Janet Laurence was born Janet Duffell in England in 1937. Although she always wanted to be a writer, she began her professional career in advertising and public relations. In 1978, she and her husband moved to Somerset, England, where she started Mrs. Laurence’s Cookery Courses. The beginning courses were targeted toward teenage girls and dealt with basic cooking techniques. She later added a number of more advanced courses for experienced cooks. She also began writing about food for Country Life and for the Daily Telegraph. She eventually became solely responsible for the weekly food column Bon Viveur.
By the late 1980’s, Laurence was writing cookbooks and also began to write her first mystery novel showcasing Darina Lisle, cookbook writer and amateur sleuth. In 1989 she published A Little French Cookbook and A Deepe Coffyn, the first book in her Darina Lisle series. She followed with A Tasty Way to Die (1990) and continued to add volumes to the series.
In 1993, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery presented an exhibition on the painter Canaletto. Laurence became more and more enthralled with Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto, and his involvement with England. She began to do research on the painter, his paintings, and the role he played in English history, and she decided to write a series featuring him. In 1997 she published her first historical mystery, Canaletto and the Case of Westminster Bridge. In 1999, she published Canaletto and the Case of the Privy Garden, and Canaletto and the Case of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 2002.
Laurence’s nonseries novel To Kill the Past (1994) is a darker murder mystery that abandons the culinary motif and dwells on motivation and the psychological dimensions of the characters and their actions. Laurence has also written contemporary women’s fiction under the name Janet Lisle. She has served as a chairperson of the Crime Writers’ Association.