Hardcover, 336 pages
Kate Moore is a typical expat mom, newly transplanted from Washington DC to the quiet cobblestoned streets of Luxembourg. Her days are filled with coffee mornings and play-dates, her weekends with trips to Paris and Amsterdam. Kate is also guarding a tremendous, life-defining secret, one that’s becoming unbearable, indefensible. It’s also clear that another expat American couple are not really who they’re claiming to be; plus Kate’s husband is acting suspiciously. While she travels around Europe, looking for answers, she’s increasingly worried that her past is finally catching up with her. As Kate digs, and uncovers the secrets of the people who surround her, she finds herself buried in layers of deceit so thick they threaten her family, her marriage, and her life.
In The Expats by Chris Pavone we are given delicious clues right from the start that Kate Moore is more than she seems. When Kate's husband, Dexter, is offered a lucrative position with an unnamed bank in Luxembourg, Kate quits her job in Washington D.C., the details of which (she's CIA) she never totally explained to Dexter, and they decide to pack up their sons and become expats, Americans living and working abroad.
While Kate thinks, at first, that she is leaving her double life behind to concentrate on being a wife and mother, it soon becomes clear that she has developed some skills that could still be useful to her since everything in Luxembourg may not be quite what it seems to be. Dexter is becoming increasingly distant and might be hiding something from her. And then there is a couple they have met who don't seem to be who they claim they are.
As the tension slowly begins to build, clues foreshadow that there is much more to the story: "Much later, Kate realized that Chicago should have been her first clue. (page 48)." The Expats is full of clues and hints like this of much more to come... and the secrets, all the secrets and half-truths being hidden from others..
In fact, this stylish and cerebral espionage novel is about secrets, people keeping secrets wrapped up in other secrets. It's not a novel full of violent gun battles and fight scenes. Instead it is an intelligent novel where we are allowed glimpses and tantalizing clues of what might be the real truth, only to have these new revelations dashed aside as new clues are revealed. This is a long-con (and as a Lost fan, I appreciate a great long-con story.)
The writing was superb. The narrative alternates between the present and the past, both in chronological order, giving us clues and information slowly and subtly. This really makes for a complex, cleverly plotted novel. I started The Expats and could hardly set it down. At page 250 if I didn't have an early meeting the next morning, I would have been sorely tempted to stay up way-too-late to finish this novel, something I really can't say very often anymore.
I thought Chris Pavone did a tremendous job developing Kate's character and taking us along as we slowly learned what was really going on. While there have been some complaints about the ending, I thought it was great, full of unanticipated twists, and perfectly fit the whole tone of the novel.
Very Highly Recommended - I thoroughly enjoyed this novel!
Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from Crown Publishing Group and TLC for review purposes.
Chris Pavone grew up in New York City, and attended Midwood High School in Brooklyn and Cornell University. He worked at a number of publishing houses over nearly two decades, most notably as an editor at Clarkson Potter, where he specialized in cookbooks; in the late nineties, he also wrote a little (and mostly blank) book called The Wine Log. His first novel, The Expats, released in the U.S. and the U.K. in early 2012, was an instant New York Times bestseller, and is being published in fifteen languages on five continents, and developed for film. Chris is married and the father of twin schoolboys, as well as an old cocker spaniel, and they all live in Greenwich Village and the North Fork of Long Island.