Thursday, June 6, 2013
Secrets of a stay at home mommy
The Expats by Chris Pavone
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
*edited because I am wide awake and could assemble my thoughts better.
I had stopped reading spy thrillers or any kind of thrillers in my late teens. I find them formulaic and depressing, though I still enjoy over-the-top, psycho-sociopath Bond as written by Ian Fleming and the crazy adventures in Alistair Maclean's novels. The latter I treat with respect; some of his books made me cry crazy buckets (say, Guns of Navarone or HMS Ulysses).
When I read the review of this book in The Sunday Star, I was intrigued. A former spy female protagonist in a thriller? Bring it to mama, sugar.
Sadly, as a reader who favours characters over plots, I don't find Mr Pavone's characterisation of Kate convincing. I am willing to forgive clunky story telling if I love the characters (I'm looking at you, Laurell K Hamilton). Somehow, I don't think a female former spy would let matters of trust and privacy to stop her from finding things out about her husband when she sniffed something suspicious about his new job.
Also, as the story was near totally from her POV, I find that Kate I is ... boring. I get that she has to make a huge transition from being a CIA analyst to being an expatriate hausfrau, but her desperation at the banality of her life is so ... meh. Perhaps she's not a larger-than-life character as I am used to reading in other genres, but seriously, it's hard to want to root for her. Or her husband. Or the antagonist characters. They're all so meh. You expect some unexpected jalapenos somewhere when you read about spies (they have licence to kill!) but this is like consuming a huge bowl of oatmeal pudding. Bland and never ending.
The timeline jumps did not help matters. It's a bit disorienting because the flashes are disjointed; what does it have to do with what's currently going on? Perhaps if I re-read the book I can pick up the pattern of the chronological leaps, but I really cannot be bothered to re-read this.
However, I will admit that Mr Pavone has a gift for describing scenes that really makes you feel like you're a part of the scenery, even smell the coffee served at the corner boulangerie. For instance:
"She can see past the woman to the bright, leafy courtyard at the other end of the dark breeezeway whose walls are filled with mailboxes and electrical junctions and rubbish bins and loose wires and chained-up bicycles. Her own building has a similar passage; there are thousands of them in Paris. All competing for the best-place-to-kill-someone award."
It was an interesting foray into the genre, but I don't think I'll be picking up another sample anytime soon.
Male protagonist: 1/5 stars
Female protagonist: 2/5 stars
Storyline: 3/5 stars
Pacing: 2/5 stars
Fun Factor: 2/5 stars
Repeat Reading Factor: 1/5 stars
View all my reviews