Born in Vancouver, she won a scholarship to study Design and Film at London's Royal College of Art after a stint studying physics and philosophy at university. For the past 20 years she has freelanced at the BBC, The Independent, The Observer magazine, The Telegraph, Channel 4 TV, Vogue, Conde Nast Traveller, Gardens Illustrated as a writer, artist and broadcaster. In 1995, after a six-week BBC trip to India, she wrote the literary thriller Bombay Ice (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1998), set around a Bollywood remake of The Tempest. It has appeared in ten languages. She describes her second novel, Fish, Blood & Bone (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2000) as a literary thriller/mystery/genetic ghost story. It was also published in Holland, Germany and Denmark and the United States (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) in 2001. Her third novel, How to Paint a Dead Man, is set entirely in the Renaissance town of Urbino, Italy.

Forbes is also the author and illustrator of travel books that include A Table in Tuscany (Penguin), A Table in Provence (Penguin) Remarkable Feasts (Bloomsbury) and The Indian Spice Trail (BBC Books, to accompany an 8-part BBC Radio 3 series). She has also been the writer and presenter for Radio 3's long-running series Table Talk, plus two series of Radio 4's CRIMESCAPES (about crimewriters' landscapes in Europe and Britain). She has twice won the Glenfiddich Award for best radio broadcast. "Why continue as a journalist and artist when novels have been far more profitable? Because a crimewriter infinitely wiser than I once told me: Never give up the day job! Real life is what gives crime fiction its edge. And radio journalism keeps me in touch with verbal storytellers."

[BCBW 2003] "Fiction"