Mix the CIA, the FBI, secretive European banks, and a diabolical large-scale cyber theft, add long-hidden secrets and exotic Continental settings, and, with a little luck, a lot of skill, and an intimate knowledge of Western Europe, you may be able to fashion a hard-driving thriller that’s guaranteed to keep readers guessing until the very end. Chris Pavone pulled that off with The Expats. Yes, it will keep you guessing, too.
The Expats by Chris Pavone
n@@@@ (4 out of 5)
The CIA, the FBI, bank secrets, and cyber-theft
Most of the action in The Expats unfolds in the Rhode Island-sized nation of Luxembourg. There, Kate and Dexter Moore have relocated from Washington, DC, where, unbeknownst to her husband, Kate had served for many years in the CIA. But Dexter’s new job as a cybersecurity expert for a European bank is just too good to pass up. Kate narrates the tale in a mind-bending succession of flashbacks and current-day scenes as two suspiciously friendly Americans come into their lives — and complications ensue. Cyber-theft is, in some ways, the least of it. Of course! Prepare yourself for everyone in the book to be harboring secrets.
Pavone displays great skill in disclosing the book’s meandering plot, but somehow he manages to give the impression that it’s all character-driven. And he gets the setting right.
Expats are like goldfish out of the tank
If you’ve ever lived abroad for more than a few weeks at a time, especially in a small country, you’re probably familiar with at least one of the innumerable insular expat communities to be found throughout the world. Americans abroad — in reality, all Westerners abroad — flock together in these claustrophobic neighborhoods and social circles like goldfish out of the tank. A few manage to acclimatize themselves to the foreignness of their surroundings. Many more end up with friendships limited to the faux intimacy of shared culture shock. This is the all-too-familiar background to The Expats.
The Expats was Chris Pavone’s first novel. It won the Edgar Award and was a New York Times bestseller, as was Pavone’s second novel, The Accident. Pavone worked at publishing houses for two decades before turning to writing himself.
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