Premise: Kate Moore is a CIA agent with secrets she is trying to forget. The opportunity to give it all up, secrets and all, is presented to her by her husband, Dexter, when he is offered a lucrative job in banking security in another country. And so it happens that Kate quits her job as a CIA operative and becomes an expat stay at home mom in Europe.
With so many expats in Luxembourg, Kate soon begins to suspect that her new friends may not be who they claim to be. She also learns that the FBI, in connection with Interpol, might be investigating her husband for criminal activity, and she must use her skills as a CIA operative to learn what exactly his activity is. In the process, she begins to uncover secrets about her friends that lead her to suspect them of not being who they claim to be, and about Dexter, whose job to protect banks from hackers might be a cover to do more sinister things.
Kate may be rusty when it comes to being a spy, but her instincts might not be. Everyone around Kate is surrounded by secrets and lies, including herself, and she soon learns that she can’t trust anybody, perhaps even her own husband. As plots are unraveled, Kate finds herself questioning everything and everyone, and her past secrets coming back to haunt her.
Themes: The Expats is a political thriller that is more personal than international. Though it takes place between citizens of one country living in another, it is really more about the individuals than the countries they live in. While politics do play a part in them, the politics of interpersonal relationships is a more prevalent theme.
Trust becomes a huge issue for every character in The Expats. While Kate trusts her husband, she still suspects there are many things he is not telling her. Mistrust gets in the way of Kate meeting new people, trusting friends, and sometimes withholding information from her old bosses in the CIA and from Dexter. We learn very quickly that Kate’s mistrust might be considered paranoia, but her instincts are usually pretty good when it comes to reading people.
I ultimately discovered that The Expats is a redemption story. With her past secrets always in the back of her mind, Kate is worried that they could be brought back at any time, and those secrets might come with dire consequences. Will Kate be given opportunities to make right her past and present choices?
Pros: The pace of The Expats made it difficult to put down, with secrets being doled out bit by bit until I couldn’t stand to wait for the next revelation. This is a story full of vivid language and colorful metaphors. Kate was believable as a spy, and the characters worked in creating a kernel of doubt about their trustworthiness. Without giving anything away, the ending seemed to be a vapid cop-out at first, until I really thought about the point of the story as a whole. Since this is a story about Kate and no one else, in this context, it was the perfect ending for this story.
Cons: There is an abundance of sentence fragments and incomplete or run-on sentences in The Expats. It sometimes works for making the narrative punchy and straightforward, but many times it has the opposite effect, making it choppy and difficult to understand. I also don’t know much about being a spy, but it seemed like a seasoned CIA agent, though out of practice she might be, would make wiser decisions than Kate made in certain situations.
Recommendations: The Expats is a nonstop ride of distrust with suspicion being placed on everyone. What Chris Pavone has done is create a spy thriller that is accessible enough that just about anyone can get into, but that diehard fans of the genre will probably enjoy even more. If you’re looking to get sucked into a mystery with the truth just out of reach, look no further.