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The Expats    by Chris Pavone order for
by Chris Pavone
Order:  USA  Can
Broadway, 2013 (2012)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The basic story is not an unusual one - wife becomes suspicious of her husband's business activities and worries that he's doing something illegal - but where Chris Pavone takes it, and his settings, make The Expats an unique and outstanding thriller.

First of all, Kate Moore is not the usual desperate housewife - she used to be a field CIA operative, who killed when she had to. Readers learn early on that something happened to trigger Kate's retiring from field work, but not what it was or why she has kept it from her bosses. That dark secret haunts her as the story unfolds, making her wonder what part it plays in events.

Kate fell for nerdy Dexter as 'her antidote' to the 'manipulative, vain, ruthless, and selfish' men she worked with. He 'does electronic security, for banks.' They have a good life with two small sons. Out of the blue, Dexter announces his plan to take a job in the grand duchy of Luxembourg, where he will 'make a lot of money' and they can travel in Europe as they've always dreamed of doing.

So Kate extracts herself from the CIA and decides she will 'reboot herself. Relaunch. She will become, at last, a woman who is not constantly lying to her husband about what she really does, and who she really is.'

Of course, the irony is that once Kate settles her young family into the expat lifestyle, she begins to suspect that Dexter has been lying to her about what he really does. It also becomes clear that an expat couple (Julia and Bill Maclean), who have befriended them, are not what they seem. So Kate exploits her sources, and also investigates herself, in between childcare and coffee dates with other mums.

Chris Pavone turns wheel within wheels in his developing plot, whose characters come in all shades of gray. Kate worries about what she has done, what Dexter might have done, and what Julia and Bill might be planning to do. As she digs, readers follow her and her family as they live and travel in different parts of Europe. And when Kate finally learns the truth, it's convoluted and totally unexpected.

It's rare now that a thriller writer can come up with a unique twist - Chris Pavone succeeds admirably in The Expats, which I highly recommend to fans of the genre. And I do hope that he's working on a sequel so that we can spend more time with superspy Kate Moore and her delightful family.

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