Chris Pavone is the real deal. The Paris Diversion sees the return of CIA employee Kate Moore, the protagonist from his first novel, The Expats. This taut, intense thriller is his best to date, and that’s saying a good deal. Lucky me, I read it free thanks to Net Galley and Crown, but you can get it tomorrow, May 7, 2019.
Kate wears many hats, moving deftly from professional spy to
primary caretaker of two children, one of whom is medically fragile. Her
husband Dexter calls himself an investor, but he’s basically just a weasel. His
weak character comes into play in a big way in this story as he is tied to a
shady financial deal that in turn is tied–though he doesn’t know it– to a
terrifying terrorist event that takes place in the heart of France:
“She gasps. She is
surprised at her reaction, like an amateur. She has never before seen anything
like this. No one here has. What she sees:
a man is standing all alone in the middle of the vast open space,
looking tiny. He’s wearing a bulky vest, and a briefcase sits at his feet, the
sort of luggage that in action-adventure films follows around the president of
the United States, a shiny case lugged around by a tall square-jawed man
wearing a military uniform, a handsome extra with no speaking lines. The
nuclear codes…Yes, Dexter was right: that’s a suitcase bomb.”
Events unfold seen from the viewpoints of several different
characters. In addition to Kate, we have the bomb-wearer; his American driver; the
sniper assigned to take the bomb-wearer out; billionaire Hunter
Do-You-Know-Who-I-Am Forsyth; and a mysterious woman using the name Susanna. Points
of view change frequently, and the brief chapters become even briefer as the
story unfolds, creating even more suspense. Pavone (that’s three syllables—Puh-vo-KNEE)
has keen insight into the lies weak people tell themselves to justify their
poor choices, and at times he is wickedly funny. Favorites here are the
internal monologue of our ass hat billionaire; the moment Kate takes down the
security guard; and the exchange between Kate and Hunter’s assistant, Schuyler.
Because I spend several hours of every day reading, I can
almost always put a book down, even an excellent one. For the best books, I
reserve good-sized blocks of time when I won’t be interrupted, and these are
the ones I read with joy, rather than out of duty to the publisher. But it’s
been awhile since I stayed up late because I had to know how a book ended. The
prose here is so tightly woven that every word is important; in most books of
the genre, there’s a winding down period at the end of the book after the climax
has been reached and the problem resolved. In contrast, Pavone moves at warp
speed until almost the last word of the last chapter.
I have rarely seen a male writer that can craft a believable
female character, and Pavone does that. I appreciate his respect for women. In
addition, it appears that Kate may have met her own Moriarti, and so I suspect
both she and her nemesis will be back. I hope so.
To say more is to waste words, an unfair tribute to a bad
ass writer who wastes none. Get this book and read it. You won’t be sorry.