What You Pay For by Claire Askew #bookreview #crimefiction

I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts on the second book in the DI Helen Birch series by Claire Askew, What You Pay For on my blog today.

What You Pay For: Shortlisted for McIlvanney and CWA Awards (DI Birch) by [Claire Askew]


DI Helen Birch faces a terrible choice – family or justice? – in the gripping second novel from the author of All the Hidden Truths

DI Birch joined the police to find her little brother, who walked out of his life one day and was never seen again. She stayed to help others, determined to seek justice where she could.

On the fourteenth anniversary of Charlie’s disappearance, Birch takes part in a raid on one of Scotland’s most feared criminal organisations. It’s a good day’s work – a chance to get a dangerous man off the streets.

Two days later, Charlie comes back. It’s not a coincidence. When Birch finds out exactly what he’s been doing all those years, she faces a terrible choice: save the case, or save her brother. But how can you do the right thing when all the consequences are bad?

As she interrogates Charlie, he tells his story: of how one wrong turn leads to a world in which the normal rules no longer apply, and you do what you must to survive.

From one of the most acclaimed new voices in crime fiction, What You Pay For is a brilliantly tense and moving novel about the terrible disruption caused by violence and the lines people will cross to protect those they love..


I can’t believe I missed What You Pay For by Claire Askew when it was released in 2019. I was a huge fan of her debut, All the Hidden Truths. This time around, things are about to hit far too close to home for DI Helen Birch, and everything for Helen is about to change. It’s been fourteen years since her younger brother, Charlie disappeared. The reason she joined the police force was because she wanted to try and find out what had happened to him. When Charlie turns up on her doorstep out of the blue, Helen has no idea, how much of an impact this will have on her career as a police officer, and the current case they are working on.

Claire Askew brilliantly builds up the suspense in this book, and she opens it in a very dramatic way. As the fourteenth anniversary of Charlie’s disappearance approaches, Helen starts receiving strange calls. No one speaks. All she can hear is heavy breathing. Helen’s first thought is that this is someone’s idea of a joke, but her whole life is about to be turned upside down. In some chapters, we also hear from the voice of an unknown individual. I thought these scenes, in particular, were very chilling.

What You Pay For makes for a really gripping read. I wanted to find out what Charlie had been up to in the fourteen years since he first went missing. I wanted to know why he was willing to put his family through the pain and misery of not knowing where he was for all these years. His mother would never know as she died a few years before his return. And during that time, Helen had convinced herself that her brother was dead, and the most she could hope for was for some form of closure.

Claire Askew’s writing pulls you into the story, making this a very difficult read to put down. I needed answers to the questions that were buzzing around inside my mind as I was reading it. I wanted to know just what exactly Charlie had got himself involved in. Why did it mean that he could never return home to his family when he knew they were searching for him? I wanted to see how much of an impact his return would have on his future relationship with his sister. Would she be able to forgive him for staying away for all this time? It seemed impossible that things could go back to just how they were before he went missing. Too much time had passed, and Charlie had changed beyond recognition for Helen.

The DI Helen Birch books are turning into a must-read crime series. If you haven’t yet discovered it, then you need to read these books as soon as possible.

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publication date: 22nd August 2019

Print length: 329 pages

What You Pay For is available to buy:

Amazon UK Kobo Waterstones

All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew Book Review @OneNightStanzas @HodderBooks #AllTheHiddenTruths

All the Hidden Truths (Three Rivers) by [Askew, Claire]

Source: Netgalley


Raw, powerful, compassionate and deeply moving, with page-turning tension to the end. A stunning debut. – Karen Robinson, Sunday Times Crime Club

This is a fact: Ryan Summers walked into Three Rivers College and killed thirteen women, then himself.

But no one can say why.

The question is one that cries out to be answered – by Ryan’s mother, Moira; by Ishbel, the mother of Abigail, the first victim; and by DI Helen Birch, put in charge of the case on her first day at her new job. But as the tabloids and the media swarm, as the families’ secrets come out, as the world searches for someone to blame… the truth seems to vanish.

A stunningly moving novel from an exciting new voice in crime, ALL THE HIDDEN TRUTHS will cause you to question your assumptions about the people you love, and reconsider how the world reacts to tragedy.


All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew is a powerful psychological drama and it focuses on a very topical subject which has sadly been in the news very recently. I read this novel shortly after the school shootings in America earlier this year which was still very fresh in my mind as I was reading.

We meet three characters in this book: Moira Summers, Ishbel Hodgekiss and DI Helen Birch and the novel is told from their perspectives. The three women whose voices we hear from are very different and until the events that take place at the start of this novel occur, they have never come across each other. But beyond the pages, the lives of two of the women will be linked forever by the tragedy they are scarred by.

No one knows why Ryan Summers took it upon himself to enter the Three Rivers college campus and murder thirteen young women and then turn the gun on himself before the police had the chance to apprehend him. What could drive someone to commit such an abhorrent, cowardly act? DI Helen Birch has recently been promoted and she is handed the complex case. She knows that the weeks ahead aren’t going to be easy for her community, especially for the families of the victims, and the angry public, who desperately need answers.

The characterisation in this book is superb; the author takes us to some very dark places in the minds of some of the individuals in this book which made it a compelling page-turner. It is very much a whydunnit as the police and the families of the victims try to work out what caused Ryan to murder so many of his fellow pupils. Claire Askew explores some interesting themes, including the dangers of social media and freedom of the press. It also examines the public’s perception of tragedy and what happens when people willingly express their feelings and opinions online. One journalist in particular really got under my skin, his character brought to mind the Leveson enquiry which took place in the UK several years ago and it made me angry to think that this is the way how some members of the press behave.

I was interested in the fact that Claire chose to set the novel in Edinburgh as gun crime, particularly on a mass scale is rare, even un-heard of in the UK. Choosing to set her novel here in this country must’ve required a great deal of research, it would be fascinating to find out more about why she decided to write about this particular crime and how she went about her research.

This was a gripping debut which introduces an exciting new voice in crime fiction. If you’re looking for a psychological thriller which leaves plenty of room for thought then I highly recommend this book. Thank you to the publisher and to Netgalley for providing an advance review copy.

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publication date: 9th August 2018

Print length: 384 pages