Pros: Fantastically screwed-up espionage tale!
Cons: Can get confusing!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Chris Pavone’s The Travelers is an espionage tale in which Will Rhodes, a travel writer, is seduced by lovely Elle. She keeps a video of that night and threatens to give it to Will’s wife, Chloe. Elle explains to Will that she’s CIA, and she’s recruiting him because of the access he enjoys to the halls of the rich, famous, and infamous. She has him trained in hand-to-hand combat, information gathering, and a handful of other things. Meanwhile, Will still works at Travelers, a source of both travel articles and, in some countries, travel bureaus. Will has several friends working at Travelers–his boss and editor Malcolm, in particular. His wife Chloe used to work there as well, and now just does occasional freelance work for them. It quickly becomes obvious to the reader that Malcom and Travelers have secrets of their own.
There are a lot of characters doing nefarious or apparently nefarious things in this book. I spent much of the book going, is s/he CIA? Is X a mercenary intelligence-gathering operation? Wait, is it the other way around? Or maybe they’re all isolated CIA groups that don’t realize each other is also CIA? Or hey, maybe there are like five different intelligence groups all tripping over each other? Later in the book I was leaning pretty hard on that last possibility, so it is neat to eventually find out who’s who. The twists and turns are dizzying. I did start to feel like the entire population was composed of agents, assets, and case officers, but I think it worked out well enough.
I love Will Rhodes as a character. He’s flawed (see also that whole thing about allowing Elle to seduce him, married man that he is) and he isn’t always likable. He starts out shallow, but the craziness he gets plunged into quickly forces him to re-evaluate himself and change, in some pretty fascinating ways. I also like the relationship between Will and his friend Malcolm. They play off of each other extremely well, making it obvious why they’re friends and enjoy working together. All of the major characterizations had depth, reasons to dislike and like them, etc. Early on it seems like there are a surprising number of people taking an interest in Will, but it does make sense later.
There are great details about how espionage messes with your life. The level of detail is fantastic. There are a few little details that didn’t work. After Will runs off to chase someone down, he calls his wife from a pay phone. Yet somehow Will doesn’t realize that, since he’s in a very low-population place, he just made it extremely easy for someone to track him down. He should have known that; it didn’t make sense for him to forget.
I enjoyed all the crazy ins and outs and ups and downs of this espionage thriller. It isn’t my favorite genre, but I had fun with it.
NOTE: Review book provided free by publisher for review
Totally random aside: I’ve been reading mostly ebooks lately, and this was a hardcover. Three times during the book–three times!–I tried to flip to the next page by tapping on the edge of it. *facepalm*