Rated of 5
by Cloggie Downunder
impressive debut novel
The Expats is the impressive debut novel by American author, Chris Pavone. Set mainly in Europe, the action switches between Paris in the present day and Washington DC and Luxembourg two years previously. Kate Moore quit her undercover job with the CIA, a job that was secret even from her husband, Dexter, to move to Luxembourg with him and their young sons, Jake and Ben. There, Dexter’s job as a systems security expert for banks could afford them a better income and an enviable lifestyle which included weekends in places like Paris and Amsterdam. As expats, they socialised mainly with other expats, and had soon formed a friendship with Julia and Bill Maclean. But Kate’s CIA training leads her to suspect that Julia and Bill are not what they first seem and she begins to wonder: are they are assassins? Are they investigating her for unlawful actions in her CIA career? Or are they after her husband? Which leads her to start wondering if Dexter has been completely truthful with her. As Kate makes certain discoveries in the present day narrative, she flashes back to two years ago, her exit from the CIA and their early months in Luxembourg, and certain events and conversations suddenly become startlingly clear.
This novel has a superbly clever plot full of twists and turns that has the reader guessing to the last line. Without giving away too much of the story, Pavone uses the present day narrative to sow enough seeds of intrigue to keep the reader engrossed in the action two years previous. Interestingly, Pavone writes from Kate’s point of view, something he does very competently. As the suspense built, I found myself more and more on the edge of my seat. Proof of Pavone’s excellent descriptive talent is that as I sat reading the window ledge scene, my legs were aching, my body’s usual involuntary reaction to being at unsafe heights. Occasional lighter moments are provided by the children and social interactions with other minor characters, but for most of the novel, the tension is high. Pavone’s first-hand experience as an expat is apparent from the way he effectively conveys the atmosphere of European cities and expat life: his characters are realistic and his dialogue, credible. The novel poses a few pertinent and topical questions: When is it OK to steal 25 (or 50) million euros? Are we deluded in thinking that our money can ever be safe? Who guards the guards? Is anybody ever what they seem to be? Does anyone ever tell the whole truth? This novel has been described as “Brilliant, insanely clever, and delectably readable.” I wholly concur.