Need To Know by Karen Cleveland

Sock Sunday (04)

Published: 25th January 2018
Penguin Random House


You get to work. Make a coffee. Turn on your computer. Your task: break into a Russian criminal’s laptop and find proof that he’s concealing five deep-cover agents – seemingly normal people living in plain sight. You’re in. Five faces stare back at you. One of them is your husband.


Thank you to Penguin for kindly sending me a review copy.

Need To Know is a spectacular, thrilling plot that centres around the lives of Vivian and her husband of ten years, Matt but not everything is at it seems. Vivian’s job entails working for the CIA as a counterintelligence analyst in which she is solely focusing on Russia and trying to find their ringleader, but during a normal morning at her desk, she uncovers a new folder titled ‘Friends’ that includes four images of Russian spies. Three are strangers. One is the face of her husband. The shock and confusion in which Vivian felt upon seeing Matt’s face on her computer screen was brilliantly portrayed into my imagination and despite not knowing her next move, I found myself to be very intrigued by how it would all unfold.

“There’s only thing I know for certain. He was targeted because of me. Because of my job.”

Once Vivian and the readers learn of Matt being a Russian spy, the entire narrative is tipped upside down and nobody knows their next move. Readers will see how Vivian confronts her husband whilst plastering on a smile for the sake of their four children but at the back of her mind, it is clear that she has no idea what would be the right move. Does she tell her boss about the information she has uncovered like she agreed she would in her job contract? Or does she stay silent in the hope that it will all magically disappear and nobody will learn a thing? Vivian does neither. In fact, she moves in a way that has the potential to ruin her life, her career, her children’s lives and the state of the country, but she does it away and the consequences that are revealed in the chapters really do change her life.

“I got in deeper and deeper and each time I did, it was harder to crawl out, so I didn’t even try. I just buried myself further.”

Alongside the main plot of Viv and the truth about her husband, readers are given an insight into their past from when they met, their bizarre proposal in the airport, their wedding, the pregnancies, the heart breaking miscarriage and a few holidays. I absolutely loved this aspect of the plot as it allows readers to understand the two main characters in further detail but it was also due to Vivian thinking about the ten years in which she had shared with Matt. Was it real? Was it set up? Was all of this because of the Russians? When Vivian decides to delete the images of Matt and the three other spies, things most certainly do not go back to normal and before she has time to digest her findings, she takes an order from Yury who is an extremely frightening Russian, but is also someone who the CIA are trying to track down. I wanted Vivian to hand her husband in, I wanted her to go to the big boss and tell him everything but I just knew that life wouldn’t pan out as easily as that for her.

“Something isn’t right. Fear is tapping away at the edges of my mind, trying to break its way inside.”

The end of the plot is fast paced, full of shocking moments, betrayal, trust and a new life. I started to read Need To Know with knowing nothing about the what the narrative would entail but to my surprise, it was everything that a spy novel ought to be and so much more. As a character, Vivian really surprised me – at first, she was frightened of the information she had discovered but as the chapters went on, she became a lot stronger than she had been in the first chapter. Towards the ending, she was willing to do anything for her children and that was really shown from Karen’s excellent words. Throughout the entire plot, the only part that was missing was description of the surroundings – colour was lacking, there were no smells, just mentions of coffee and for me, that would have added so much more vibrance. If you’re looking for a book that will draw you into the depths of lies and betrayal, Need To Know is a story that you need to know about. See what I did there?


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