Need to Know by Karen Cleveland – Book Review


I picked up Need To Know as an advanced copy due to being a book reviewer. The description sounded intriguing:

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.‎ (NetGalley)

I was reading Friend Request by Laura Marshall and was going to start another book right after when I received an email from NetGalley for Need To Know. I read the description and mentioned, I was intrigued and thus requested a copy.


The book opens with the protagonist at a computer at home trying to make a decision if she should turn her husband in or not for being a Russian spy. Trust me this is not a spoiler for the book straightaways tells you who the culprit is and what he’s done.  As I’m ready the preface and already knowing who the suspect is and what he’s done, I knew the rest of the book would take me back to when it all started. When did Vivian find out about her husband? Or was it Vivian that even found out? But once the truth was brought to her how did she make the decision to turn her husband in? But that wasn’t to be.


The entire Chapter 1 focuses on two things: 1. should Vivian tell Matt she knows about him, and 2. her telling Matt she knows. From there we are inside Vivian’s head and it’s annoying as hell.
There was an episode of Black Mirror Season 5, Episode 4 called Black Museum. A traveler stops to recharge the battery in her car. While waiting for the car to charge (3 hours times), she visits the Black Museum. I’m not going to go into details about this episode but say it had episodes within this one episode. One of the episodes had to do with having the person who is dying transplanted into your mind. It’s like having someone in your head all the time. And therein lies the problem..having someone in your head and you can’t get rid of them. This is what Need To Know felt like to me while reading it. I felt like Vivian was in my head. I had to hear her thoughts and feelings, when she was driving, when she was at work, and when she was at home. It was like I couldn’t get her out of my head and it got worse with each passing chapter.


She constantly worried about how this would affect the kids should she turn her husband for being a spy. Which is a valid concern, but the way it was written you wanted to run in the house and tell the kids yourself and let her be done with it. She did have baby twins that were more of a concern for her for she didn’t want to be left having to deal with five kids on her own. She talked about things are easier with Matt around and she shouldn’t turn him in for this reason. This reason one of many.


The book spends time on their first meeting and how they got together and ended up together. They have been together for some time, about 10 years now and Vivian doesn’t want to throw 10 years down the drain. But she also loves Matt and this is the biggest conflict. She learns that her life before marriage with Matt was basically a lie and her marriage to Matt is a lie.  But for Matt, his feelings for Vivian have always been real and continue to be real. He gives her little insight into what was real and what wasn’t. He also gives her a way out by telling her she should turn Matt in.


I know we would know what to do if someone we loved was a spy. I get that. But having to sit with Vivian in front of her computer screen at work wondering what to do with the information she found by using a program called Athena to hack into someone else’s computer to obtain this information and now her work ethics are conflicting with her home, children and husband feelings. She makes a decision that could lead her down a rabbit hole of destruction. Not only for herself but for her family. But Vivian is given an out in the midst of her bad decision.


The book dragged. I skipped a lot of chapters. I couldn’t take Vivian constantly wondering what she should do with different information being presented to her. The book focused more on her life at home and having to deal with Matt’s secret than it did with finding the handlers and sleepers. After the reveal in the preface, I thought the book would focus on her finding out about her husband by way of going back to the beginning of her receiving an assignment to find handlers and sleepers. The book would have definitely read much better for me.

On Goodreads the book received a 4.09 rating. I’m not sure how, unless these are friends of the author or just can’t be honest with a review. Even when I got to certain parts of the book I thought would present something worth biting into, I faced with Vivian’s endless thoughts. Vivian was definitely in my head for way too long that the law allows.  I equate this book to The Shoeless Child as in I didn’t care for it at all, but others may. This dislike is more of a personal taste…sort of.

I have learned this book is being turned into a movie starring Charlize Theron, who is also producing the movie. Need To Know Movie.

My rating on Goodreads: 1 out of 5 stars

Published: 23 January 2018
Ballantine Books (part of Random House Publishing)
General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thrillers (not sure where they got these genres from **rolling eyes immensely**

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