Audra (Unabridged Chick)'s Reviews > The Expats

The Expats by Chris Pavone
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I suppose it's inevitable that my streak of winning reads comes to an end. Sadly, this thriller just didn't catch my interest and I DNF'd at 103 pages after many fits and starts.

Essentially, American Kate moves to Luxembourg when her husband gets a lucrative job working with the banks there. As she is having professional angst, the move gives her an out. In Luxembourg, however, things aren't as they should be, stuff from the past shows up, secrets secrets secrets, etc. (I'm fuzzy on what the end is, of course, having not finished this book. But that's my guess.)

For me, the problem was our heroine, Kate Moore. And it's not her fault, I think -- I just really hated how Pavone wrote her. What late 30ish woman giggles when her husband scratches her palm to indicate his desire for sex? (And why can't he just flirt or make a pass like any other person? Every time Pavone had him hold Kate's hand, I wanted to shake it off to avoid weird palm scratching.) A woman who asserts constantly how much her husband needs her (lady doth protest too much, of course!), she makes a big deal about taking her husband's surname and giving herself a cute nickname when they move. If anyone is needy in this marriage, my bet is on Kate.

Despite her professional background (and we learn pretty quickly she's supposed to be a bad ass), Kate walks around oddly insecure, pathetic at moments. Pavone trots out the existential angst how-did-I-get-here housewife trope, which I'm so very sick of in commercial fiction. (I get waking up some mornings and wishing one was 25 again and all that jazz, but when our heroine moves in this fog every day and I'm not reading Betty Friedan or Sylvia Plath, I want her on antidepressants and at talk therapy.)  In the interest of avoiding spoiling any of the story, I won't say more than this: I really hate it when characters are all, 'oh, I can't do X because it will reveal all the truths about me' when X is saving one's self, acting competently, and/or have a rational response.

As I said, I gave up at about 100 pages in (of a 300 page book), still wondering where the thriller tension would kick in.  I had an idea about what the plot points were going to be based on all the hints Pavone was laying out, although 100 pages in, things were still pretty fuzzy. His narrative style is jumpy: the story is split between now and two years ago, and buried in the two-year old sections are memories and events from Kate's past. It felt a bit jumbled and confusing.

I suppose I was warned: The New York Times blurb includes this telling tidbit: "The tireless scheming of all four principals truly exceeds all sane expectations." I didn't get that far, but what I saw felt pretty nonsensical.

My GoodReads feed has a number of three to five star ratings for this book, so don't take my opinion solely; be sure to check out the others on the tour as well for more opinions!
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Reading Progress

December 8, 2012 – Shelved
January 15, 2013 – Started Reading
January 21, 2013 –
page 16
4.91% "Is it bad I just want to quit now? Really can't stand the heroine."
January 22, 2013 – Shelved as: era-contemporary
January 22, 2013 – Shelved as: formulaic
January 22, 2013 – Shelved as: place-europe
January 22, 2013 – Shelved as: secret-identities
January 22, 2013 – Shelved as: skeletons-in-the-closet
January 22, 2013 – Shelved as: unfinished
January 22, 2013 – Shelved as: yawn
January 22, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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Joanne Sevrain I had a self-loathing desire to push onward beyond page 100. It was my last English book I had here in a non-english country. I agree with this review completely. However it does get better and the plot thickens. However - Kat/Kate/Katherine's friend and mortal enemy (it flips and almost in a trivial manner) Julia who remained outwardly vague and


Joanne Sevrain (Review continues - glitch in my earlier post)

The Julia character who was vague and superficial in nature does her own flip toward the end and reveals a multi-decade plot


Joanne Sevrain (Review continues to a glitch...spoiler alert)

This Julia character was portrayed as a superficial player does her own flip almost as abrupt as the relationships and the novel's story telling timelines. Julia suddenly transforms from a superficial principal to one that harbors the ability to plan deep intrigue and plots for decades. Then over a glass of wine among her plot's puppets and 'frenemies' she openly brags all the details to those who she had manipulated.

I didn't hate the book and at times captivated. It has the potential for so much more. However in the end I thought it was a shallow story with interesting details added - if it connected with some emotion then if be happy to have it as a beach read. It fell short though


Jules Excellent review. The book is a bit of a dud. I found it confusing most of the time. I continued to read until the end but didn't really gain anything.


message 5: by Rebecca (last edited Apr 27, 2017 03:44PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Rebecca You've touched on my main problem with The Expats: Chris Pavone cannot write a female character at all. Kate's observations about the sexual attractiveness of other women sound like things a guy would say. Then there's this super spy's oft-declared love for a husband and best friend who's a useless, uncommunicative schlub. The throwaway description of Bill Maclean having basic missionary position sex as "masterful fucking" made me roll my eyes. The chase was fun, the sexist stereotypes were not.


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