British ex-police officer Harriet Armstrong discovers the beaten body of a young woman while out night-jogging through a snow-gripped Rock Creek Park in Washington DC. From that moment we embark on an exhilarating thriller which mixes politics and science with deadliest violence. The body is found just yards from the home of Senator John Cannon. Investigator Michael Freeman soon becomes suspicious not least because he and Cannon once served in the same military unit, albeit in different wars. Is there a particular reason why Freeman has been picked to investigate the murder? What is Cannon at such pains to hide? The murderer, though, is clearly out of control. More corpses follow and Freeman follows the trail of blood to Germline BioSciences, a cutting-edge research facility funded by the American Government. By the time that Harriet (or Harry) is hired as bodyguard to the niece of the Russian exile Dr Markoff who directs the facilities, the coincidences have become too much for Freeman. The pace steps up a notch.
There is a huge amount going on in Rock Creek Park – political machinations, genetic science, post traumatic military stress, sexual domination and relationship upheaval. There is much to commend the thriller, quite apart from its exciting, blood-pumping plot, not least the characters of Harriet and Freeman. These two people, each suspicious of the other, are thrown into a situation outside their control, both having to deal with domestic difficulties and both soon facing enormous danger. While Freeman attempts to understand his relationship with fellow police officer Maja, Harriet is coming to terms with her desire to have a child – a need that makes her vulnerable to the affection of the vital young niece of Dr Markoff. These complications add a human dimension to the novel and provide a fine context for the thrill of the chase.
The work of Germline is fascinatingly presented. How it connects with the horrific murders is something that Freeman is determined to discover. A chief concern is to give a name and identity to the young battered woman found so brutally murdered in Rock Creek Park. However, this is Washington DC. This is a place that prides itself on secrets.
Quite late in the novel, the action moves to the Caucasus, exploring the Russian element of the plot that has been there from the beginning. This does make for an ending with an adrenalin-packed punch but I did feel that this part of the thriller, although edge-of-seat exciting, is less satisfying and more fantastical than the very smart and gripping Washington section. One does, though, make up for the other but I did feel towards the end that Conway had become too distracted by the chase.
Rock Creek Park, despite its sensationalist elements, is a thoroughly enjoyable thriller and mystery which makes excellent use of its wintry Washington DC setting as well as its intriguing protagonists. I’m a big fan of science thrillers and I’m delighted to discover an author who does it very well indeed.