The premise of Need to Know from Karen Cleveland was one that jumped out at me almost immediately. I was browsing the Books of the Month from Amazon, and this one was there. It hit a few things that immediately make me intrigued in a book: spy craft and family life. But the hook with this one was the woman was the CIA agent, and her husband has been a Russian covert agent since before they met.
Taking this premise, Cleveland weaved a great story that was tough to put down. She started with an Epigraph that hooked me. It brought up the idea of the family and asking what a wife was going to do about the man she loved and the father of her children. Her internal quandry was simple: country or family? "But was it a real family?" was the thought that consistently went through her head. She would do anything for her children and to keep them safe, but did that include turning her husband into the CIA (her employer) as a member of a sleeper cell of Russian spies that have been in the United States for decades.
The questions brought up throughout this book from the first sentence to the very last sentence are common in spy novels, but I had never really seen the hook brought in to connect it to a marriage, too. Cleveland did this and how she did it with flashbacks that connect directly to the current timeline was perfect. The protagonsit, Vivian, went through her whole life with her husband and now things that seemed innocuous were seen through the lens of him being a Russian sleeper agent.
Was the "chance" meeting of him bumping into her on the street as she moved into her apartment before her first day at the CIA a coincidence as she thought, or was she targeted by the Russian government as a young agent in the CIA?
Was the proposal at the airport meant to distract her from seeing his family which didn't really exist since they were also Russian spies, or was it romantic to have flight plans changed from Seattle to Hawaii for a surprise proposal?
Was her husband's pushing of her to get onto the Russian account something he had to do to get more information from her, or was it a husband that wanted his wife to excel in her career?
Was her husband's continued pushing to state that she should not take time off to stay with the kids a a husband worried about the money they needed to pay for everything, or was it a Russian spy that didn't want her to leave the CIA and the Russian account?
All of these decisions when looked back now changed how Vivian looked at Matt, but one thing she could never deny was her husband's love of their children. And how he would do everything in his power to make sure they were always safe. But given all of this she continually questioned if that was the case. Was he a Russian spy first, or was he a father?
While to me, the personal story here carried the novel, the integrated spy craft was also very well done. It allowed the personal drama to correctly carry the story while not overwhelming it.
Quick Review: 5 out of 5 stars