The Travelers is the third thriller by Chris Pavone that I’ve reviewed for “Bookin’ with Sunny.” Pavone’s latest is every bit as thrilling as its two predecessors, The Ex-Pats and The Accident. Rereading my previous posts, I see common threads among the three novels—the rapid-fire prose, the pacing which ricochets from one episode to another, the mysteries entrapping the characters, the layers of secrets, the way you never know who is on what side, or why. Each narrative is quite different, however, in that Pavone creates a new cast of characters moving through fresh labyrinths of intrigue.
This time, most of the protagonists work for a magazine called Travelers, which touts vacation destinations and exotic experiences across the globe. Will, the erstwhile protagonist and one of Travelers’ salaried contributors, is on a wine-tasting assignment in France when he meets an attractive Australian woman, just at the moment when his marriage seems to be floundering. Falling for Elle’s seductive behavior, he suddenly finds himself enmeshed in a chaos he never expected. Now he must lie to his wife, not only about his unfaithfulness but also about what Elle blackmails him into doing.
The more Elle requires of Will, the more confused he becomes. It appears that Travelers is much more than a simple travel magazine and that his colleagues have multiple roles. I admit, I was as puzzled as Will. For the first hundred pages or so of this roller-coaster novel, I couldn’t begin to unravel the various factions. Electronic surveillance is everywhere; no one can make a move without someone else posting the details to some anonymous third-party. Pavone carefully hides everybody’s secrets, so the reader can only make educated guesses about what is a lie and what might be the truth.
As with Pavone’s other plots, the reader can never be sure of anything. Once again, I was fooled, though not quite as badly as this very fine author has tricked me before. By the end of The Travelers I was fairly certain I had solved the entanglements. Even so, Pavone put together a hair-raising conclusion that turned out somewhat differently than I had anticipated. The multiple mysteries were only solved when the Epilogue finally answered the last of my questions. So the novel ends with another cogent denouement for Chris Pavone fans.
In my estimation, Pavone is one of the best of today’s authors writing fiction of international intrigue. His characters are multi-faceted and their imbroglios are inventive—not quite believable, but almost. The layers of Pavone’s inventiveness are particularly satisfying, as if he were piling unsteady building blocks atop one another. Will they topple over? Or will they sustain a precarious balance? The tension is masterful, so absorbing that once you begin reading, it’s hard to put his novels down. I confess—I read The Travelers until nearly three in the morning! – Ann Ronald
Also available by Chris Pavone: The Accident; The Ex-Pats.