"Reap As You Sow" by David Hutchison is an outstanding and thoroughly enjoyable read and one we recommend very highly to anyone who enjoys Scottish crime novels. It is the second in the author's series of "DCI Steel Mysteries" and, like its predecessor "Lest You Be Judged", it is set in and around Edinburgh in 2000, well before Lothian and Borders Police became just a constituent part of Police Scotland.
A body is washed up on the beach at Portobello, murdered in a way that makes it looks like an execution. At almost the same time a bomb goes off not far away, killing a number of passers-by. The now established team of Detective Chief Inspector Mike Steel and Detective Sergeant Robin Moss are quickly on the scene, struggling to make sense of what they've found and struggling to fight off the efforts of detectives from the local police station and then from Special Branch to move in on their investigation. DCI "Stainless" Steel has seen it all before and seems to be on the verge of burnout. But he's been charged with mentoring his young, highly intelligent, Liverpudlian, fast-track and female colleague and it's quickly obvious that a professional relationship that didn't get off to the best of starts in "Lest You Be Judged" is developing into one of - most of the time - mutual respect, despite Steel's rather cavalier approach to procedures.
The action moves on at a satisfyingly rapid pace and the reader is drawn through a series of twists and turns as the investigation into the murder and the bombing broadens out into turf wars between Edinburgh and Glasgow gangsters, fraud, financial crime and international terrorism: with the list of those wanting to take over some or all of the investigation extending to MI5. The twists are very nicely veiled and the book's ending is both satisfying and surprising. For the reader, anyway: DCI Steel upholds the tradition established by a long line of fictional Scottish police officers who have messy and unsettled private lives.
This probably all sounds a little familiar to the fans of Scottish crime novels we are recommending this book to. A worldly-wise and weary senior detective paired with an ambitious and able junior tramping the streets of a Scottish city? We'd acknowledge that as formulas go, it's hardly a novel one. We've certainly read quite a few books that fit the general pattern: but it's hard to think of any that have had quite such good plotting, characterisation and pace as "Reap As You Sow".