Vicki's Reviews > The Expats

The Expats by Chris Pavone
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's review
May 07, 2012

really liked it
Read in May, 2012

This is a spy thriller with a twist. The protagonist is a woman who is recruited to the CIA while a college student. Single and without a close knit family, she is a natural for the job. It is easy to keep secrets, as there is no one in her close circle to lie too. After she has served several years, she meets a young man whom she recognizes to be a good man whose love and fidelity she would not have reason to doubt. They grow closer, eventually marry and have a couple of kids, but she never tells him exactly what she does for a living. He never questions Kate's excuses for out of town trips "to a training in Atlanta," when in reality she is flying to Mexico or South America to deal with various politicians or drug dealers who merit the attention of the US.

Dexter works in Information Technology. His specialty is protecting bankers or other clients from hackers during the online fund transfer process. Because she feels guilt for all the information about herself that she is keeping from him, she determines that she will not ever investigate or question what he does to earn the income that he brings home. In fact when he comes home to tell her that he has an opportunity in Luxembourg that should really take off financially, and that in fact she should be able to quit working, she is secretly relieved to be able to give her notice to the CIA and become a stay at home mom. The exit interviews, and there are several, are nerve wracking, as there is one secret she is also keeping from the CIA, but they eventually accept her resignation and sign off on her departure.

Author Chris Pavone does an excellent job of building suspense, moving from the time frame of the present to the past to unfold the mystery that develops around this family. The Americans in Luxembourg, "the expats," are a small group who lean on one another for company and friendship. Before long Kate has met the Macleans, who she notices are better at asking questions than answering them, but are always available for social interaction. Kate may have left the CIA, but her antenna is still up for unusual signs, and she begins to suspect that the Macleans are not who they say they are. Could they possibly be after her for the one act she did as an agent that she was not authorized to do?

At the same time, she is annoyed with Dexter, who is always working, leaving her to deal with all the chores of housekeeping and keeping up with two small boys. What is it that Dexter actually does, anyway? And why has he never told her where his office actually is? So if the Macleans are actually spies, could it be that they are watching Dexter, not her? She finally touches base with former contacts in the CIA, who are able to give her some insights into who and what she is dealing with. There are so many instances of deception both in the marriage and in their social and business worlds. There is danger, suspense and mysteries to be resolved...not to mention all the loads of laundry, the IKEA furniture she has to put together by herself, and the child care responsibilities that don't go away even when spies are breathing down one's neck or conversely, when they must be spied upon! It really is a riveting, hard to put down thriller! Read it now, before it becomes a movie, which I predict it will...
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