Book Review: The Expats by Chris Pavone

ExpatsLooking for a fast-paced thriller for your beach bag? You can’t go wrong with The Expats.

The Expats is a spy thriller, a cat-and-mouse espionage tale… and the story of a marriage. Mixing spycraft with ruminations on trust, love, and family, this books is quirky and dramatic all at the same time.

Kate Moore is the main character, a wife and mother of two young boys… and a former CIA field operative who resigns from the Company when her computer geek husband Dexter receives a lucrative job offer than entails moving to Luxembourg for a year.

Kate becomes one of the expat moms — the women from all corners of the world, married to wealthy but very busy men, who congregate in coffee shops and tennis clubs while their children attend preschool, then plan family outings, ski trips, and shopping adventures all over Europe. It’s a great life… except Kate can’t help being just a wee bit bored. As a working mother, she was itching for more time with the family, but now that she has it, she finds the daily routine — cooking, cleaning, shopping, chauffering, playdates, endless mommy gossip — not quite as fulfilling as she’d hoped.

Meanwhile, Dexter is suddenly the absent parent, as his new job entails high-level, hush-hush work for private banks to ensure that their online security systems are unbreachable…. or so he says. Kate begins to suspect that something is just a little bit off about Dexter’s new job… and the new American couple who have befriended them seem to have more than just a friendly interest in worming their way into the Moores’ lives.

The timeline jumps back and forth between “today”, in Paris, as Kate is confronted by someone she thought she’d never see again, to two years ago, starting with Dexter’s announcement about his new job and following the couple and the children forward into their new lives in Europe. The two timelines converge by the end, of course, as bit by bit the many threads start to form a pattern and the bigger picture emerges. Added to that, we learn about Kate’s CIA background and the event that haunts her from her time as an operative, and all sorts of shades and nuances come into play.

And then there’s the fact that Kate has never told Dexter about her real line of work. As far as he knew, Kate was a State Department employee whose works entailed writing position papers. So how can Kate be angry with Dexter for hiding secrets from her when he spent the first ten years of their relationship in complete ignorance of her profession, not knowing such an important part of what made her tick?

As the clues pile up, there’s danger and drama, a few edge-of-the seat action sequences… and also trips to Ikea, playtime with the kids, and uncomfortable cocktail parties with other American expats. Kate is a terrific main character — smart, kick-ass, but tormented by her own set of demons; wanting to be a good wife and mother, but unable to completely come clean or to trust her husband. The plot twists and turns, there are complications galore, and small revelations in both timelines pile on top of each other to create a whole that’s a real thrill ride.

The Expats is fun and compelling, mixing spy drama with domesticity in a way that highlights the deceptions in everyday life and love. The characters are well-developed, the plot is convoluted enough that we can’t see all the answers before the author wants us to, and the cosmopolitan European setting gives the book a feeling that’s both dangerous and exotic.

This book was perfect for me on a long plane ride. It’s highly entertaining and very hard to put down. So if you’re looking for a great beach read for the summer, consider picking up The Expats!


The details:

Title: The Expats
Author: Chris Pavone
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publication date: March 6, 2012
Length: 352 pages (paperback edition)
Genre: Espionage/thriller
Source: Purchased


8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Expats by Chris Pavone

  1. Sounds like an interesting concept for a book – so many espionage thrillers are of the ‘boys own adventure’ type and can be a little bland. If I see a copy of this one, I’d now be tempted to pick it up. Thanks for the review.

  2. Oh, that sounds really good! I had this on my TBR a while ago when it first came out, but it was one of those that eventually just slid off the list. I think I’ll put it back on for summer 🙂

    • Ha, I used up my bookmarked quotes for my Thursday Quotables post and then couldn’t find one I wanted to use in the review. 🙂 Really a fun read. Thanks!

    • Yeah, it was a little tough to sort out at the beginning and figure out how the two timelines would connect, but that also kept it really interesting!

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