The Travelers // by Chris Pavone


//published 2016//

Okay, I think I am working through this blogging slump – this is post #4 in as many days!  Woot!  It’s really great to get some of these to-be-reviewed books off the pile, too.  Always satisfying.

So.  Will Rhodes works for an old, well-established traveling magazine that has been around for decades.  He travels around the world, interviewing people and writing articles, and he’s done it for several years.  All in all, he’s a normal kind of guy – married to a woman he loves, trying to fix up an old house that they inherited, thinking about starting a family.

But then, while he’s in Europe, Will meets Elle.  She’s stunningly beautiful and more than a little alluring. Will has never cheated on his wife before, and he resists Elle, too – this time.  But when they coincidentally (???) meet again in South America, Will finds himself falling down the rabbit hole – into way more of an entanglement than a one-night stand.  Suddenly, Will finds himself embroiled in international intrigue and espionage, completely unwillingly.  As the lies and secrets begin to pile up, it becomes increasingly difficult to know who is working for whom.

All in all, The Travelers was a fun book.  For me, espionage books should be a romp.  I don’t necessarily expect a lot of in-depth character development from these types of books – just lots of action and twists.  And while this book had both, it somehow just didn’t have enough to really engage me.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I was bored by the book, because I did definitely keep reading it and was curious to see how things played out – but it somehow lacked the tension that a really good spy book needs.

Part of it may have been the present tense (thankfully first person) narrative, which is just 100% getting on my nerves.  Just why.  Please stop.  EVERYONE please stop.  I have picked up so many books written in the stupid present tense narrative lately and it is getting quite old.

But I think a bigger part was that Pavone didn’t (for me) completely strike that balance between revealing enough information to keep the story going, but keeping enough hidden to keep things tense.  At times, a twist could be seen coming a mile away.  At others, I would get very frustrated because it felt like I couldn’t really get into the story without knowing some information that was being withheld.  But it’s that balance that makes thrillers what they are, and can make a story that I don’t necessarily like still incredibly readable.  (In a Dark, Dark Wood comes to mind – I didn’t particularly enjoy the story or like any of the characters – but if you had told me halfway through that I wasn’t allowed to finish it, we would have had to take that issue outside and duke it out!)  In this case, the magical balance just wasn’t quite right, so while I was interested to see what was going to happen, I never felt desperate to know what was going to happen.

I think that the book could have been much improved if we had spent more time with Will’s wife, Chloe.  We get little snippets of what is happening with her, but it’s actually an important part of the story and was one those aspects that Pavone was kind of keeping hidden for dramatic effect but would have actually been more dramatic if we had actually known what was happening at her end.

Overall, though, it was a solid 3/5 read.  I really liked the ending, and would actually probably even pick up a sequel to this book if one ever appeared.  I liked a lot of the characters, and despite Will’s moment of infidelity, this was overall a book that was surprisingly positive towards marriage.  In many ways, Will and Chloe are at a crossroads in their relationship, and a decision to remember the things that brought them together initially and to go forward from there was so refreshingly mature.

While I don’t really intend to purchase The Travelers and read it over and over again, I’m interested to pick up another of Pavone’s books and see what else he has written.  In the  meantime, this one gets a moderate recommendation, and I would love to hear if anyone else has read it – did you find it more exciting than I did?