Friday, June 18, 2021

The Travelers: Chris Pavone

The Washington Post describes The Travelers as a Hitchcockian thriller, and points to similar elements in two of Hitchcock's films, Notorious and North by Northwest. I would agree with that assessment. Both of those films are about a reluctant person caught up in espionage.

Will Rhodes is the main character in The Travelers. He has been married to Chloe for four years and it is obvious that their marriage has problems, although they love each other. They are remodeling their house and trying to have a baby. Will works for a company called Travelers that publishes a travel magazine (also called Travelers). The magazine appears to be doing very well financially in these times when most print magazines are going under. The story focuses primarily on Will's life, his job, his problems. 

Will travels a lot. Chloe, his wife, previously worked for Travelers. Now she contributes some freelance articles to the magazine, but has moved to a different job. Chloe also travels for her job, and they don't see much of each other. We know that she objected to Will joining the staff of Travelers, and the reason is not clear.

Fairly early in the book, Will is blackmailed into becoming an asset for the CIA. His job is the perfect cover for that type of work. From that time on, he is miserable, having to lie to his wife and at work, living a double life. 

My thoughts:

I came into this book intentionally not knowing anything about it. I had read the author's two previous books, The Expats and The Accident. All three of the books have some focus on espionage in the story. I did not like this book as well as the first two books, but it was still a very good story and an enjoyable read.

The writing style of The Travelers could be confusing to some readers. The chapters are very short, and the story jumps from character to character, place to place, all over the world. Sometimes the events are told in a linear fashion, and other times the story goes back to an earlier event to provide more information. The book is written in present tense; this time I did not notice it that much.

I liked the short chapters and even the hopping around from character to character, but the author withholds a lot of information, and most of the time he leaves the reader in the dark too long. Maybe that would have worked better with a shorter book. 

The story goes from the USA to France to Argentina in quick succession, and there are also visits to the UK, Italy, and Iceland. I got the best feel for Iceland in this book; several locations are visited and described in some detail.

The story is very fast paced, and I think that is why it works. I never stopped trying to figure out what was going on. The ending was somewhat ambiguous, but I was happy with it.


Publisher:  Broadway Books, 2017 (orig. pub. 2016)
Length:      433 pages
Format:     Trade paperback
Setting:      USA, France, Argentina, UK, Italy, Iceland
Genre:       Thriller
Source:      Purchased in 2020.


Rick Robinson said...

While you obviously tolerated it, I’ve never been a fan of plots that have timeline shifts like you describe for this one. I like a story told beginning to end, thank you, without a lot of jumping back and forward, and shifting from person to person, or place to place…not so much.

The company the protagonist works for makes me remember Holiday magazine, to which my Mother subscribed. It had beautiful photography.

I finished A SOLITUDE OF WOLVERINES yesterday, read a few short stories, and am about to start Rhys Bowen’s THE VENICE SKETCHBOOK. It’ll be in the mid 80s today and then hotter tomorrow, with 90s predicted. The Roses are loving the heat. I’m not. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Lark said...

I don't always love when the narrative jumps around that much, or when authors withhold information for too long. I'm intrigued by the premise of this one, but I'm a little hesitant about it, too.

TracyK said...

Rick, you definitely would not like this book. I liked the beginning and the end but at times was very frustrated in the middle.

My mother and my grandmother both loved magazines of all kinds, and I think back then the magazines were better, less commercial.

Rick, you definitely would not like this book. I liked the beginning and the end but at times was very frustrated in the middle.

My mother and my grandmother both loved magazines of all kinds, and I think back then the magazines were better, less commercial.

I had to look up A SOLITUDE OF WOLVERINES. I am definitely interested in that book. THE VENICE SKETCHBOOK also sounds good. I envy you having roses in your yard, are they a lot of work? Coincidentally, this morning we went to the Santa Barbara Rose Garden and the roses were beautiful.

TracyK said...

Lark, most espionage stories withhold information from the reader, but this one went too far, even for me. Overall, I liked it a lot, but I can't recommend it to others unless they know they like that kind of story.

Rick Robinson said...

Roses: no, not a lot of work, if you pick ones that are disease resistant. We used to have a lot, but cut back to shrub roses along the driveway and three in the back yard, two floribundas and one hybrid tea. Just water them, feed them in Spring and mid Summer, deadhead, enjoy.

TracyK said...

Rick, that sounds good. Maybe I will try a few roses someday. My next door neighbor has had roses in the front in the past, but I think he gets more sun during the day than I do.

Margot Kinberg said...

I'm glad you liked it, Tracy. I like Pavone's writing style, and that 'everyman caught up in a web' premise can work very well. You make an interesting point about jumping among characters; that can be confusing, and I can see how one would have to pay close attention. Still, it sounds like a good read.

TracyK said...

Margot, it was a good read. I like the way Pavone writes, so I am willing to read anything he writes, even when I have minor problems with the book.

Rick Robinson said...

Full sun for Roses, I’m afraid.

Venice Sketchbook has chapters jumping from 1928, 1940, 2001… Rats. I’ll stick with it for now.

TracyK said...

Rick, that is too bad about Venice Sketchbook. I can usually handle the changes in time setting, as long as it is very clear which is which. Sometimes the author changes to a new time period and it takes me a full page to figure it out. I hope the book improves or is worth the time jumps.

I was leery of trying roses because all the areas in the front have only a half day of sun and some less than that. But you never can tell with plants, some will adapt to that.

Anonymous said...

I liked this but I didn't really care much what happened to Will - and a suspense writer needs to make the reader care about the protagonist, don't you think?


Sam said...

I really like Pavone's style, and I enjoyed this one a lot. At the time I read it, I was reading three other books at the same time, but got so hooked on "The Travelers" that the other three were put aside so that I could immerse myself in it. Pavone is a really good writer.

TracyK said...

Constance, I had to think about this. I did like Will, and have sympathy for him. But if I told my reasons why it would include spoilers so I won't. He did make some stupid decisions but if he had not there would have been no story. We watched North by Northwest last night (for the umpteenth time), and I could say some of the same things about that story.

TracyK said...

I agree, Sam, I really like how Pavone writes. I have his most recent book and will be reading it sometime this year.

I can read multiple books if one is fiction and the others nonfiction, and sometimes I interrupt a fiction book to read a different fiction book, and then come back to the first one. But I have never been able to read three fiction books at the same time.

Kay said...

Tracy, I enjoyed hearing about your experience with this book. I have meant to read all the Pavone books you mentioned and am glad for the reminder. Putting them back on my list - where did my list go? LOL

TracyK said...

Thanks for visiting, Kay. This book and The Accident are set in the publishing world, and Chris Pavone worked in that setting. The first book, The Expats, is my favorite, maybe because the protagonist was a woman and a mother of two young boys.

col2910 said...

An author I've heard of but not tried or even considered. Maybe if I do some catching up on the TBR pile and I resist other books for a month or two I may allow myself one of his, if I come across one in the wild.

TracyK said...

Col, if you come across any of his books (except the last one), I would try one of them. If not, you have enough to read. The last one is a sequel to the first, but it came out so long after the first, I bet it reads OK as a standalone too.