Karen Cleveland’s cinematic debut, Need to Know, blends elements of domestic suspense, traditional thrillers, and spy novels to craft something that feels both fresh and familiar. The resulting novel will have widespread appeal for readers everywhere.
Just moments after Need to Know begins, CIA Analyst Vivian Miller’s perfect life is shattered. Tasked with identifying sleeper agents put into place by the Russian government, she never expects to remotely stumble upon a photograph of her husband on the computer of a suspected spy.
Most writers would follow this with a “is he or isn’t he” plot detailing Vivian’s exploration of her husband’s secret life. But Karen Cleveland is not “most writers.” Just pages later, Vivian’s husband Matt admits to working with the Russian government and our novel’s storyline is off and running.
Spoilers would abound in any further discussion of this breakneck plot; but rest assured that things take a winding path towards an exciting and unexpected finish.
In an unusual move, Karen Cleveland focuses on this working woman’s family life. Detailing how Vivian juggles the demands of a high stress job with the requirements of raising four children and maintaining a happy marriage would seem counter-intuitive to the tropes of the spy genre, but in fact it helps to flesh out a character who will soon be faced with the most agonizing of decisions.
Karen Cleveland’s writing style is highly readable. She keeps the pacing pitch perfect for her new hybrid genre. Typical thriller readers will find some of the domestic scenes tedious; while domestic suspense readers will find the high concept actions set-pieces a bit jarring – but trust me, somehow it works. Pages fly by as each new revelation alters the course of Vivian’s pivotal decisions.
Film rights to Need to Know have already been optioned, which is no surprise given the visual feel of the novel. Readers can almost picture scenes in their mind’s eye as they unfold on the page. Certainly Vivian Miller is a prime role for one of today’s leading actresses. Charlize Theron is already attached to the project and fans will immediately see why. Theron had just the right blend of toughness and heart needed to bring Vivian to life.
Meanwhile, readers will be anxious to see what Karen Cleveland offers next. She has proven that she can tell a hell of a story without resorting to typical genre tropes. Hopefully she will continue to toy with reader’s expectations with her future work.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.