The Expats: A Novel

By Chris Pavone

(Crown, $26, 326 pages)

Who is this author?

Chris Pavone had a 20-year career as an editor. “book doctor” and writer – but a lot of it was of the ghost-writing variety. He edited “The Wine Log” and such cookbooks as Giada De Laurentis’ “Everyday Italian.” Then his wife got a job offer she couldn’t refuse in Luxembourg, of all places, and off the Pavones went, two kids in tow. There, Chris became a European Mr. Mom, hanging out with expatriated moms, all of whom had left interesting lives behind, as he had. Noticing that, he began to muse about what those lives might have been like. In no time, he had cooked up his first novel, “The Ex-Pats,” which went on to spark some of the best book buzz of 2012.

 What is this book about?

It’s a spy fiction thriller, but unlike the popular espionage novels by Graham Greene, John Le Carre and Robert Ludlum, this one has a female protagonist, and she is a struggling working mom, balancing the demands of career, kids and marriage. Then Kate Moore’s husband gets a job offer he can’t refuse in Luxembourg, of all places, and off the Moores go, two kids in tow. (Pavone was following that old saw: Write what you know.”

But there is something else in the balance, and that is Kate’s very secret double life as a CIA operative for 15 years, something even her husband didn’t know about. Moving to Luxembourg offers a chance to start over, which Kate embraces, learning a new language and becoming a dutiful housewife – but she finds her husband is growing oddly distant. Then another American couple arrives and Kate becomes suspicious that they too are hiding deep secrets. She begins to dig into them and finds herself in a dangerous place, uncovering a “long con” that threatens to destroy all she holds dear.

Why you’ll like it:

Who doesn’t like a good puzzle — especially one with clever twists that keep readers on the edge of their chairs? Pavone is getting raves for the plot of “The Ex-Pats” and for how deftly he handles the complex intrigues his characters spin. If you like a spy story that keeps you guessing right up to the end, check this book out (in both senses of that phrase.)

What others are saying:

Says The New York Times: “Sly. . . . Pavone strengthens this book with a string of head-spinning revelations in its last pages. . . . The tireless scheming of all four principals truly exceeds all sane expectations.”

“Brilliant, insanely clever, and delectably readable,” says Library Journal in a starred review.

“Meticulously plotted, psychologically complex. . . . The sheer amount of bombshell plot twists are nothing short of extraordinary, but it’s Pavone’s portrayal of Kate and her quest to find meaning in her charade of an existence that makes this book such a powerful read,” says Publishers Weekly in its starred review.

Says the San Francisco Bay Guardian: “Hard to put down. . . . ‘The Expats’ is as much a novel about a woman trying to balance a job, a husband and kids as it is a spy thriller. . . . It works.”

When is it available?

“The Expats” is hiding in plain sight on the shelves of the Downtown Hartford Public Library and the Mark Twain Branch.

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