Doing the European Reading Challenge has been a lot of fun. What’s nice about the “one country, one book” thing is it forces you to spread things around and not just read a bunch of books set in one country or a small group of countries. But while it might be easy to find books set in the United Kingdom, France or Russia how can you find books set in places like Luxembourg, Lichtenstein or Moldova? Even with publishers like Europa Editions and Melville International Crime regularly supplying us with fresh stuff from places like Spain, Ukraine, Italy and even Turkey it’s not easy to find books set in or about the microstates of Europe. Therefore, if I wanted to broaden my participation in Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge I’d have to do a little research. Or experience a bit of good luck. Or both, which recently was the case with me.
After reading a few book blogs I discovered that American author Chris Pavone had recently written an international thriller set in, of all places the tiny Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Published in 2012, his first-time novel entitled The Expats, earned a ton of positive reviews and blogger comments. Then, last weekend during one of my trips to the public library I happened to stumble on display of books that were recommended for readers’ book clubs. Looking down, what did I find but a small stack of about dozen copies of The Expats. I couldn’t have been more happier.
But even happier I did become because I thoroughly enjoyed The Expats. It tells the story of Kate, her husband Dexter and their two young boys living the lives of expats in beautiful and sophisticated Luxemburg. While Dexter works as a cyber security consultant for a local bank and Kate keeps house, raises the children and socializes with other expat wives something dark and mysterious seems to be going on in the shadows. Why is Dexter working long hours and spending weekends and holidays on business trips to exotic locations like Bosnia? Who really is that charming and fun-loving American expat couple who’s taken an immediate liking to them? Lastly, could Kate’s former secret life as a CIA assassin be coming back to haunt her? Let’s just say if you’ve seen movies like Mr. and Mrs. Smith and True Lies, even the closest of married couples can harbor secrets from each other. Big secrets.
Not only did I find this an entertaining novel, I also found it smart and very clever. (Yes, I saw a few developments coming, but that’s OK. There’s also no shortage of surprises either.) There’s also a bit of humor thrown in too. But through all the action and intrigue, it’s still a novel about trust, marital life and living with the choices one made in the past. (One Amazon reviewer commented “I could start a therapy group based on this novel.”) For these reasons alone, I have no problem recommending The Expats.