Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Expats - TLC Book Review

The Expats by Christ Pavone
Crown Publishers, 2012

Format?  Hardback
Source? the publisher via TLC Book Tours
FTC Disclosure:  I received a complimentary copy of The Expats from the publisher via TLC Book Tours.  However, the following review and the opinions within are mine and offered without bias.

Why?  I'm particularly interested in female CIA operatives, spy stories, government secrets, etc. honestly because of the fantastic show "Homeland."  When I read the synopsis of The Expats, I knew I wanted to give it a go.

Cover? the cover is what drew me into The Expats in the first place...female spy and international locations in the background.

Title? I'm going to be honest here...While I've heard and seen the word "expats" a bazillion times, I had to look the word up just to make sure I completely understood the connotations.  The word is used frequently within the story and I somehow convinced myself that the definition must have something to do with secrecy of some kind or government work, etc.  On the contrary, an "expat" is just someone who is living or working in a country other than the one they grew up in.  
Ahem. Learned a new vocabulary word.

I was reminded of? "Homeland" and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" mostly, but a few times my brain thought about Gone Girl just because of this husband and wife who haven't been completely honest with each other about some really important things.

What Now?

The publisher is generously offering one copy of The Expats to one of my readers!  Just leave your name, blog address and email in the comments section and you're entered!  I'm going to start leaving Giveaways open for a couple of weeks at least and make one announcement and shipment at the beginning or end of each month. 

Golden Lines

The last time she'd worn a scent had been in college, a tiny bottle given by an aspiring boyfriend as a Valentine's present.  But perfumes were habitually eschewed in her line of work: they were noticeable, identifiable, memorable, traceable.  All the things she didn't want to be.  (48)

Much later, Kate realized that Chicago should have been her first clue. (48)

Unless someone had tampered with her car, and for example installed a battery-operated GPS transmitter in the hollow under the supple gray leather of the passenger seat. (104)

She's now become convinced that she will indeed find what she's looking for.
That duplicitous bastard.  (113)

Kate shared with many of her CIA brethren a lifelong disdain for the feds who reported into the Hoover building.  The animosity between the spies and the cops was almost entirely irrational, born from the political considerations of the men who'd run both agencies, distrusting one another, playing poorly in the sandbox, vying for the attentions of the succession of dads who'd lived in the mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue. (133)

"Okay," she said.  "I have a strange question: is it possible they're after me?" 
Kate waited, but he didn't elaborate.  "How do you know?"
"Because if anyone was after you, it'd be us," Hayden said.  "It'd be me." (137)

Kate was never going to understand the extent to which men were stupid. (274)

She shook her head: no, this wasn't true.  Or was it?  Kate had never imagined that Dexter might know everything about her.  But tonight, for the first time, she had doubts.  Because Dexter was much more clever, much more deceptive, and much more devious than she'd thought possible.  She'd been wrong about him, all these years.  How wrong? (283)


Kate is an ex-CIA operative, trying to make a life out of being a stay at home mom while her husband's IT/banking career seemingly takes off.  A quick move out of the country and her husband's new, secret job send up Kate's alarm bells, however, and she begins to dig.  Like a colored scarf being drawn from a magician's hat, Kate is shocked to find that the secrets go much deeper than she anticipated.  

What I Liked

Vivid descriptions of the locales...Luxembourg, Paris, Switzerland...all areas of Europe I hope to be able to visit one day.

Even though the time switches changed and confused me some, I do very much appreciate even a spy novel like this one keeping me on my toes.  

Just enough of an inside look at the lives of FBI agents and CIA operatives to intrigue me even more than I already was.  

I appreciated the attention the author (who is a man) gave to the idea that Kate would find being a full time mom not quite as stimulating as her previous profession.  These descriptions and Kate's feelings as well as her inability to completely let go of her former operative suspicions and investigative behaviors, felt right on to me.

Kate's secrets - especially the one secret that torments her.  The life of a spy is many times romanticized.  Not here.  

The intricacies of Dexter's work...especially once all the explanations have been gathered.  Whoa Nelly.  
My bubble was burst a little though after reading Pavone's Acknowledgments where he offers a disclaimer about the "completely fictional nature" of his descriptions of cyber-hacking as well as specifics about the CIA.  Dangit.

What I Didn't Like

There were teasers throughout the story that while kept me reading...but tended at times to be obvious or give up too much information at once.  

There were a few times where it was obvious what was going on...even Kate was being duped...especially by two coincidental "friends."  But, somehow even Kate, the ever alert, CIA operative missed those clues.  Really?  Kate eventually figures out most of the twists and turns of the overall plot...but it never occurred to her that it was strange that Julia insisted on retrieving her cell phone from Kate's car alone?  Even though it was raining, and this particular incident was at the beginning of the story, this was obvious to me.  I felt it was unrealistic that Kate would miss this and a few other clues like this.

The timeframe switches also reminded me of Gone Girl, and especially at the beginning, I got a little confused and had to backtrack.  I never really grew comfortable with the switches.  I appreciated that the "Today" sections were actually in a different font than the rest of the story, but the two other back and forth time switches were difficult to decipher sometimes.  I read this book as a thriller and found myself having to backtrack more than I usually would.

At the end, when Kate is putting the pieces together, there are parts of the story that the reader can figure out where Kate got them, but then there are other parts that the reader just has to trust Kate's acumen.  I didn't feel like the reader was given enough info to piece together all the puzzle or see the connections that Kate eventually does...even after she explains it.

Julia - I strongly disliked this character from the very beginning.  I wasn't sure why, but of course, it all comes out in the end.  

The ending.  Julia, especially.  Am I supposed to believe that after juggling years of deception and manipulation that all of a sudden she becomes meek and mild?  This didn't ring true for me.

Overall Recommendation

The Expats is a quick (I read it pretty much in two afternoons) spy/thriller novel, and even though I poked a few holes in it above, I still liked it.  

The Author

Chris Pavone

Other Stops on the Tour

Tuesday, January 22nd:  Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, January 23rd:  No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, January 24th:  My Bookshelf
Friday, January 25th:  The Blog of Litwits
Monday, January 28th:  Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Tuesday, January 29th:  Literally Jen
Wednesday, January 30th:  Peppermint Ph.D.
Thursday, January 31st:  BookChickDi
Friday, February 1st:  Book Club Classics!
Monday, February 4th:  She Treads Softly
Tuesday, February 5th:  House of Crime and Mystery
Wednesday, February 6th:  Chaotic Compendiums
Thursday, February 7th:  A Bookworm’s World
Friday, February 8th:  Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Monday, February 11th:  Book Addict Katie
Tuesday, February 12th:  Jenny Loves to Read
Wednesday, February 13th:  Crime Fiction Lover
Friday, February 15th:  Dolce Bellezza
Monday, February 18th:  Reviews by Elizabeth A. White


  1. I wasn't sure of the true meaning of the word either.. I was sure it had something to do with politics.

    I've just started Gone Girl and it's already clear all is not as it seems... this read sounds interesting, thanks for the review.

    1. Me too, Karen :p
      If you've just started Gone Girl, you are in for a roller coaster ride of all roller coaster ride :)

  2. Sounds very interesting!!!!

    1. It's a fast read, Pam...but an entertaining one as well :)

  3. You don't need to enter me as I am not a big fan of the spy genre. Dexter?! I think that name carries too much baggage any more to be an effective everyday name.

    1. LOL! I'm a huge Dexter Morgan fan and had a difficult time with the name as well...I had just to read over it quickly and try to block out the images. My preconceived ideas of a character named "Dexter" are probably what made me expect Kate's husband Dexter to be more interesting than he really was :/

  4. I have read some very tepid reviews of this one, and can't say that it's one that I am excited about reading, but you did a great job with this review in highlighting the parts of the book that you felt were well done. I might just have to give this one a little more consideration.

    1. I definitely think my newfound interest in CIA operatives, female spies, and of course, the well known narrative of woman, mother trying to have and do it all pulled me into the story. I am anxious to read other opinions from those readers who are longtime followers of the spy novel and/or have lived or visited the parts of the world where the action takes place. I had just finished reading All That I Am when I started The Expats, so I was ready for a little lighter fare.

  5. I listened to this one an audio and ended up getting the book in print to keep track of the time shifts.

    1. I can't even imagine trying to keep up with this one on audio :/ Yikes!

  6. Sounds interesting! Thanks for the review!