Need to Know: A Novel by Karen Cleveland

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Need to KnowThis book was very highly rated by some of today’s top writers, such as Grisham, Child, and Cornwell. I would recommend that you read it and see if you can discover what they saw in it that I surely missed. If you enjoy spy stories it does fit that genre without a doubt. But overall I didn’t find the tenseness or excitement usually found in spy novels.

Vivian Miller works for the CIA and has been tabbed to be quite a worker with a brilliant future already being touted by some of the higher-ups in her section. Her forte is finding and tracking Russian secret agents who have come to the United States to get as deep into the U.S. intelligence network as possible. Vivian’s abilities allow her to ferret out and identify these agents primarily through intercepting messages from people who have been identified to have some Russian connection. Many of these folks are just normal every day type individuals who are in the U.S. for many varied reasons but the vast majority of them are not spies.

Being able to sort and then really investigate the potential spies is a tough job but Vivian does it while raising a family. She has been married for over 10 years and has four young children. She met her husband, Matt, quite by accident while they both happened to be shopping. He and she collided in an easy manner but then the circumstances provided the opportunity to become friends. This they did and then over the years along came the children.

Things have been going very well for Vivian at work and as a matter of fact she has just recently been delving into not only the world of “sleepers” (as the Russian spies are known) but she has figured out a way to also find and identify some of the sleepers’ bosses who are known as handlers. This breakthrough that she made has really elevated her in the eyes of her bosses.

However now on one of Vivian’s treks into the computer world of several known Russian agents she manages to get ahold of a dossier which not only describes some of what the agents and handlers are planning to do. The dossier also shows photographs of five of the agents who are the body of this plan.

That in itself would have been quite a find but Vivian is dumbstruck when in looking at the five faces she realizes that one of them is Matt, her husband!

Vivian is very troubled because she never had any idea that Matt was from Russian. Although she never met his family he had always given legitimate reasons for being basically a lone man. He and Vivian blended together well so there was no reason to dig into his background. When she confronts him they realize that there are several ways out of this mess. He convinces her that he is not really a working agent so they need to do whatever they can to get his face out of the dossier and try to continue their lives raising their children.

Now as the story moves along, much of the book contains Vivian’s looking back at the past ten years and what all has transpired in her life with Matt and her children. These parts of the book appear to be to superfluous and definitely overdone.

The book does end in just about the manner that I would have imagined it to do so. The ending is done well and to me seems to be a very good possibility of how this whole tale could end in real life. Give it a try and see if you agree with the experts or if you, like me, are not completely sold on “Need to Know”.

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