book review: the expats by chris pavone

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In my secret life where I am a spy, I am Kate Moore. She’s a stay-at-home mom with a little bit of a, ahem, unique backstory. She used to work for the CIA. This book basically tells the story of why it’s “used to.” Hint: she has a husband and two kids now and maybe that was a hard balance.

This book had a lot of great individual sequences (a ski accident told in moment-by-moment, tumbling detail was particularly memorable for me). There are a lot of palpable details of the settings, which gave it the feel of a fun international-spy-James-Bond film: rich colors, smells, music, fabrics, foods.

The relationship between Kate and her husband was the hook to this story. There’s an element of Mr. & Mrs. Smith here, where you watch them learn about each other, but also some very normal parenting moments. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of her two worlds. Dexter is a super nerd, specializing in bank cyber security... or is he? [cue dramatic music]

Downsides of the book were some random (very fleeting) scenes of violence and sexuality, as well as the ending. I won’t spoil anything and I’m ALL for twists but this one felt like it had one too many twists. The man-behind-the-man-behind-the-man-behind-the-man is ok, but not one more. But it didn’t ruin the book, I just rolled my eyes a couple times. Also there’s some timeline jumping (i.e. five years ago, two years ago, last summer), which was a smidge harder to follow than I think it should have been.

Overall, I laughed a bunch, and I liked watching Kate’s conflict when she tries to live a normal life and finds herself constantly questioning everyone’s motives. She has a firm “I will never investigate my family” policy that she finds herself increasingly questioning. It’s an intriguing premise, especially when the family’s beautiful flat in Luxembourg has a perfect view of the prime minister’s office balcony. [cue dramatic music]