In the Raven Bar on Renfrew Street in Glasgow, crime novelist Eva Dolan is talking over food and drinks. In her early thirties, tall, animated and with a mischievous sense of humour, she is particularly fond of the chicken wings. “You have to mention them,” she says. Later, the cheesecake requires a name check, too. As well as being distracted by what we're eating, our conversation occasionally freewheels into off-the-record territory, which is what happens when you put two writers who have known each other for a while in the same room. When I finally ask my first question about her latest book, she raises an eyebrow and asks, “Is that your professional voice?”

Dolan has written three critically acclaimed crime novels, the most recent of which is After You Die, published this month. When we meet, she is about to embark on a mini-tour of Scotland alongside Irish thriller writer Stuart Neville and bestselling Swedish author Arne Dahl. It’s a rare opportunity to catch up in person with someone I first encountered back when she reviewed for online crime magazines. It was clear from her reviews that she really understood what the genre was capable of delivering.

Her undeniable enthusiasm, intelligence and knowledge resulted in a debut novel that fully engaged with issues some other crime writers have merely danced around. There’s a political bite to Dolan’s work that comes from not shying away from the implications of their premises, and what they might say about modern British society.

Originally from Essex, Dolan now lives near Cambridge. “I left Essex when I was four, so I’m technically long term posh… but I haven’t lost the accent.” A former copywriter and intermittently successful (according to her biography) Poker player, she now writes full time. Despite her concerns about whether people will be familiar with the setting, her novels are universal, dealing directly with contemporary concerns. Her first two books tackled immigration and racially motivated crimes through the eyes of DI Zigic and DS Ferreira, police detectives working the Peterborough Hate Crimes division.

Talking about her current tour, Dolan is full of praise for her experiences in Scotland. I note that After You Die specifically thanks the organisers of Bloody Scotland in its acknowledgements. “The Scottish crime community… have been really welcoming. I don’t mean to get all Gwyneth Paltrow about it… but I feel really blessed and honoured…” She stops talking, catches herself. “Did I just say blessed?” She shakes her head; it’s not a word that sits easily with her. Perhaps a little too pretentious. “No, I really have been properly honoured by how great they’ve been to some English writer who sets her books in Peterborough… a place they’ve either never heard of or don’t really care about.”

This time around, her detectives deal with a shocking double murder. The complex plot that unravels from this act encompasses a debate over the right to die, internet bullying, sexual morals, foster care, and even touches on body image and self confidence in a subplot that rolls over from the end of the previous novel. Dolan’s books follow the traditional police procedural format on the surface, but their concerns run deeper than most, marking the author's determination to give a voice to those who don’t typically have one.

At the centre of the book lies the question of who killed Dawn Prentice and her disabled daughter, Holly. In other hands, this could result in a typical procedural, where murder becomes a puzzle to be solved, but Dolan is smarter than to stick to old-fashioned tropes. She feels it’s important to portray murder victims as real people. Over the years, crime fiction has been criticised for its depiction of dead women, but the situation might be improving. “I think domestic noir… has led the way a little. As a subgenre, it's put that focus on women’s interior lives and female relationships and friendships.” Dolan tends to write more investigative-based fiction, but she thinks that domestic noir has maybe “dragged police procedural along with it… so now you’re seeing stories where the victim isn’t just an attractive blonde stuck on a murder board.”

Dawn Prentice, the dead mother, is the antithesis of this stereotype. As the novel progresses, we discover that as well as being a mother to a severely disabled daughter, she also had vices that made her less than perfect. “The danger,” Dolan tells me when I ask whether it’s important to not present fictional murder victims, particularly women, as saints and angels, “is that you have this Madonna-Whore distinction in western art [that has existed for thousands of years] and it’s still… prevalent. Even in crime fiction, the victim almost has to be pure and wholly innocent.”

Talking specifically about Dawn, Dolan’s intent was to try and present someone who was flawed and human in a relatable fashion. “She’s not necessarily guilty, but she’s a complex and troubled woman. She’s in a very difficult situation, a lone parent caring for a severely disabled daughter. Basically, she becomes as housebound as her daughter.”

It’s to Dolan’s credit that she also portrays Holly, the daughter, in such a way that she becomes more than a social cypher. Rather than playing the sympathy card with Holly’s condition, the book shows a vibrant young woman struggling to find her place after having everything that defined her has been taken away after a particularly tragic accident.

As the book progresses, we learn that her mother may have known a number of men in a more intimate fashion than many suspected. “It’s something we talked about a lot when I was writing the book; whether people would sympathise with her and her predicament. And it just seemed to me… why wouldn’t you?”

Dolan’s portraits of the dead mother and daughter’s lives demonstrate just how complex and contradictory real people’s behaviour can appear. “Some people might see [Dawn] as a terrible, transgressive woman for having sex with men while her disabled daughter’s in the house. But…” she smiles, suddenly, after a long moment of serious thought, "I’m not being funny, but we all heard our parents shagging while we were growing up, and it didn’t scar us for life!”

Character is at the heart of Dolan’s writing. Her detective duo are a genuinely effective odd couple, their distinct personalities an essential component of the series’ success. Zigic is the better-adjusted of the two. Dolan begins to describe him as a “metrosexual” before deciding, “I think he’s lumbersexual, actually. Because he’s got a beard.” He deliberately contrasts with the kind of cops Dolan likes to read about. “Maverick, arse-kicking, borderline f***ing psychopathic detectives” is how she describes them, with just the slightest hint of irony.

But her books are intended to reflect modern attitudes. “I think for me, Zigic represents that slightly newer man who probably isn’t going to go around kicking down doors. He realises he can get more out of people by talking to them.”

Ferreira, especially in this book, represents a darker kind of detective. She’s still not breaking down doors, but she might consider doing so if it was the best solution to a problem. “I look at women I know of that age, who are very, very career focussed, very driven. [She is] probably never going to settle down because it’s virtually impossible, still, to really have it all. I’m not sure she even really wants it all.” Ferreira is harder to pin down than Zigic, even for her creator. Which is perhaps why she’s so fascinating. “She’s a character I’m still [discovering].”

The conversation drifts back to Dolan’s tour, and we discuss a recent article that suggested working-class writers are alienated by traditional literary events. “I do wonder if crime fiction’s different,” she says. “If we get a different sense of the norm from literary writers.”

Certainly, Dolan thinks the idea of making readings and talks more accessible may be well intentioned, but is possibly “incredibly patronising to working-class writers to almost suggest that we don’t know how to behave in public.” She laughs: “I know how to use the right knife and fork… everything!” As we’re rejoined by her tour mates, she tells me, “We’re not that delicate. We can do things outside of our perceived comfort zone!”

After You Die is published by Harvill Secker, priced, £12.99