The Expats

I had been hearing a lot of buzz about The Expats. So I picked it up. I heard it was spy novel with a twist. I’m a sucker for a great spy novel.

My fascination with spy novels began when I was a freshman in high school and read “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold” and then saw the movie starring Richard Burton. I was hooked. I grew up at the end of the cold war and I loved reading about spies and secrets. I graduated to Jack Higgins, who is one of the masters of the spy novel. In recent years, my interest waned as I started reading different varieties of books. So when I heard about The Expats, I jumped.

The story is about Kate and Dexter Moore. They live in Washington, D.C. Dexter works in computer security and Kate, to her husband’s knowledge, writes position papers for the State Department. Turns out Kate is in the CIA. Dexter approaches Kate with his job offer – to perform bank security for a bank in Luxembourg. Kate is reticent at first, but the agrees to move with Dexter and their two small children to Europe.

Kate gets out of the CIA and has “issues” adapting to life as a stay-at-home ex-pat mom. She is bored by the daily minutiae. She meets all of the other expats moms and Julia, whose husband Bill works in finance. Julia and Kate bond quickly. Then things start to happen.

Kate begins to wonder about what her husband does. And despite her promise to herself not to investigate him, she begins to do so. And what she discovers sets off a chain reaction of events that fuels the rest of the book. I don’t want to say what they are as it will give too much away.

The Expats is Chris Pavone’s first novel. It’s told mostly from Kate’s perspective, but in the third person. There are chapters interspersed from the present so as to keep you guessing a bit, but giving hints as to what will happen.

Overall, I liked the book. I figured some things out, but the end threw me a curve ball that I definitely liked. It was unpredictable. And I like that in a spy novel. I say that this is a spy novel, but crime thriller might be a more appropriate classification of the book.

It is a story of deceit and deception. It is a character study and a thrill ride. As I was reading this book, I could totally picture the movie – which I’m sure there will be one. That’s not a bad thing. But it almost seems to be written with that in mind.

I would love to visit Luxembourg to see the places he describes so well. Not to mention the Alps and Amsterdam (which he describes well), and of course, Paris. What novel set in Europe could ignore Paris? The cities are as much a part of the plot as the characters.

The story of Kate and Dexter’s relationship anchors much of the book. They start out typical, if somewhat mis-matched spouses. I like who they evolve through the story. The relationship between Julia and Kate is also interesting. You can tell from the book that Kate is not touchy feely. You can also tell that Kate is not used to having girl friends and faces a lot of adjustments to her new life. That, to me, was the most compelling part of the story.

I recommend this book. It’s a good read and a pretty quick read. I’m looking forward to seeing what Chris Pavone has to offer in the future.

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