The Expats by Chris Pavone

May 27, 2012

Plot summary (from the publisher): Kate Moore is a working mother, struggling to make ends meet, to raise children, to keep a spark in her marriage . . . and to maintain an increasingly unbearable life-defining secret. So when her husband is offered a lucrative job in Luxembourg, she jumps at the chance to leave behind her double-life, to start anew.

She begins to reinvent herself as an expat, finding her way in a language she doesn’t speak, doing the housewifely things she’s never before done—playdates and coffee mornings, daily cooking and never-ending laundry. Meanwhile, her husband works incessantly, at a job Kate has never understood, for a banking client she’s not allowed to know. He’s becoming distant and evasive; she’s getting lonely and bored.

Then another American couple arrives. Kate soon becomes suspicious that these people are not who they say they are, and she’s terrified that her own past is catching up to her. So Kate begins to dig, to peel back the layers of deception that surround her. She discovers fake offices and shell corporations and a hidden gun, a mysterious farmhouse and numbered accounts with bewildering sums of money, and finally unravels the mind-boggling long-play con that threatens her family, her marriage, and her life.

Warning: MAJOR spoilers below!


  • There was just something about Pavone’s writing style that made me want to turn the pages. He was pretty good at keeping suspense levels high (for the most part), so I was never bored here.
  • Although I disliked the ending in general, I did appreciate the fact that Kate gave Julia and Bill a chance to escape. If she and Dexter were going to get off scot-free for their roles, then Julia and Bill “deserved” the same.
  • This was an extremely promising novel from a writer I’d never heard of before. I’ll definitely look for more stuff from him in the future.


  • NONE of the characters was particularly likable, which really sucked. I wanted to root for somebody in a book like this, but Kate was annoying, Dexter was insufferable, and Julia and Bill were laid out as antagonists from the start.
  • Kate’s biggest problem was that she seemed so scared and anxiety-ridden the whole damn time. She was supposed to have been this experienced CIA field operative who had gone on dangerous missions and KILLED people, FFS. So why was she forever portrayed as wringing her hands and whining about what Dexter might or might not have been up to? It was bullshit. Just check his vonage business phone service bill to get his office address or ASK him.
  • While I said Pavone did a good job of keeping things suspenseful for the most part, he wasn’t entirely successful at it. I hated how he gave the reader SO LITTLE to go on for a majority of the book. Kate would think of some angle, track down a lead, find nothing, and then stew about it for days. This went on and on and on and on. I mean, the clues should have been strung out better or there should have been more CONFRONTATIONS instead of simple stare-downs between her and Dexter where NOTHING was said at all. That was the most frustrating aspect of the book by far.
  • I hated the ending. Hated. it. Why spend all that time telling us about this cool heist of $50 million and then NOT let any of the main characters actually get away with it??? Kate, who shot a woman (a MOTHER) in cold blood certainly didn’t have any moral high horse to stand on, so why not just keep the cash and move on with their lives. Yes, Julia said that Dexter could have been caught, but the official FBI investigation was closed, so they didn’t really have anything to worry about, did they?
  • Dexter was such a weak little scumbag. As much as I disliked Kate, I disliked him even more and wish she had left him for being a gullible, spineless wimp.
  • The CIA accepted Kate back after that whole episode? Whatever.


I was really excited to read The Expats by Chris Pavone because of all the great buzz surrounding the novel’s release. And while I do see promise in the author, this particular work just didn’t cut it for me. There were some good elements, but overall I experienced more disappointment and frustration than anything else. I give this one 3 stars out of 5.

One Response to “The Expats by Chris Pavone”

  1. What really frustrated me was what happened to the other half of the $50 M? I realized Kate was using the $24M left in Dexter’s account to fund her new job at CIA but where was the other half? Did I miss that!

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