Friday, March 30, 2012

REVIEW: The Expats by Chris Pavone

Synopsis

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.


Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Crown Publishing Group (first published March 1st 2012)
ISBN 0307956350 (ISBN13: 9780307956354)


About the Author
from his website

"I was born in 1968, grew up in New York City, and attended Midwood High School in Brooklyn and Cornell University, where I majored in government. I worked at a number of publishing houses over nearly two decades, most notably as an editor at Clarkson Potter, where I specialized in cookbooks (I love to cook). In the late nineties, I also wrote a little book called The Wine Log

I’m the father of twin schoolboys named Sam and Alex, and an old cocker spaniel named Charlie Brown (he’s brown), and the husband of Madeline McIntosh. I’ve lived in New York City my entire life, except for college and the year and a half that we lived in Luxembourg, where I started writing The Expats in the caf├ęs of the cobblestony old town. We now live in Greenwich Village and the North Fork of Long Island."

Check out his website
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My Thoughts
"Kate?"

Kate is staring through a plate-glass window filled with pillows and tablecloths and curtains, all in taupes and chocolates and moss greens, a palette that replaced the pastels of last week. The season changed, just like that.
Town/Location/Environment

This book takes place in various countries around Europe, but most of it is set in Luxembourg.

Kate is an ex-spy adjusting to the normal life of a stay-at-home Mom in a foreign land, who finds herself caught up in a mystery. Unable to give up her roots, she can’t help but investigate to find out what is really going on. Strong, intelligent, surprisingly trusting for someone who spent years as a spy, she winds up feeling betrayed, not trusting herself, and not always thinking straight when she finds that she is too close to the subject.

Dexter is the perfect husband and father, until the move to Luxembourg. Suddenly he is a workaholic, rarely available to the children or his wife. The roles have shifted, after workaholic secret spy Kate gives up her career to follow her husband to Luxembourg, where he is taking on new work. And suddenly the father that used to be at home all of the time is rarely home and a distance falls between him and the family.

Further rousing his wife’s suspicions are their new friends Bill and Julia, a husband and wife from Chicago. Julia quickly becomes Kate’s best friend in Luxembourg, but questions are aroused.

This is one of those stories where you are continually asking yourself  “what if” and “what would I do”.  It shows the fine line drawn through moral delineation and ambiguity. Hear one side of a story and you may think someone is morally bankrupt. Hear more of the story, and maybe what they do is justified, but hear yet more and perhaps you question their motives once again. “Morality” and ethics are not black and white.

Kate's character was pretty well developed, and a character with which I could really connect. Her husband is more elusive and shady. You are never sure what is going on with him, and whether or not he can be trusted.

A book editor for nearly two decades, The Expats is Chris Pavone’s first novel. Part psychological thriller, part escapism, part cautionary tale and part pure entertainment, this is a really fun story!

The author is quite good at seeing into the human condition, down to the heart of things, and sometimes I just had to smile...
Jake sighed, the immense disappointment that a little boy can feel hundreds of times a day, over anything, everything, nothing. (p. 58)

We all see ourselves as the center of everything. (p. 299)
(Note: Quotes were taken from an Advanced Readers Copy, and wording could differ in the actual released copy.)
I like the cover. Shiny and almost a metallic red in appearance, there is the dark silhouette of a woman in front of an old European town (possibly Luxembourg?). It gives a really good clue as to what is held between the covers.

However I did note that, because of its metallic nature, the red color does rub off easily, leaving the beautiful cover marked more obviously than your average cover.

I like the fact that the book has shorter chapters and choppy sections, with lots of spots for me to find a stopping point. The font is well-spaced and easy-to-read; the dialogue is easy to follow.  There are some shifts in time, from past to brief periods in the present, but this transition is assisted by the fact that the font is slightly different in the scenes of the present. So you can visually see the change to present day, as well as a date stamp at the top of the page to make it clearer. Still you do need to pay attention, as the time shift can be a little tricky to navigate. It gets especially tricky in the last few chapters of the book.

While not gratuitous, there is some vulgarity, sexuality and adult situations and content.

My final word: This was a fun, smart story. It kept me entertained and challenged. I continually wondered what would happen next, but it was really light and fun. A clever story of suspense laid out in a very easy-to-read fashion, and a very satisfying read.

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My Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Disclaimer:

I received a copy of this book from Crown Publishing, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

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