Sunday, June 28, 2015

THE EXPATS by Chris Pavone

When I think of expats, I think of Hemingway and Fitzgerald in Europe drinking absinthe.  Here we have a trailing spouse in Luxembourg whose husband Dexter has accepted a contract position as a computer security expert.  His life doesn’t seem too exciting, especially with a name like Dexter, but his wife Kate has to jump through some hoops in the form of exit interviews with the CIA.  Dexter knows that Kate had a government job but has no real clue what she did.  Likewise, Kate has only the vaguest notion of what Dexter does all day long and soon comes to wonder if her husband is up to something. Her suspicions largely stem from the fact that fellow expat couple Julia and Bill seem to be hovering a little too closely.  Kate’s past as an operative includes one particularly sticky encounter that haunts her, and she has to start doing some of her own snooping to find out if she or Dexter is the object of Julia and Bill’s constant attention.  The question in the reader’s mind, and, to some degree in Kate’s as well, is whether Kate is just paranoid and bored and looking for any excuse to initiate some clandestine activities. Plotwise, this is a gem.  As is the case with many spy novels, though, the characters, especially Dexter, are a little lacking in depth.  Kate doesn’t seem at all capable of assassinating baddies and overlooks some obvious intrusions by Bill and Julia.  Her own furtive investigations into Dexter’s doings are a bit amateurish, even getting herself videotaped in the act.  Still, we at least have a sense of who Kate is/was.  Dexter is kind of a nebulous nerd whom Kate has trusted all these years, mostly because if she delves into his work life too deeply, she fears that he will start asking about hers.  Thus we have sort of a Mexican standoff between two people who stifle their curiosity so as not to reveal too much about themselves.  The real question here is who has the most to hide.

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