It’s a superb settling for betrayal and revenge
–The Independent on Sunday

The Book Collector shows a wry and sly mind at work throughout. Scottish literature would be thinner without this kind of challenging and cleverly-wrought writing.
–The Scotsman

The Book Collector throws the essential elements of the gothic chiller into a blender and what emerges is something between pastiche and critique, in which its author never loses sight of the need to give her readers, first and foremost, an un-put-down-able yarn.
–The Herald 

With its gothic motifs, this dark portrait of a ‘fairytale’ marriage is full of mystery and suspense… An elegant and bloodily shocking entertainment.
–The Guardian


Burnt Island

Salt, May 2013

Struggling writer Max Long arrives on Burnt Island to work on his next novel. There he encounters bestselling author James Fairfax, whom Max suspects of not being the real author of the book that has made his fortune. Furthermore, Fairfax’s wife has gone missing.

In a desperate bid for success, Max decides to compromise his talent by writing a horror bestseller. Recently divorced and increasingly mentally unstable, he witnesses disturbing visions that take the form of the horror he is attempting to write. Is Max losing his mind – or his soul? What is the truth about Fairfax? And what is the secret of Burnt Island?

Praise for Burnt Island

Burnt Island is steeped in self-awareness, as a book about the process and effect of writing might be. It seems connected by literary electricity to other tales of isolation: The Shining, Pincher Martin, The Sea, The Sea. It might resist ‘character development’, but Max does learn that however bad things can get for him, there is always someone who has had it worse: usually another writer
–The Guardian

Fractured and lucid as a dream. Creepy and brilliant.
Ian Rankin

[Thompson’s] prose style tackles these questions in spare and simple language, devoid of drama and, it would seem, ambiguity, and in that sense, she avoids echoing the richness of both Angela Carter and John Fowles, even as she appears to be paying her tribute to both of them. It’s a wise decision, as this prose style also matches better the sparse landscape of the island itself. This is a simple yet clever tale, gently satirising literary ambition as it explores the darker sources of inspiration, and told with all the supernatural horror of the best Hammer stories.
The Scotsman 


The Existential Detective

Salt, August 2014

William Blake is a private detective. When he is asked by an eccentric scientist to investigate the whereabouts of his amnesiac missing wife, Louise, Will finds himself entangled in layers of deceptions and disappearances that lead him inexorably back to an unsolved mystery in his own past: the loss of his young daughter Emily.

The case takes Will to brothels, nightclubs and amusement arcades in the Scottish seaside resort of Portobello. Identities become con-fused as his sexual obsession with a nightclub singer becomes entwined with sightings of Louise, his own torturous memories, and new visions of the lost Emily.

The Existential Detective is a surreal, dreamlike story of loss, incest and what it means to remember.

Praise for The Existential Detective

Reminiscent of the dislocation and dream-infested landscape that inhabits Auster’s work… Alice Thompson has bent the detective novel to her own will and produced something rather exciting
Scottish Review of Books

Alice Thompson… grabs hold of the detective fiction tradition, flings it in the air, lets it crash to the floor, and jumps on it till it’s in smithereens. She then reconstructs it into something that doesn’t yet have a name… The Existential Detective is unsettling, unsettlingly erotic, and somehow sadly beautiful. Thompson is fast becoming one of the most original and formidable writers in the English language today
The Sunday Herald

Thompson’s uncanniest – and best – novel yet
The Independent

Thompson … conjures up a strange universe for her characters, drawing the reader in with teasing prose and suggestive paradoxes … but the real suspense comes from the way the author plays with her shadowy characters, her more surreal clues and, ultimately, her readers
Times Literary Supplement