Book of the Day


Need to Know

By Karen Cleveland

Ballantine Books
ISBN 978-1524797027
Publication Date: January 23, 2018

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Need to Know

Review by P.A. De Voe

Need to Know, Karen Cleveland’s debut novel, deals with the elemental question of choices a “good” person might make when there are conflicting loyalties: loyalty to one’s family and their perceived needs versus one’s country and its citizens’ safety and security.

In Need to Know, Vivian is a highly stressed woman trying to balance her life’s most critical pieces: love for her husband, the demands of her four young children, and her full-time job as a CIA analyst. Her hectic life is chaotic even before she discovers a secret that threatens to spiral her world out of control. Vivian attempts to manage the situation with a series of patchwork measures—each of which takes her further into a morass of betrayal and danger to everything and everyone she loves.

This is a well-constructed, fast-paced suspense novel. While a reader might question the decisions Vivian, as the protagonist, makes, Karen Cleveland’s ability to build memorable characters and to have them behave consistently throughout her story gives a level of credence to her over-all plotline. Although I must add, the CIA’s apparent handling of Russian spies did leave me wondering about that part of the novel. I won’t say more on this latter point, however, so as not to give the story away.

Need to Know is an easy read with a brisk pace and enough twists and turns to satisfy any suspense aficionado.

P.A. De Voe is an anthropologist and Asian specialist who writes historical mysteries and crime stories immersed in the life and times of Imperial China (Hidden, Warned, and Trapped). She’s also published short stories, From Judge Lu’s Ming Dynasty Case Files, in anthologies and online.