Jim Kelly was born in 1957 and is the third son of a Scotland Yard detective. He studied geography at Sheffield University and attended Cambridge University as a press fellow at Wolfson College. He trained as a journalist on the Bedfordshire Times, and was Deputy News Editor of the Yorkshire Evening Press in York. He joined the Financial Times as a page editor, becoming tax correspondent, and finally education correspondent from 1997 to 2002. He was a director of the Community Rights Project.
His first book, THE WATER CLOCK, was short listed for the John Creasey Award. He won a Dagger in 2006 for the Philip Dryden series. In 2011 he won the New Angle prize for literature.
He is married to the writer Midge Gillies, has a daughter, Rosa, and lives in Ely, Cambridgeshire.