The Travelers by: Chris Pavone
Review by: Mark Palm
More than a few people, myself included, would love to travel around the world, if they came into a fortune or won the lottery. Being paid to do the same, with your employer picking up your expenses in exchange for writing a few hundred words about your adventures, always making sure to remember that you are selling an escapist fantasy. That is the world of The Travelers, a gripping new thriller by Chris Pavone.
Will Rhodes works for Traveler magazine, and his job is to travel the world, attend parties, eat and drink the best food and booze, and then write about it. If it sounds like it’s too good to be true, it is. Will’s wife Chloe, who used to do Will’s job for Traveler, is looking for a new career, their house needs endless renovations that they can’t afford, they are swimming in debt and worst of all, their marriage is on the rocks.
So it’s no real surprise that Will is tempted when he meets the beautiful Elle, another writer who works for the Australian branch of the same magazine. She seems very interested in Will, and when they run into each other in Argentina the romantic tension is too much for Will, and he succumbs to temptation. Immediately afterward, Elle tells Will that she taped the encounter, and will show it to Chloe and ruin his life unless he does what she says. She then informs him that she will pay him ten thousand dollars a month to become a spy for the CIA.
While this is going on we are also following the stories of Will’s editor, Malcolm, and his right hand-woman, Gabriella, who both seem a bit more mysterious than the average executives, and an un-named woman who is undertaking her first assassination. Even though it’s not even a quarter of the way into the novel Mr. Pavone has a lot of plates spinning, and then things really kick into high gear as the plot goes into overdrive. Will begins his training, learning tradecraft and self-defense while continuing his old job, now with serious consequences. As we bounce back and forth from character to character and from location to location the level of drama and the depths of the intrigue just continues to grow without ever becoming over the top.
The tension is unbearable and no one and nothing is as it seems, and Mr. Pavone shows some plotting chops by keeping everything clear and concise. There are as many twists and turns as a roller-coaster, but each one seems realistic and never histrionic, and Mr. Pavone keeps them coming with a quick but believable pace. The dangers are realistic, and never devolves into a series of action-movie tropes. All of the characters are finely-drawn realistic people, especially Will, and they all grow and evolve with the arc of the plot. Mr.Pavone has a smooth clear style, and while I wasn’t overwhelmed by the use of the present tense, for the most part the writing is vivid. In a few spots the narrative got a little convoluted in it’s attempts to keep some secrets from being revealed to soon, but overall it’s a small complaint. One of the things that I found most impressive was the way that Mr Pavone shows us a life that should be a dream, turns it into a nightmare, than changes it again into something completely different. I wish I could tell you more about it, but that would ruin the surprise. The Travelers is an excellent example of a globe-hopping thriller.