” Kate leans back in the chair, the pistol in her palm, thinking about these people: this other couple, strangers who she thought were friends who were pretending to be enemies. And her surprisingly diabolical husband. And her own behavior, both questionable and justified. And what she’s about to do. ” (Ch.23, p.321)
For a debut in the literature of espionage, Chris Pavone, a book editor for twenty years returning to New York City after an expat sojourn in Luxembourg, sets the bar really high. The book is electric and addictive. In Kate Moore, whose life pervades with deceit and secrecy, Pavone has created a startingly real and unforgettable heroine, who is a mother, wife, and ex-CIA operative. When her husband Dexter, a computer network security specialist, is offered a lucrative contract, Kate cut short her 15-year career and jumped at the chance to leave behind her double life and started anew in Luxembourg.
She glances at each of her three companions, at the protective veneers they’re all wearing, trying to mask the different lies they’ve told one another. The lies they’re all continuing to try to maintain. Hoping these lies will carry them through the rest of their full and satisfying lives, despite the truths they’ve chosen not to tell the most important people in their worlds. (Ch.32, p.449)
Though discharged from the intelligence bureau, her sense of alert and natural acumen still reign. The arrival of an American couple, Julia and Bill Mcleans soon ruffles her and grates her nerve: They are not who they claim to be. Innately distrustful and professionally suspicious, she immediately knows they are involved in some covert behavior. Could they be assassins coming to revenge over her botched operation of a Latin American leader? Meanwhile she realizes her husband might be more clever, deceptive, and dubious than she has always believed. Over the years the things unsaid between Kate and Dexter were large beyond comprehension. Now the lies and secrets are accelerating, becoming what define their marriage. But she cannot broach about these suspicions without admitting that she was CIA.
But all people have secrets. Part of being human is having secrets, and being curious about other’s secrets. Dirty fetishes and debilitating fascinations and shameful facts and ill-begotten triumphs, humiliating selfishness and repulsive humanity. (Ch.15, p.205)
The Expats is intricately and meticulously plotted. The book is entertaining enough to kill time with as one is immediately drawn into the multiple facets that drive the story forward. Yes, there are selfish pursuits, ill-begooten triumphs, and very repulsive humanity involved. All these are not fully revealed until the end. Pavone never lets slip his portrayal of Kate and her quest to find meaning in her charade of an existence, which makes the book very powerful. As each pursues different conjecture, every turn of the page is a total paradigm shift as a result of many double crosses and unanticipated twists.
487 pp. Faber and Faber. Mass Paperback. [Read/
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