Fresh Blood

Name: Chris Pavone

Title of Book: The Expats

'...automatically puts Chris Pavone on my ‘authors to read’ list...'

Kate and her husband Dexter have left Washington DC to start new lives in Luxembourg. Kate had a rather unusual job which she gave up to become a housewife, and Dexter has supposedly landed a lucrative contract as a computer security expert, but very little is as it seems. In the cobblestoned streets of Luxembourg, Kate’s days are filled with play dates and coffee mornings, her weekends spent in Paris or skiing in the Alps. As their story unfolds, their reasons for being in Luxembourg are not as first thought nor is Dexter's job. The people who they befriend also appear to have an ulterior motive for wanting to get close to Kate and Dexter. Kate is also guarding a secret - one so momentous it could destroy her neat little expat life - and she suspects that another American couple are not who they claim to be; plus her husband is acting suspiciously. As she travels around Europe, she finds herself looking over her shoulder, terrified her past is catching up with her. As Kate begins to dig, to uncover the secrets of those around her, she finds herself buried in layers of deceit so thick they threaten her family, her marriage and her life.

I started reading ‘The Expats’ and expected to find a story based around London mobsters now based on the Costa del Sol. What I found was something completely different. Every page drew me deeper and deeper into a web of intrigue, conspiracy and deceit.

What I find in many novels that flick from the past to the present is that I can’t wait to get back to the present to find out what is happening, and where the story is going to end, but with this book I was as transfixed by the past as with the current events. Kate and Dexter were so intriguing to me that I wanted to know all the history that had got them both to this place in time. ‘The Expats’ is an excellent debut novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat. This is a thrilling debut to remember and Chris Pavone's ‘The Expats’ is a smooth, cold and calculating book that will keep you guessing until the very end. A clever and spellbinding book that automatically puts Chris Pavone on my ‘authors to read’ list and makes me impatient for his next novel.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) What first made you want to write a crime novel?
I didn’t! I simply wanted to write a novel. Who doesn’t? Then the book I actually was not a crime novel. It was a much quieter, more realistic book about a marriage under the strain of moving abroad, and a woman’s transition to staying at home with children. But that manuscript bored me! So I made it more and more complicated until it had evolved into a double-cross-filled espionage thriller.
2) You have experience of living as an expat. Is this where the idea came from?
Yes. I think expat life is filled with rich material for any number of different genres - there’s adventure and travel, there’s reinvention and adultery,
high finance and espionage. It was tough to choose which of these themes to explore. So I sort of used all of them.
3) ‘The Expats’ has quite an intricate plot to it. Did you have the whole plot before you started writing or was it constantly evolving during the writing process?
I worked on the manuscript for a while before I fully decided what type of book it would be, and what would happen; at the beginning, I was sketching characters and situations, but not really working on a very compelling plot. Once I made the decision to turn the book into an espionage thriller, I opened a fresh document and plotted out the whole book, using a very detailed outline. Then I kept revising that outline while I wrote, as new opportunities for twists presented themselves.
4) You use a present timeline and a past timeline in ‘The Expats’. Was this a difficult or easy method to use when writing your debut novel?
It was definitely a challenge to figure out how to space the timelines in a way that wouldn’t be confusing, as well as how to pace the plot revelations so they weren’t so close as to be overwhelmingly clumped together, nor so far apart as to make the book boring. I was a book editor for fifteen years before I wrote ‘The Expats’, and I now have to admit that it’s much harder than it used to look from my editor’s desk!
5) I felt that some characters were ambiguous and others not sure what side they fell which I thought subtle and worked well in keeping me interested. Did any of the characters change their roles as the book developed?
The book revolves around this premise: absolutely no one—from the bit players up to the main characters—is who he or she at first appears to be. They are all morally ambiguous, and not necessarily in the ways that you first suspect. So the reader’s understanding of the characters evolves over the course of reading the book, and the characters themselves also evolve.
6) Where do you think you will go with your next novel? Do you like the idea of regular characters or will your next book contain a different set of people?
I love the idea of regular characters—a big rich world filled with interconnected people—but not particularly for my second novel, which will indeed be populated by a (mostly) different set of people.
7) Was any part of ‘The Expats’ based on any real life events?
Yes, quite a bit. Like my protagonist, I left behind my career in America to follow my spouse’s job to Luxembourg, where for the first time in my life I tended to the household and the children, finding my way amongst strangers, in a world where I didn’t speak the language or know the customs, while my wife worked constantly and travelled incessantly . . . This setup of ‘The Expats’ is the same as the setup of my life, with the genders reversed. And even some of the conversations in the book are near-verbatim replications of real discussions. On the other hand, all the action that’s central to the plot is fiction. As is everything about spying and theft. (But of course that’s what a spy or a thief would say, isn’t it?).
8) You got some amazing advance quotes from the likes of Patricia Cornwell and John Grisham. How does this make you feel getting such praise from these guys?
I’m ecstatic about the book’s early reception among people who write in the same general arena—those you mention as well as Olen Steinhauer and Christopher Reich, John Connolly and Rosamund Lupton. These are people who know what it’s like to try to write this type of convoluted book, and it feels wonderful that they think my effort isn’t horrible.
9) If you had a gun to your head (only figuratively speaking) who would you have play your main protagonist, Kate Moore?
Sorry, but you’d have to put a nonfigurative gun to my head to get an answer. For one, I don’t want to risk offending whoever might end up in the role! (The film rights have been optioned.) And also because there’s a vague face in my imagination, but that face doesn’t match anyone in the real world. So I’m relieved that the decision will never be mine, because it’s not one I could make.
10) What is your ultimate favourite crime novel of all time?
For me, moral ambiguity is probably the most compelling theme in crime novels. ‘The Expats’ merely dabbles in that realm, but Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ is the masterpiece exploration of this central human dilemma.