Secret CIA spouses? Double-crosses? Alleged bank fraud? Check, check and check. Chris Pavone’s debut spy thriller, The Expats, has all these elements—and so much more—in a book that is receiving comparisons to those from Ken Follett and Robert Ludlum.
In The Expats, Dexter and Kate Moore move to Luxembourg with their two children so Dexter can work as security consultant for a bank. It just so happens that Kate is a CIA agent who’s recently quit her job. They meet another couple and start to hang out. But nothing is as it seems—and the new couple are FBI agents onto Dexter and the seemingly huge pile of cash he’s stolen. As Kate delves into their investigation of her husband, the plot’s twists become even more nailbiting.
In a starred review, we called it “an impressive thriller by first-time novelist Pavone, with almost more double-crosses than a body can stand.” Here is a brief excerpt from the book.
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Prelude: Today, 10:52 a.m., Paris
Kate is staring through a plate-glass window filled with pillows and tablecloths and curtains, all in taupes and chocolates and moss greens, a palate that replaced the pastels of last week. The season changed, just like that.
She turns from the window, to this woman standing beside her on the narrow sliver of sidewalk in the rue Jacob. Who is this woman?
“Oh my God, Kate? Is that you?” The voice is familiar. But the voice is not enough.
Kate has forgotten what exactly she is halfheartedly looking for. It’s something fabric. Curtains for the guest bath? Something frivolous.
She cinches the belt of her raincoat, a self-protective gesture. It rained earlier, on the way to school drop-off, mist snaking in from the Seine, the hard heels of her leather boots clicking on the wet cobblestones. She’s still wearing her lightweight slicker, the folded Herald-Tribune poking out of her pocket, crossword puzzle completed at the café next to school where she eats breakfast most mornings, with other expat moms.
This woman is not one of them.
This woman is wearing sunglasses that cover half her forehead and most of her cheeks and the entire area of the eyes; there’s no way to positively I.D. whoever is under all that black plastic and gold logos. Her skin is glowing with a healthy, natural-looking tan, as if she spends a lot of time outdoors, playing tennis, or gardening. Not one of those extra-dark deep-fries that so many French women favor, tans generated by the ultraviolet radiation of fluorescent lamps in coffinlike booths.
This woman? She is smiling, a mouth full of perfectly aligned, brilliantly white teeth. It’s a familiar smile, paired with a familiar voice.
“It’s me,” this woman says, removing her sunglasses, finally.
Kate instinctively takes a step back, stumbling against the sooty gray stone at the base of the building. The hardware on her handbag clanks alarmingly against the window’s glass.
Her first thought is of the children, a full-fledged panic coming on quickly. “Oh my God!” she manages to sputter out.
Kate’s mind races, hurtling herself down the street and around a corner, through the heavy red door and the always-cool breezeway, under the portico that surrounds the courtyard and into the marble-floored lobby, up in the brass-caged elevator, into the cheery yellow foyer with the eighteenth-century drawing in the gilt frame. Rushing down the hallway to the far end, to the wood-paneled office with the rooftop-skimming views of the Eiffel Tower. Then inside the desk drawer: the double-reinforced steel box.
“What a surprise,” Kate says, which is both true and not.
And inside the lockbox: the four passports with alternate identities for the family. And the thick bundle of cash doubled-over with a rubber band, an assortment of large-denomination euros and British pounds and American dollars, new clean bills.
And wrapped in a light blue chamois cloth, the Beretta 92FS that she bought from that Scottish pimp in Amsterdam.
The Expats by Chris Pavone, used with permission of Crown, is out now.