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Novel set in Luxembourg (“Cobblestony old Europe” – the e-book version)

30th March 2013

The Expats by Chris Pavone, novel set in Luxembourg.

“Kate stared out her window, over a cliff, down hundreds of feet ino the Alzette gorge, across a quarter-mile of modern steel bridge, and old railroad acqueduct, and medieval fortifications and lush green lawns and dense forests and black-roofed houses and towering church spires and rushing river, across to the slope that fell from the Kirchberg Plateau’s glass-and-steel office buildings and, on top of it all, an immense amount of bright blue sky”.

0571279147.01.ZTZZZZZZWelcome to Luxembourg. We have been keen to read this novel, as it is set mainly in Luxembourg, and there are not many books set there that really bring the city to life (as far as our researches have thrown up, that is!).This is a thriller, with echoes of the film, Mr and Mrs Smith, set in the heart of Europe, with forays to Paris, Munich, Avoriaz, and Amsterdam, and finally Paris. It is very much the kind of novel that will transport you lock, stock and flaming barrel to this part of the world. Delicious scenes of towns, schmoozing with the expat community and a central mystery about who is really chasing whom at the core. Explore the Montée de Clausen, and the Rue Sigefroi as Kate goes about her business, being the main carer of her children Jake and Ben, as she tries to make sense of who’s who. The CIA, Interpol and FBI are all involved …. with secrets and more secrets… And who are Bill and Julia really?

Enjoy the author’s descriptions of central European hairstyles (which really are unique to locale) – “mullets and bangs and spikes..” Enjoy languorous strolls…. Enjoy the dining experiences, the walks along cobbled streets, the trips across Europe.

Overall, though, how much did we enjoy this novel? It’s great for feeling you are part of the action and gaining a look in on the expat lifestyle; yet, on several levels it felt a little thin, for several reasons.

Firstly. It is very ‘American’ in its parlance. Ok, so that is our problem being non-American, but having to resort to a dictionary kind of breaks the rhythm of the read. For example: “There were three locks and one of them looked like a doozy”. Still not sure what a doozy is. Or, Bill and Julia’s flat “would allow such an ideal opportunity on assassinate-able characters”. Assasinate-able? Is that really a word and, er, I kind of get what the sentence means, I think?

Secondly. Up to the halfway mark the book flips back and forth between time frames and locales; with a paper book it is easier to check the sequence, and riffle back if you are unsure which era of reality you are currently in. With an e-book it is just that much harder – and therefore there may perhaps be a case that some novels are just not ideally suited to the e book format and, moreover, this format actually does them a disservice. (Your thoughts, dear reader?) Having said that the novel picks up pace in the second half and becomes more gripping as everything begins to unfold and take shape.

Thirdly. There are many reminders and revisits (in the manner of TV episodes that offer a résumé of the preceding action “Previously on…..”): innumerable times we are told that Kate promised herself never to investigate her husband Dexter (and then, of course, does); or, that she now finds herself to be a mere housewife and how much that grates on her psyche – intimate details of her daily routine in and around the house, and her regrets about her former life are never far away… at times the reminders became so frequent that they verged on being truly irritating.

Fourthly. There were quite a few inaccuracies, small, but nevertheless jarring, both in the e-book typesetting and the facts.12 hours from Luxembourg to Geneva, the book states, more like 6. “The long drive to Holland” – that would be 3 hours then…

So, if you are tempted to read this book, read it in book format, we think it will be a much more satisfying experience. Do pick it up if you are heading to central Europe, you will glean a lot about life there, as well as having a reasonable read.

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