Spy type skullduggery in final Edgar entry: The Expats

expatsIt’s been almost a month since my last post – 24/7 deadlines in real life keeping me away – but I’m excited to wrap up my reviews of the Edgar nominees for Best First Novel!  It’s been a great year; even the books that weren’t quite my cup of tea were well worth reading.  The final review is for The Expats, the debut for Chris Pavone.  

The premise is great.  Kate Moore’s life is a bit of a bore.  She works for the federal government, a boring state department job, and her husband Dexter is an equally colorless blend of computer nerd and financial services guy, making his living helping corporations keep their data secure.  He takes a job overseas – in tiny Luxembourg – and this just might be the shake-up they need.  But there are hints that things are not all they seem… and indeed, Kate’s not such a boring gal after all.  She rides a desk for the federal government, all right.  The CIA.  And she used to be the gun-toting type of spy.  (Picture Claire Danes in Homeland.)

So off they go.  They settle in.  Their kids do well.  And little by little, Kate begins to suspect that her husband is more than he seems, too.  Could he really have stolen 50 million euros?  Surely not. And that nice couple that they met… are they just a little too friendly?  Are they even a couple?  Surprise!  They’re FBI.   And maybe assassins.  And shades of the growingly popular TV series, The Americans, Julia and Bill playacted their sham marriage into real love.

There’s a lot of brainpower behind The Expats, a lot of plots, subplots, and hidden backstory that emerges in the end.   I was able to follow all the plot points – good job done by the author! – but found all the twists unnecessarily convoluted.  I liked Kate, but didn’t care enough about the other characters.  However,  I do think the book would make an excellent movie!  I’d totally buy a ticket.  Sure enough, a quick Google search revealed that an Expats film is in the works.

So congrats to Matthew Quirk and his The 500 – if handing out the Edgar was up to me, he’d be taking it home.   Every year, I am reminded that preferences and predilections are personal, as my reviews and rankings don’t match up with what others think – even friends and family! – leading to much friendly squabbling up until the Edgar ceremony itself.  An example: My husband couldn’t finish The 500.  He got bored.  Seriously?

mwa_logoFINAL MWA Edgar (Best First Novel) ranking:

  1. The 500 by Matthew Quirk
  2. Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman
  3. The Expats by Chris Pavone
  4. Black Fridays by Michael Sears
  5. The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay
  6. Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Countdown to Edgars… May 2!  

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