The Paris Diversion

The Paris Diversion

by Chris Pavone


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The most clever plot twist of the year.Washington Post

“I nominate Kate Moore, the protagonist of Chris Pavone’s sizzling new thriller The Paris Diversion, for patron saint of working wives and mothers everywhere.”—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

The Paris Diversion is the best espionage novel I’ve read this year. Smart, sophisticated and suspenseful, this is Pavone’s finest novel to date—and that’s saying something.”—Harlan Coben, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Fool Me Once

“Deliciously twisty . . . This involving work has been skillfully engineered for maximum reader enjoyment.”—The Wall Street Journal

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Expats. Kate Moore is back in a pulse-pounding thriller to discover that a massive terror attack across Paris is not what it seems—and that it involves her family

American expat Kate Moore drops her kids at the international school, makes her rounds of chores, and meets her husband Dexter at their regular café: a leisurely start to a normal day, St-Germain-des-Prés.

Across the Seine, tech CEO Hunter Forsyth stands on his balcony, wondering why his police escort just departed, and frustrated that his cell service has cut out; Hunter has important calls to make, not all of them technically legal.

And on the nearby rue de Rivoli, Mahmoud Khalid climbs out of an electrician’s van and elbows his way into the crowded courtyard of the world’s largest museum. He sets down his metal briefcase, and removes his windbreaker.

That’s when people start to scream.

Everyone has big plans for the day. Dexter is going to make a small fortune, finally digging himself out of a deep financial hole, via an extremely risky investment. Hunter is going to make a huge fortune, with a major corporate acquisition that will send his company’s stock soaring. Kate has less ambitious plans: preparations for tonight’s dinner party—one of those homemaker obligations she still hasn’t embraced, even after a half-decade of this life—and an uneventful workday at the Paris Substation, the clandestine cadre of operatives that she’s been running, not entirely successfully, increasingly convinced that every day could be the last of her career. But every day is also a fresh chance to prove her own relevance, never more so than during today’s momentous events.

And Mahmoud? He is planning to die today. And he won’t be the only one.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524761509
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/07/2019
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 510,705
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Chris Pavone is the New York Times bestselling author of The Expats, winner of the Edgar and Anthony awards for best first novel, The AccidentThe Travelers, and most recently The Paris Diversion. He was a book editor for nearly two decades, and lives in New York City with his family.

Read an Excerpt

Paris. 8:44 a.m.
A siren wails, far away.

Kate Moore is lingering in front of school, her daily dose of sidewalk-swimming in a sea of expat moms, gossip and chitchat and a dizzying ping-pong of cheek kisses, usually planted on both sides of the face but sometimes three pecks, or for some lunatics four separate kisses.

It’s an international school. All the parents are transplants from dozens of different countries, with different ideas about what constitutes the proper sequence. It’s an etiquette minefield, is what it is. And etiquette has never been Kate’s forte.

She cocks her head, trying to discern if the siren is approaching or receding, an instinctual habit—a professional obligation—of assessing potential levels of danger. Here in Paris, at this hour, sirens are unusual. This city is less noisy than other global capitals, London or New York, Mumbai or Hong Kong. And much less than where Kate lived before here: Luxembourg, perhaps the least noisy capital in the world; and Washington, which doesn’t even make the cut of the twenty most populous US cities.

But Kate has traveled plenty. For her job, dispatching her to far-flung destinations in Latin America and Europe. And for the past few years for adventure, driving around the Continent in their aging station wagon, with their EU driver’s licenses and bilingual kids.

Other metropoli have all seemed like more aggressive aural assaults than Paris, with more insistent car horns honked more frequently, more idling trucks and unmufflered motorcycles, jackhammers and pile drivers and bass-heavy music blaring from souped-up sound systems, fire trucks and ambulances and police cars in hot pursuit, the unmistakable urban sounds of urgency, emergency.

It’s in the mornings when Paris feels especially hushed, and in particular this slice of the septième, sleepy cafés on the quiet corners of narrow streets, well-dressed women depositing well-groomed kids at the towering green door of the school’s fortress-like façade, forbidding stone walls from which no sounds can escape, nor for that matter children.

The siren grows louder, nearer.

A curbside fence prevents the kids from running into the street, getting hit by cars. Every school’s sidewalk is lined with these fences, festooned with locked-up bicycles and kick-scooters decorated with decals of football clubs, pop singers, flower petals. The kids are absolutely safe in there.
After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, sirens began to take on a new significance, triggering more vital concerns. Then the November attacks ratcheted up the tension further, and then again the Champs-Elysées shooting, these events produced a permanent propensity to generalized panic.

Sirens no longer suggest a multicar pile-up on the périphérique or a gangland shoot-out in St-Denis—somebody else’s problem, somewhere else. These days, sirens could mean a nightclub shooting, hostages in a grocery store, a madman in a museum. Sirens could mean that Kate should storm into school, drag out her children, initiate one of her emergency protocols, go-bags from the linen closet, the always-gassed-up car in the garage, speeding out of the city toward the secret farmhouse in the Ardennes, or the airbase in the Ruhr, or somewhere else, anywhere else.

These days, sirens could mean anything.

It’s what everyone is talking about, the shopkeepers, restaurateurs, hoteliers. Tourism is down. Locals are wary. Customers scarce. Soldiers and police patrol the streets in threes and fours, heavily armed, flak-jacket clad. Not only near the ministries and embassies, the busy commercial boulevards and the famous monuments, but everywhere, soldiers are loitering even here, on sedate residential streets.

The military has become a permanent presence, the new normal. Sharpshooters have taken positions in the latticework of the Eiffel Tower, the flying buttresses of Notre-Dame, the neoclassical roof of the Arc de Triomphe. Everyone is getting used to it.

This is how a police state happens, isn’t it? An emergency that never subsides. Everything is getting worse all the time, so the far-right steps in and promises to solve it all—the taxes, the unemployment, the poverty and immigration and terrifying violence out in les banlieues, Balkan gunrunners and Albanian drug dealers and Corsican mobsters.

The police suit up, and never stand down.

People are talking about getting out of town, buying a crumbling pile of château in the country, starting a biodynamic vineyard or an ecofriendly bed-and-breakfast. Or to hell with it, leaving France entirely, moving to Zurich, to Helsinki or Lisbon or Edinburgh, places that are immune, or seem to be.

Kate hears a second siren, coming from another direction.

The other moms seem to be oblivious to the noise, nattering about nothing. Kate tunes them out, scans the bulletin board next to her, pushpinned with notices for kids’ activities, community meetings, nannies, holidays, the week’s lunch menu—symbols for organic, for local, for vegetarian—next to the list of every kid’s allergies, right out there on the sidewalk for anyone to see.
The goodbyes begin. With all this cheek kissing, it takes forever to say hello and goodbye. Like adding a whole new category of daily chore, now every morning you have to iron a shirt, mop the kitchen floor.

“What time would suit tonight?” asks Hashtag Mom. “And what shall we bring?” Hashtag Mom never lived anywhere except New Jersey until she was thirty-one, when she moved with her global-banker husband to London, then Singapore, then Paris. Somewhere along the way, she apparently started pretending to be British.

“Bring nothing,” Kate says, “except your good company. Everyone’s coming at seven.”

“Lovely.” Hashtag Mom leans in for her final air-kiss. For Hashtag Mom, everything, always, is hashtag lovely.

As much time as Kate needs to spend kissing all these women, she’s increasingly unwelcome to kiss her own children, not in public, especially not the mortified older one. But Kate is confident that her younger boy is just going along with that pose because that’s what younger siblings do; she knows that Ben still wants his mother’s kisses. So she sneaks them onto his head when Jake isn’t looking, an open secret right there in a crowd.

The sirens are closing in.

Now other people finally begin to react, to tilt their heads, dart their eyes, searching for whatever proximate threat might be attracting the police.

Cautionary tales, the things you hear: the aroma that turns out to be a ruptured gas main, the staph infection that over the weekend becomes an amputated leg. Lessons in vigilance, the things you could’ve done, should’ve done, if only you’d been worried enough, if you hadn’t been so lazy, so selfish, if you’d had the courage to follow your fear from the very first flush. But it’s only in hindsight that you see it clearly: this was one of those moments.

Everyone turns in unison, to where the narrow street ends at a broad boulevard, glimpses through the gap of a convoy zooming past, motorcycles followed by squad cars followed by armored trucks then more motorcycles sweeping up the rear, all those dark-blue vehicles with lights flashing, a thundering herd galloping in the direction of the river, the museums, the presidential palace, it’s all just over there, spitting distance. 

Shooting distance.

It’s terror that’s amassing in Kate, a sense that something is very wrong.

Maybe it’s finally here: payback for all her mistakes. Her parenting mistakes and filial ones, her professional mistakes, matrimonial, her wrongdoings in every segment of life. She wakes up every single morning prepared for it to happen, for her life to be assailed.

Maybe it’s today.

Reading Group Guide

In order to provide reading groups with the most informed and thought-provoking questions possible, it is necessary to reveal important aspects of the plot of this novel. If you have not finished reading The Paris Diversion, we respectfully suggest that you wait before reviewing this guide.

1. Kate Moore, the protagonist of The Paris Diversion, is also the main character of Chris Pavone’s novel The Expats. In this book, she once again leads a double life when she returns to work as a spy, this time in Paris. There are moments in which Kate feels conflicted between her devotion to her family and her dedication to her professional life. Have you experienced similar tensions in your life? Would you agree that it is important to reserve parts of ourselves from our families, and to find passion and meaning in other vocations or work? Might doing so make us better partners or parents?

2. “This is the difference between Dexter’s sham job and Kate: he’s an amateur and she’s a pro.” The Paris Diversion and The Expats challenge standard power dynamics and gender roles in marriage and in the workplace. How did you find that applied to the characters here? How do Kate and Dexter compare to Susanna and Chris in this respect?

3. At times, Kate and Dexter’s relationship is tinged by residual tensions from past betrayals—and yet their marriage endures. How would you define their partnership and the love that exists between them? What, in your view, makes for a stable relationship or marriage?

4. Hunter Forsyth isn’t able to see his relationship with Colette clearly. For such an accomplished businessman who is in general so sharp, why is he so blind to this reality? Do other characters misunderstand their own relationships?

5. The novel touches on important and universal themes of fairness and merit, and how one assesses what one deserves in life. Do you think any characters get what they deserve? Did you find other characters’ fates undeserved or unjust?

6. Pavone challenges readers to question their assumptions about terrorism: who are the terrorists, what are the forces at work behind their acts, what are the goals? In The Paris Diversion, how do the perpetrators manipulate such preconceptions? How does the author manipulate readers?

7. The characters in The Paris Diversion are multifaceted, complex, and often galvanized by a deep-rooted concern for the well-being of their families. At their core, do you think Pavone’s characters are more alike than they are different? Did you ever feel an increased sense of sympathy or understanding for any of the characters as you learned more about their histories, grievances, and traumas?

8. Where do you see revenge as a driving force for some of the characters in The Paris Diversion? How does vengeance reveal itself to enact injustice rather than right a wrong? Did you draw any messages from the book about the moral importance of forgiveness?

9. In an age of digital innovation, the world is mediated and experienced through the many screens of modern-day technology. Do you think that any of the characters in The Paris Diversion strive to restore a feeling of human connection in the material world? Do you think that the expats seek a sense of belonging and community with one another, despite being far from their original homes, because of that?

10. Pavone writes in great, wonderful detail about Paris—how did the international setting add to the intrigue of the interconnected terrorist plot and complex financial heist? How did the culture feel similar to or different from that of the US?

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