Need to Know by Karen Cleveland
Published by Ballentine Books/Random House January 23, 2018
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Thriller
Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Perfect husband. Perfect father. Perfect liar?
“Breathtaking, heart-pounding.”—Louise Penny
“A fast-paced, relentlessly gripping read.”—Chris Pavone
In pursuit of a Russian sleeper cell on American soil, CIA analyst Vivian Miller uncovers a dangerous secret that will threaten her job, her family—and her life. On track for a much-needed promotion, she’s developed a system for identifying Russian agents, seemingly normal people living in plain sight.
After accessing the computer of a potential Russian operative, Vivian stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents within America’s borders. A few clicks later, everything that matters to her—her job, her husband, even her four children—is threatened.
Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust?
Karen Cleveland jumps into the world of writing and lands on two solid feet with her debut novel. With superb writing that keeps you guessing, characters that are completely relatable and a mystery just begging to be solved, Ms. Cleveland leaves her readers in no doubt that she will be in this field for years to come.
I probably shouldn’t have tried to read this excellent book when I was fighting a severe cold but it was so good that I powered through and hope I didn’t overlook anything. When I looked the book information up after I finished I was surprised to realize this was Ms. Cleveland’s first book! It was so good I thought she must have written others before. I have certainly added her to my list of “must read” authors for any future works and can’t wait to see what she brings out next. With all the kerfuffle over Russia and its involvement in US politics lately, I was interested in reading books with ties to that oft mentioned country. Lo and Behold, I was offered this book a couple weeks ago and latched on with a tight grip. Ms. Cleveland carefully crafted a book that everyone could relate to – and given how many people work in government offices these days, this may be someone’s reality. Vivian is a CIA analyst who has worked for several years to develop a system to detect Russian sleeper agents that live “normal” American lives. Knowing she is on the verge of the biggest breakthrough of her career, Vivian is thrilled to discover that her system has uncovered local agents and handlers that may soon be activated. Only trouble is, when she finally accesses the files pertaining to the sleeper agents, she will find the man she has loved and been married to for 10 years is one of them. Unable to process what she is seeing and afraid to confront her husband Matt with the truth right before her eyes, Vivian will have to decide what matters most: her job or her family. She has heard of others that had to turn in friends or friends of friends, but how can she destroy her family and the lives they’ve built together? Carefully beginning the necessary conversation with Matt, Vivian is deeply shaken to find that she was targeted by the Russians 11 years ago when they first met. Vivian was working on a less important CIA target and the Russians needed someone on the inside who was unaware of their manipulation. Matt ( or Alexander Lenkov) was recruited in Russia at 15 to come to the US as a student who would be able to surreptitiously integrate into the American way of life and target those who could give Russia the information they needed. It was his job to push Vivian to apply for the Russian analysis job that was soon to be available at the CIA. Never realizing that his covert activities would become harder to continue when he fell in love with his target, Matt is in the impossible position of wanting to protect his family and serve his homeland. Vivian cannot fathom turning Matt in, so they search for ways to keep what they know secret. But the Russians and the CIA are not in the business of keeping families together and it will take all their intellectual know-how to prevent either side from tearing them apart. There was so much to love about this book, from the thriller passages when you held your breath to see if Vivian would get caught, to the sacrificial love that Vivian and Matt have for each other and their children, it will certainly be one I recommend to others highly. There was no unnecessary language outside of a couple “O my Gods” and other than a brief reference to Vivian and Matt sleeping together after a date, there was no other sexual references. That automatically raises my opinion of an author when they can write with no crutch of language or sex. Ms. Cleveland was also able to convey the heartfelt desire of her characters to keep their good and quiet everyday life. Although that was not the original intent, Matt and Vivian have a good marriage that has nothing to do with their jobs, rather it is based on their devotion to each other. Their fight to protect their family is a recurring theme that all readers will applaud. To be able to write about the mundane as well as the thrilling with the same adeptness is a skill that not usually seen in a first time author but Ms. Cleveland, it seems, has this skill in spades. It was the moments of everyday life that let me identify with Vivian and helped me “walk alongside” her in this wonderful story. Would that more people would be honestly torn to make a decision that could destroy their marriage or family rather than viewing everything as disposable. I can hardly wait to see where Ms. Cleveland will take this series next and I know it will be good. I will definitely be looking for her future works with anticipation and hope her next book will be out soon. I will highly recommend this book to others and hope to get a hard copy of the book for my shelves soon. Well done, Ms. Cleveland and welcome to the big leagues!!
I received this E-book free of charge from Ballantine Books/Random House Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.