The Expats: A Novel by Chris Pavone (Broadway, $15.00, 352 pages)
The Expats by editor-turned-novelist Chris Pavone has all the twists and turns of a Robert Ludlum or Clive Cussler action-thriller, plus a domestic element that sets it apart from the pack: it plays the layers of duplicity in Kate and Dexter Moore’s professional lives against the secrets they guard from each other in their marriage.
Kate is a spy and a young mom – a smart, self-consciously attractive, nominally maternal, thirty-something who leaves a CIA career to stay home with the kids when Dexter lands a lucrative banking security job in Luxembourg. But nothing and no one in The Expats is as advertised. Kate’s nagging questions about her husband’s fundamental character spur her to investigate when she senses threatening intentions in a friendly American couple they meet in the ex-pat community in Luxembourg.
Don’t read it for shimmering imagery or deeply conflicted characters. It isn’t that kind of book. Kate is Jason Bourne in a skirt. She can remove herself from the Company, but she can’t squash the instincts that made her a hired gun. The Expats is a set of spiraling secrets, the exposition of which is played out in lushly detailed European cities.
In a Publishers Weekly interview in 2012, Chris Pavone said, “A detailed map of the story line was what made it possible to write such a labyrinthe book…” – in addition to a numbered list of twists and turns. Action thriller fans will love this one. Well recommended.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. The Expats was released in a trade paper version on January 22, 2013. “Brilliant, insanely clever, and delectably readable.” Library Journal
When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro
Having enjoyed other novels by Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go), when I was offered the chance to borrow a copy of When We Were Orphans – written in 2000 – I decided to accept. This is an agreeable read which, although I found it slow to start with, made me think about childhood loss and how memory can play tricks.
The protagonist is Christopher Banks, born in Shanghai to a British couple early in the twentieth century. There he led the happy sheltered life of an expatriate of the time until the mysterious disappearance of his parents. The story is narrated by Christopher as now some twenty years later he is living in London, having been sent to England after becoming an orphan. He comes across as a bumbling tragic character and it is difficult to imagine him as the well-respected detective he has become.
Since he was orphaned at the age of nine, Christopher has been haunted by the unresolved case of his parents’ disappearance, which he has always believed was a kidnapping. Now as a detective he’s more determined than ever to return to Shanghai to solve the case; this despite the fact that the city is under attack by the Japanese army. His memories of the city and the difficulties he encounters – especially in attempting to trust the people around him – make this latter part of the novel far more atmospheric than the earlier stages.
By the end, I was thoroughly drawn in to this story that had built slowly but which the author managed to bring to a convincing (and satisfying) conclusion.
This review was written by LindyLouMac and is reprinted with her permission. She is an expatriate who lives in Italy with her husband. Read more of her informative reviews at http://lindyloumacbookreviews.blogspot.com/ .