NEED TO KNOW by Karen Cleveland


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In Cleveland’s debut novel, a CIA analyst tracks Russian sleeper agents—to her own front door.

On the surface, Vivian and Matt live a traditional American life: they have a happy marriage based on a lucky meeting and love at first sight; a house in the suburbs near the best schools; four beautiful children. There is some financial strain, but Vivian feels fulfilled by her work on the Russia desk at the CIA, and Matt’s IT job allows him flexibility to pick up the kids as needed. Vivian’s team is working hard to uncover the system used to keep track of Russian sleeper agents, and as she secretly navigates through the hacked computer of a midlevel Russian handler, she's thrilled to discover photographs of his five agents—until she realizes that one of the faces is that of her husband. Suddenly, everything she thought secure—her marriage, her patriotism, and her very life—lies on shaky ground. Whose side is Matt really on? Should she turn him in? Can she betray her country to keep her family together? The fast-moving plot will appeal to fans of The Americans and to conspiracy theorists, and Cleveland was herself a CIA analyst, so she knows her way around secrets and those who fight to keep them. The problem is that the characters lack human development. Vivian’s inner conflict is clear and somewhat poignant, especially as she looks back over the years of her life and has to reconsider every word her husband ever said, every decision they made, even the way they met. But Matt seems a somewhat slippery character from the beginning, so maybe she just wasn’t very good at reading people.

If you don't expect a deeply thoughtful thriller, you’ll get carried away by the action enough to enjoy it.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-5247-9702-7
Page count: 286pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2017