Book Review: Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

Book Review: Need to Know, by Karen Cleveland

A CIA analyst whose role is to hunt down and identify Russian sleeper agents in the USA discovers her long-time husband on the list of suspects.


Imagine, if you will, your dream job in the CIA, an analyst whose role is to hunt down and identify Russian sleeper agents in the USA. Now, imagine you hit the jackpot, you infiltrate a high ranking Russian’s laptop. However, when you open the file that contains his sleeper agents’ photos, there is a picture of your husband. What would you do?

Therein lies the premise of Karen Cleveland’s Need to Know. When Vivian Miller, CIA analyst, discovers a photo of her husband, Matt, in amongst four other sleeper agents, her world is sent into a spin. Confronting Matt with what she knows is only the beginning of a spy thriller for the 21st Century.

Through a series of ongoing twists and turns, combined with flashbacks to various stages of their first meeting, budding romance and the births of their four children, Need to Know provides an entertaining and fast-paced story that never goes too far. Some of the flashbacks are a little long-winded, but the current events more than make up for this.

Vivian’s life – both domestic and professional – is held to ransom, as she struggles to make sense of her discovery and wrestles with her professional duty and personal responsibility, as they collide in a twisted and tangled wreck, where every decision has devastating consequences.

The ‘domestic thriller’, as this genre has become known (think The Girl on the Train, for example), takes the ordinary and shakes it up – making it accessible to us all, while still remaining just out of the realms of day-to-day reality. Cleveland, a former CIA analyst herself, has taken her former life and asked that classic question, the one that drives all great fiction – what if?

Need to Know is Karen Cleveland’s first novel and has been optioned for a movie adaptation with Charlize Theron as Vivian.

Reviewed by Glen Christie

Distributed by: Penguin Australia
Released: January 2018
RRP: $34.99 hardback, $32.99 trade paperback

Rating out of 10:  8

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