Saturday, November 23, 2013

Book 102: The Expats

What a frustrating and disappointing book!  I wasn't expecting great literature, but I really thought this would be a fun thriller or cat and mouse game set in Europe.  At the worst, I thought it might be a bit formulaic or have bad writing but it was worse.  It was boring.  A thrill-less thriller, an unsuspenseful suspense novel inhabited by a main character that could just as well be described as the dumbest spy ever.
The novel is set in Luxembourg and follows Kate and her family who have moved to Luxembourg for her husband's job.  The very first few pages take place two years after the main events of the novel, and after that opening, the novel flashes back and forth between their arrival in Luxembourg and Kate's preparations to leave her old job and the US.  While switching up the time line can be a fun and good method sometimes, I felt like in this case the author was only trying to make a simple narrative more complex.  Once in Luxembourg, Kate begins to miss working and slowly tries to integrate with the other rich ex-pat wives.  One other American wife in particular becomes close with Kate, and Kate soon finds Julia suspicious.  Now, the novel could have gone a few different ways - is Kate bored and imagining all these clues that point to Julia being off?  Is her husband as clean as she has always believed him to be?  These ideas could have been fun to play with, but I wasn't engaged enough to wonder whether Kate was really being spied on or whether she was creating a game for herself out of boredom with her role as housewife (plus, the opening chapter made it seem like she was probably proven right in her suspicions).
Kate and her husband's marriage just seemed off to me, and every time she wondered if people were after her because of her past, I wanted to slap her upside the head and yell "your husband is supposedly employed by an important bank as their IT security expert - don't you think maybe he is the target?  Look into that!"  The novel did finally pick up pace around page 200 only to lose it again 50 or 60 pages later.  There were other plot points that just seemed too far out there and ridiculous to me.  Oddly, enough I could see this working as a mediocre spy movie because the European setting would be gorgeous (whoever sets things in Luxembourgh after all?) and there are enough random twists that could be fun in a movie even if they are obnoxious in the book.

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