Book Review: Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

Need to Know is an engaging spy thriller that makes you wonder what you would do in this situation. Relatable characters and a tense plot make Need to Know a highly enjoyable read.

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First, a Need to Know summary:

Vivian Miller is an analyst with the CIA, specializing in Russian affairs. For the last several years she has been focusing on identifying sleeper cells of Russian agents in the United States. It’s stressful work that often requires long hours. It can make juggling her home life with her husband and four young kids really difficult. Luckily, she’s married to Matt, the perfect husband and father. Or is he? (queue the dramatic music)

Vivian and Matt live a life that will resonate with a lot of people in young, dual income households. They juggle childcare responsibilities, over-extended themselves on a house for the sake of a good school district, worry about layoffs and the loss of health insurance, and try to always do the best things for their kids. Vivian longs to take time off from work so she can spend more time with her kids. It hurts that their children appear to favor Matt, whose job allows him more flexibility to shoulder more of the child rearing duties. But Vivian is also extremely grateful for the partner she has in Matt. He is loving, attentive and responsible – the family’s rock in the sometimes stormy waters of trying to manage and nurture a young family.

Then Vivian uncovers some information about her perfect husband that throws her into an unthinkable situation that forces her to choose between her family and her country. A really well written spy thriller ensues. But that’s all I’m going to say about the plot because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

I truly enjoyed Need to Know and find myself still thinking about it several days after I finished it. I think the term “page turner” is over used, but by golly, this book is a genuine, honest to God page turner. A lot of it had to do with how completely relatable these people and their situation in life were. They weren’t glamorous James Bond types. They were parents who changed poopy diapers and worried about who would pick up the kids from daycare. That got to me as a reader and had me wondering what on earth I would do had I been in Vivian’s shoes. Luckily, I’ll never have to find out. Or will I? (nah)

Put Need to Know on your summer reading list and enjoy the ride. You won’t be disappointed. (P.S. Bonus – it’s fairly short.)

This put me in the mood to read more spy thrillers. Know of any good ones? Please share in the comments section.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

  1. Sold! I trust you implicitly in this genre especially because I know it’s a favorite. Thanks for the tantalizing review! One of the members of my biography writers group sent an email with lots of spy thriller recs. I’ll forward it to you….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well as you can tell, I’m a bit behind on my books based upon my post from June but I did just finish this one. I really enjoyed it and found it suspenseful and a real page turner (no, I didn’t start it in June 🙂 I’m a slow reader but not that slow…). Most of the way through the book, I just wanted to grab Vivian and tell her to wake up to what was going on! Do the right thing lady, even if it is going to mean the end to your career and your family. There were a few things in the book that I didn’t think were credible (USB memory stick plugged into CIA main frame computer – heck, even the Army won’t allow memory sticks so I can’t imagine the CIA would; witness protection program to beautiful, isolated island outside of the US (naw, don’t think they can “protect” you there.) But aside from a few items like that, I thought it was a well written and intriguing tale. It was written in such a way that the reader does not trust Matt and is suspicious of him the entire time. Then, when the book concludes…well sort of, I felt like I, the reader, had been duped. That the author had been leading me on simply to make her book more suspenseful. That is, of course, up until the Epilogue. Up until that point, I was a bit disappointed in the book and thought it all came together too neat and nicely for my liking. But the Epilogue – Bam! Loved it and it changed my opinion of the entire book! Great entertaining read!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Michelle!

    Late to the game on this one like my old man, but I also just finished the book and really enjoyed it! I love thriller novels and this one did not disappoint me. I agree with your point about Vivian and her family being “everyday” people. She’s a hard working woman who wants the best for her family. Then, like a slippery slope, she’s in over her head with the Russians! I found myself frustrated with her for not seeing past Matt’s guise, but then again, it’s her loving, perfect, disarming husband! The author made me suspicious of Matt because of the way he was described, like his deeply hurt and deflated expressions, when as the reader you’re thinking UM HELLO, she has every right to be upset and distrustful, don’t fall for his puppy dog eyes! The Epilogue left me reeling, the author tricked me into thinking they were going to live happily ever after, and while I am normally a sucker for happy endings, this felt more satisfying and fitting. Great pick, Michelle!

    Liked by 1 person

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