She couldn’t guess the realm where the problem dwelt. Or even if there was one. And although she felt the vague need to talk about it, she felt a stronger compulsion to keep her concerns secret. She’d always been comfortable with the unsaid; secrets are what she did.” — from The Expats, by Chris Pavone
For several months, this book kept catching my eye in the bookstore, as if pleading, “pick me, pick meee!!” Has this ever happened to you? For some reason, out of all the books in the store, you pick one that was not even in your sight line, or did not largely impinge on your consciousness the way bestsellers will. This has happened to me several times and I’ve discovered new writers this way.
This is largely what happened when I picked up this book, and I’m glad I did. The writing style and even the plot reminds me of Le Carre — how spycraft can be dreary and not the exciting game that Fleming or even Ludlum dishes out. In this case, we take a look at American couple Kate and Dexter. She’s an expat wife who followed her husband to Luxembourg because he had a job doing security at an international bank. The thing is, Kate is also a deep cover operative for the CIA and has been for years. Recruited out of college, she’s managed to keep her secret from her husband. In between missions and covert assassinations, she maintains her cover as a low-level researcher at a, er, research firm. It was only when they moved to Luxembourg that things start unravelling. Unmoored from her complacent life in the States, and trained in the art of subterfuge and noticing things, she begins to suspect that Dexter himself is not all he seems to be, with his job as a security expert. She also begins to wonder at another American expat couple who are not who they claim to be. Chapters move from the past to the present, from a covert operation to snapshots of a marriage that is slowly eroding because of secrets, this book explores the inner workings of a marriage in trouble, of a couple trying to communicate yet at the same time burdened by secrets each can’t reveal. It’s also a great spy novel — and if I ever need to lose a tail effectively or go about researching someone’s real identity, reading this novel is a good way to start. It’s a great book to get lost in.