Two Nights in Lisbon
by Chris Pavone
Picador USA, May 2023, $19 trade paperback
is a fast-paced, dramatic adventure that takes on a wealth of today’s issues, from crimes against women to a justice system that serves the rich. While the catalyst of the story—the kidnapping of an American in Lisbon—takes two days, it may take the reader far longer to recover from the thought-provoking insights the story ignites.
Ariel Pryce, on her honeymoon, wakes one morning to find that her husband John hasn’t returned from his walk. Neither the local police nor a misogynistic clerk at the American embassy take her seriously when she reports his disappearance, but the CIA decides to take a closer look. Seems the questions of who John is and why he disappeared could be a matter of national security. The tension in this novel is palpable. A countdown appears at the beginning of each chapter marking how long John has been gone and Ariel’s fear rachets up with every hour. The fear of being a victim of a crime in a foreign country is one the reader can easily understand, as is Ariel’s frustration with trying to make herself heard, both as a woman and as an American.
When a ransom demand comes in, Ariel makes the ominous decision to ask for money from a man she hates—but who has every reason to pay her to keep his secrets. Those secrets are at the core of this novel, and Pavone does a fine job of slowly revealing that truth while juggling the hurried pace of the rest of the story.
There are many moving parts in Two Nights in Lisbon, and when they finally fit together, it’s a mic drop moment. When all is revealed, the depth of plotting—both on Ariel’s part and the author’s—leaves an impression long after the last page is turned.