I have always loved the word peripatetic. In a way, it sounds like what it means, not like an onomatopoeic word like hiccup, but in a more subtle way. All those p’s and t’s, consonants that move about, those short syllables. Peripatetic – moving about from here to there, traveling all over the place. Peripatetic is the one word that best describes Chris Pavone’s newest thriller The Travelers.
Of course, a book about travelers should be peripatetic, it’s in the name. And travel is a big part of The Travelers. Will Rhodes is a travel writer working for a famed and successful travel magazine that sends people around the world to find new experiences, places to go, things to see, food to eat and has them write articles that tempt the real and the armchair travelers. The magazine has branch offices around the world that also arrange travel experiences for their subscriber, a symbiotic relationship that is profitable and, as we learn, useful for other reasons.
Will travels a lot, so much so the guys at the airport know him well, even tease him about being a spy, a frequent joke that amuses him. He’s married to Chloe, a former travel writer for the same magazine whose moved on to freelance work so they are not doing the same job. Their marriage is in a stale place, hovering at that place where young marrieds either commit for the long haul or call it quits. Which is unfortunate for Will, as it leads him, despite his best intentions, to fall for a honey trap, forcing him to perform small, seemingly minor acts of espionage to keep a sex video from ruining his marriage. And so begins the peeling away of layers and layers and layers conspiracy, deceit and espionage.
The Travelers is also peripatetic in jumping from place to place and person to person in the plot. This is a weakness. It is too easy to get distracted when the narrative is delivered in short bursts, sort of scatter shot, and not clearly advancing the story. Sometimes it just seems a lot of distraction. It also gives it the feeling of being written for a movie, not for a novel. It is more cinematic than novelistic. That makes it easy to put down at any interruption, because there are few long sequences of building suspense and excitement to hold me rapt. It progresses in fits and starts.
On the other hand, Pavone has a magical way of describing people and places. He can encapsulate someone with the briefest word picture. Take this example, “Will turns to Bryson from Atlanta, pink-faced and white-haired and blue-blazered, a hypertensive American flag.” Don’t you know exactly who and what Bryson is? It’s not just Bryson, it’s Bryson from Atlanta, the way executives introduce each other, the commercial fiefdoms part of their armor. That sort of economical, but brilliant ability to paint with words is applied to creating a sense of place and to enliven the characters, even less important ones like Bryson from Atlanta.
I liked The Travelers well enough to recommend to those who love suspense and espionage thrillers. It does make me want to read The Ex-Pats and The Accident which should make it a success in anyone’s estimation. However, I found the ending dissatisfying in the extreme. It all seemed much ado about nothing, the spider who sets it all in motion named in passing as some sort of nemesis. (This is not a spoiler.) Perhaps this is a setup to a sequel when the spider and the travelers face off again? If not, it was just baffling how the prime mover is only identified. It felt sort of like Superman saying “Damn you, Lex Luthor,” while we all know Luthor will be back to cause more trouble. I also found the entire plot, the bad guy’s plot, unlikely in the extreme. Even if he succeeded, it would not give him what he wants. Nonetheless, except for the big secret plot, the rest of the story is good. Will Rhodes is nicely flawed, earnestly competent hero who does his homework. I like that.
I received this Advance Reader Copy through a drawing at LibraryThing.