Review: Simon Conway – Rock Creek Park

rock-creek-park-27389-pThe tag ‘bio-thriller’ on the front of this book nearly put me off. It’s not that I don’t like them, I just usually find them too complicated for my unscientific mind. What got me reading the book was the setting – the political world of Washington DC. However, as it turned out Rock Creek Park as an excellent and disturbing read.

Harriet ‘Harry’ Armstrong is a former police Metropolitan police officer who jogging one night in Rock Creek Park discovers the body of a young woman. The park adjoins the property of a Republican Senator who gathers the great and the good around him to protect his reputation while the investigation takes place. Detective Michael Freeman is a former Special Forces soldier now working for Washington MPD. Convinced he is being set up by those who want to keep the Senator out of the investigation, he discovers Harry is now working for a genetic engineering company headed by a Russian scientist who may have been involved in the killing.

This was a pacy read written from the point of view of both policeman Freeman and Harry, who is desperate not to get involved in the case. Both characters are equally interesting – Freeman because knows that he is in the middle of a conspiracy involving multiple intelligence agencies, whereas Harry’s sense of dislocation as a stranger in a new city gives her a naïvety which is a nice counterbalance to Freeman. They are both given interesting back stories and the people who are close to them, Freeman’s political aide wife and Harry’s journalist husband, are also well drawn.

The political side of Washington is excellently portrayed, full ambitious aides and other hangers-on. I also enjoyed the bio-thriller part of the narrative, despite my reservations, mainly because the central premise is so interesting. There is a very creepy feel to the experiments that are taking place and a shocking event towards the latter part of the book which made difficult reading.

Towards the end, when the action moved from Washington to Georgia in the Caucasus, the book changed style slightly although the pace quickened to an extent that it didn’t spoil my enjoyment. I’d be interested to read a review from a scientist about the experiments that take place. I read the book with the view that it depicted an interesting if slightly improbable sequence of events. I’d be horrified to think that this stuff actually goes on.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher. The book has also been reviewed at Eurocrime. The author’s website is here.

Review: Deon Meyer – 7 Days

After I’d finished the excellent Trackers last month I had the choice of either reading some of Meyer’s earlier books or his latest, 7 Days. His most recent book won, mainly because of the tempting blurb and I was once more impressed by the plotting skills of this excellent writer.

The South African Police Services receive an e-mail written by a sniper who threatens to kill a policeman every day until the murder of Hanneke Sloet is brought to justice. Sloet was an ambitious young lawyer who was found murdered in her new apartment with a single stab wound to her chest. When a policeman is shot in the leg, it is clear that a sniper intends to carry out his threat and Benny Griessel is assigned to the reopened case. Greissel is a recovering alcoholic, with a girlfriend who is in the process of falling off the wagon. In seven days he has to find the killer of Hannah and keep himself away from the bottle, while his colleague Captain Mbali Kaleni tries to track down the sniper.

The idea of sniper targeting policeman is a bold premise and one that has been addressed in crime fiction before – most notably McBain’s Cop Hater. However, Meyer brings a fresh approach to the subject by linking it to an old unsolved murder investigation. As I would expect from Meyer, the book was well plotted, full of twists and turns as potential suspects were examined and then cleared. The murdered lawyer dominates the book, which shows the power of good characterisation as we only see her personality through the eyes of others.

Benny Griessel and his developing relationship with the singer, Alexa, form an interesting subplot. Like in Mons Kallentoft’s Autumn Killing, we get a realistic portrayal of the effects of alcohol dependency, although Benny seems to be coping well with staying dry. Captain Mbali Kaleni, the woman in charge of finding the sniper I found to be less engaging, perhaps because her backstory was developed in a previous book, Thirteen Hours, which I haven’t yet read.

This book had a different feel to Trackers. It was slower paced and without the multiple narratives that made Trackers such an unusual read. Nevertheless it was an enjoyable read with an interesting and surprising resolution.

I received a copy of the book from the publishers. The book has also been reviewed at Eurocrime,