Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Expats by Chris Pavone


I don't normally review books on the blog, they are usually too short and just get posted at Amazon and Goodreads. But I've thought a little more about Chris Pavone's The Expats, which has been riding high at the top of the thriller charts for weeks now, but I think it's because of the 20p price tag, rather than the writing...

I just don't quite know where to start with The Expats. A great idea, let down a bit by some over-done writing and inconsistent characterisation - but the really dodgy part is the way it's been structured.

There is a relatively straight-forward and entertaining story here about an ex-CIA agent and a major white collar crime, but you wouldn't know it to read the book. The timeline is all over the place, with little or no indication of when many of the scenes are set until very late into them. This is just plain frustrating. It might work if you read it all in one go on a beach, but I didn't. I read a little each evening and I very quickly got tired of trying to keep track, and gave up and went with the flow... skipping a lot just to get to the end to find the resolution.

The other problem is that the book lacks big tense scenes of the kind that a good thriller needs - think Jack Reacher going into battle at the end of a Lee Child book. Chris Pavone seems unable to hit these heights, and I can't help thinking that he's tried to hide this deficiency with the convoluted narrative.

If you do read it, when you get to the end think back through the major events and you'll see that there's a potentially great thriller here, but written in a single timeline from multiple viewpoints - loads of tension could have been extracted by letting the reader know more than the characters, with a lot of excitement to be had watching these people car crash into disaster.

Or not. And boy don't get me started on that ending, what a let-down... but I won't spoil it for you, just in case I haven't put you off!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a new writer researching the agent and publishing field, I often read these reviews. Was stunned at the extreme differing reviews for this book. Admired your "The Delivery" in our ancient Library, so can't but agree with what you felt. Couldn't find the name of its publisher anywhere. Wonder why Amazon never displays it. Just shows, hey, we new writers must just plug on! Yours must definitely be the textbook on how to write a gripper, and am taking all tips. You must have read the Lester Dent Formula! Write on!

Mark Chisnell said...

Many thanks!

The Delivery was originally published by Random House in the UK, then republished in Australia and New Zealand as The Defector. It's now a self-published eBook and paperback, still called The Defector.

There's more information on the writing of the book on my website:

http://www.markchisnell.com/defector.htm

Keep at it, and write on!
Mark