Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Expats: A Novel by Chris Pavone

The Expats: A NovelThe Expats: A Novel by Chris Pavone

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads: Kate Moore is a working mother, struggling to make ends meet, to raise children, to keep a spark in her marriage . . . and to maintain an increasingly unbearable life-defining secret. So when her husband is offered a lucrative job in Luxembourg, she jumps at the chance to leave behind her double-life, to start anew. 

She begins to reinvent herself as an expat, finding her way in a language she doesn’t speak, doing the housewifely things she’s never before done—play-dates and coffee mornings, daily cooking and unending laundry. Meanwhile, her husband works incessantly, doing a job Kate has never understood, for a banking client she’s not allowed to know. He’s becoming distant and evasive; she’s getting lonely and bored. 

Then another American couple arrives. Kate soon becomes suspicious that these people are not who they claim to be, and terrified that her own past is catching up to her. So Kate begins to dig, to peel back the layers of deception that surround her. She discovers fake offices and shell corporations and a hidden gun; a mysterious farmhouse and numbered accounts with bewildering sums of money; a complex web of intrigue where no one is who they claim to be, and the most profound deceptions lurk beneath the most normal-looking of relationships; and a mind-boggling long-play con threatens her family, her marriage, and her life.

My take: I love "Chuck," the television show. This is similar but also incredibly unique. The story takes place over a two year time period with flashbacks from years ago. Kate, the protagonist, is CIA, although no longer doing the dirty work when her husband suddenly announces they are moving to Luxembourg. It's country. In Europe.

Dexter is a computer geek who works in computer security for the banking industry. Luxembourg is for bankers. In order for them to move, Kate needs to have a thorough exit interview which takes a couple of weeks and quite the CIA. She also needs to pack up her entire house and two small children and move to a country she has barely heard of. By the way, she's never told Dexter what she does. Actually, she lied to him. She's also harboring some secrets from her CIA days that bother her conscience.

So the family moves to Luxembourg. Once there, Kate finds that things are not what she thought they were. Her CIA training comes in handy but what I love about this protagonist is that she is not a super spy. She has the basic CIA training and she has skills that are believable. She isn't a black belt in karate. She can't fly. She a normal, stay-at-home mom who is beginning to resent Legos and questioning her purpose. However, she also believes she is being followed and wonders if it has something to do with her long-ago crimes. She is also having doubts about Dexter, the boring man she married who seems to have an awful lot of secrets.

Bottom line is that the story was much more believable than the regular spy novels. Kate is having the internal angst of working or staying home and the twists and turns are incredibly fun and interesting. The ending was satisfying and I thought the male author captured the maternal instincts very well. He also provides a realistic picture of the banking industry, computer security, Western Europe, and the day to day grind that is not always romantic or exciting. Yet perceptions and experiences can alter a person's truth.

1 comment:

Harvee said...

I'm in the middle of this one so won't read your review till I'm finished. I like the suspense and the descriptions of Europe.