When I was hiding from the world last week, sick with a weird cold and in bed for three days straight, I managed to read Chris Pavone’s new spy novel, The Travelers (Crown, 2016) when I started to feel better.
I’d read his first two books and liked them enough to want to read this one, but as soon as I started The Travelers, I knew it was different. The things that worked (for me) in the first two books were present in book three, but Pavone takes it to a new level.
Will and Chloe are a young thirty-something couple living in New York. That’s similar to The Expats, Pavone’s first book (at least the married couple thing is the same; the setting was Luxembourg in that one). They work for a travel magazine that sends them around the world. But Chloe doesn’t think their marriage will do well if they’re both on the road all the time, so she leaves the magazine, called Travelers. But she doesn’t really leave.
In The Accident, Pavone’s second book, the story centers around the publishing world, something Pavone knows very well as he’s worked in it for a couple of decades. But in The Travelers, magazine publishing is a perfect front for espionage. Only we don’t know which side Travelers is on.
When Will is on assignment, he meets a beautiful Australian woman named Elle. He and Chloe had been drifting apart and were dealing with infertility, so their romantic life had become robotic. Elle tempted Will, but in the end he resisted and thought that was that.
Until he went to Argentina and ran into Elle there.
This time, he wouldn’t be so strong-willed and gave into temptation. Just as soon as Elle left the room, Will was confronted with a very explicit video used to blackmail him into working for Elle as a spy. If he didn’t agree, she would show Chloe the video and Will’s marriage would be over. So of course Will agreed and started gathering information on people he met during his travels.
Will’s boss and the publisher and editor of Travelers, Malcolm, often went into a secret room in his office and had access to a mysterious person he frequently connected with.
As the book continues, we learn that one side is good and the other is bad, but we’re not sure which is which. Will, Elle, Malcolm, and Chloe end up in locations around the world, including Paris, rural Iceland, Argentina, and Capri, to just name some.
The story worked very well and kept my attention up until the very end. It was Cold War-y with contemporary issues and concerns. Even though I could guess a couple of the plot twists, I was still hooked up until the last page.
If you enjoy spy stories, you’ll like this one. And if you’ve read Chris Pavone’s other two books, you’ll be thrilled about this one.
Pavone is comfortable writing about Europe, but I noticed he mentioned Hong Kong a few times. Could that be next?