THE PARIS DIVERSION
By Chris Pavone
New York: Crown, 2019. $27.00
Chris Pavone burst onto the thriller scene with his 2012 debut The Expats. Drawing rave reviews for its compelling setting, devious plot twists, and unique take on the spy genre, The Expats became a New York Times bestseller. Pavone’s next two books, stand-alone novels The Accident (2014) and The Travelers (2018), drew on similar themes of twist-laden espionage and intriguing locales and were similarly well received. Now, seven years after The Expats blew readers’ minds, Pavone returns to the world of protagonist Kate Moore in the long-awaited sequel.
Kate Moore—forgotten spy, hardworking mother, and betrayed wife—is working to put back together the pieces of her life and her family after her husband, Dexter, nearly destroyed everything during the events of The Expats. But when their new home city of Paris faces a series of mysterious terror threats, Kate must spring into action, descending into a world she thought she had left behind, where the enemy may be closer than she thinks. As with The Expats, which was set in Luxembourg (where Pavone and his family lived as expats themselves while he was writing
the book), The Paris Diversion has a tremendous sense of place—a remarkable achievement given that Pavone spent only a week in Paris researching the book. While a handful of monuments and tourist icons make their way into the novel, the focus is on the everyday, the parts that most tourists miss, the side of a city that only people who lived there would know.
The novel takes place entirely in a single twelve-hour period, which keeps the action moving because of the sheer sense of urgency. Adding to the sense of tension is Kate and Dexter’s rocky relationship set against the backdrop of the day’s events. All of the characters are well drawn and interesting. Pompous tech CEO Hunter Forsyth is so adeptly fleshed out that readers sympathize with his plight despite his massive personal shortcomings. Even side characters, such as police sniper Ibrahim and tough-guy for-hire Wyatt, come off as realistic, and their POV sections are exciting and intriguing.
The one downside is how often Kate’s POV chapters keep slipping into off-topic reminiscence and musings. Some of this, particularly with regard to the characters’ history (much of which is a spoiler-rich rendition of key events from The Expats), is relevant to the plot or key character development. But much, such as a meandering
ninety-one-word sentence bemoaning teen selfie culture in the middle of what should be a tense scene, feel excessive. Although the issue crops up throughout the book, Kate’s early chapters are among the biggest offenders, with readers continually yanked out of the action for page-long musings on phone books or an affair she almost had. It kills the pacing, which is an absolute shame, because the rest of the book is a thrill ride.
That caveat aside, this is an excellent book, with highstakes action merging with well-developed characters. The crosscutting between POV characters is great, and the plot is so layered and well designed that readers and characters alike are
kept guessing until the end.
With The Paris Diversion, Pavone didn’t just pen a great thriller, he also successfully plays on readers’ expectations of the genre and subverts them in an unexpected fashion. With a tremendous sense of place and atmosphere, an authentic voice, and a plot twist so brilliant it will make you wonder why it hasn’t been done before, Pavone’s latest deserves a spot on your summer reading list.