Readers were introduced to DI Birch in Edinburgh crime writer Askew’s debut novel, All the Hidden Truths, which dealt with a campus shooting in a city college seen through the eyes of the female police officer, and the mothers of both the victim and the perpetrator. What You Pay For is the second in the series, but it would work as a standalone story, as it only contains occasional references to the previous case... Askew is a master of dialogue, with the cadences of Eastern European underworld figures and the banter between police officers all ringing true. A veteran weegie cop, Rab, is a wonderful creation, and it amused me that the Glasgow cops’ speech is recorded in the vernacular while Edinburgh folks’ speech is not – presumably that is how it would sound to an East Coaster... What You Pay For is in no way a whodunnit – we know from the start who the real villain is – but the breakneck pace and adrenaline rushes will leave readers as spent as the sleep-deprived DI Birch.
It opens on the shore of the Firth of Forth, where Birch is part of an undercover mission to disrupt a smuggling operation directed by a notorious Glasgow gangster. It appears to be a success but the suspects are too scared to talk and the police’s key witness, an informer with inside information, has gone missing. With the whole plan in jeopardy, Birch discovers an unexpected link to the missing witness — and a dilemma that threatens her career. Askew is a writer to watch, but the novel contains explicit scenes of sexual and other violence that some readers might find distasteful.