I bought The Expats on a whim, as it was only 20p on amazon kindle. It's not my usual thing and I didn't have high expectations because of the bargain price, but I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed it. The Expats is a good, solid debut from Chris Pavone.
The Plot: CIA agent Kate Moore quits her job and moves to Luxembourg with her young family as her husband is offered a new, well paid banking job. Kate initially views the move as a new start, a chance to be more honest to her husband (he is unaware that she was a CIA agent) and to distance herself from the guilt she feels after an undercover operation went wrong. However, soon Kate's past begins to intrude on her present. She is suspicious, paranoid and convinced that government agencies are either spying on her or her husband. She is distrustful of her fellow expats, and uncertain if her new friend Julia is all she seems.
This is perfect easy-reading, ideal for a beach book as it is tense and well plotted. To begin with, it is unclear whether Kate is deluded, or right to be suspicious of her husband, his business and her new friends. Pavone is very effective at contrasting the monotony of being a stay-at-home mum with the excitement of Kate’s investigations into her husband’s dodgy dealings. Kate is both a Jason Bourne-esque former agent and a bored wife and mother, and I liked that these character traits weren’t mutually exclusive. I enjoyed the combination of domestic drama and spy thriller.
The action moves between Paris, Luxembourg and Washington and switches between past and present, which adds to the suspense. Luxembourg is well described, and though I’ve never been, Pavone made me feel like I have. As a former expat, I can relate to the claustrophobia that Kate feels within the expat community. People are united by a shared nationality rather than shared interests, a phenomenon that Julia takes advantage of to good effect.
The Expats is an unexpected gem, and I am considering reading other similar spy-thrillers as I enjoyed this so much. Has anyone got any recommendations?