Need to Know

Need to Know

by Karen Cleveland


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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • FINALIST FOR THE ITW THRILLER AWARD • Perfect husband. Perfect father. Perfect liar?

“Terrific.”—John Grisham
“Superb.”—Lee Child
“Breathtaking, heart-pounding.”—Louise Penny
“A fast-paced, relentlessly gripping read.”—Chris Pavone

Vivian Miller. High-powered CIA analyst, happily married to a man she adores, mother of four beautiful children. Until the moment she makes a shocking discovery that makes her question everything she believes.
She thought she knew her husband inside and out. But now she wonders if it was all a lie. How far will she go to learn the truth?  And does she really . . . 

Film rights sold to Universal Pictures for Charlize Theron • Rights sold in more than 20 markets

“Shaping up to be one of the year’s biggest new thrillers.”Entertainment Weekly
“So timely . . . Think of the perfect mix of Homeland and The Americans. . . . Need to Know needs to be read by all who relish spy novels. As entertaining as it is informative and as irresistible as it is impossible to put down.”Providence Journal
“Pulse-pounding.”O: The Oprah Magazine
“Accomplished . . . a nonstop thriller tapping into a hot mix of contemporary digital counterintelligence, old-school spying and ageless family drama.”Shelf Awareness

“An early contender for next year’s Gone Girl.”GQ (UK)
“The Russia page-turner that should be on everyone’s list.”New York Post

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524797027
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/23/2018
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 140,073
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Karen Cleveland is a former CIA analyst. She has master’s degrees from Trinity College Dublin (international peace studies) and Harvard University (public policy). Cleveland lives in northern Virginia with her husband and two young sons. This is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Two Days Earlier

Excerpted from "Need to Know"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Karen Cleveland.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

1. The title of the novel points to Vivian’s pursuit of the truth and her drive to determine what matters most to her. Ultimately, what are the things Vivian needs to know about her career and about her marriage?

2. Did you believe Matt when he assured Vivian that his intentions were pure? Were you suspicious of him at any point in the novel? Why?

3. Early in the novel, Vivian is asked to make a decision that pits her loyalty to her country against her loyalty to her family. Does she end up choosing between them, or does she manage to reconcile the two? What would you have done in her shoes?

4. On page 147, Vivian describes the day Luke almost got hit by a car. She instinctively screamed when she saw the car nearly run Luke over, while Matt remained silent. What is the purpose of this scene? What do the parents’ differing reactions reflect about their personalities?

5. Vivian tampers with confidential CIA files and programs multiple times throughout the novel. Were the things she did unethical or justified? Did she jeopardize the nation’s security?

6. Vivian and Matt both serve their respective countries, albeit in different ways. How do their national alliances affect their lives? Do their allegiances change over the course of the novel?

7. Vivian wants to provide the best life possible for her children, and she will do anything to protect them. But if Vivian had not had children to consider, do you think she would have made the same choices?

8. Do the events of the novel irreversibly change Vivian and Matt’s relationship?

9. Karen Cleveland was a CIA analyst herself. Think about the scenes where Vivian is inside the CIA headquarters—what details interested or surprised you? Did you feel you had an inside perspective into the processes of the CIA?

10. What do you know about sleeper cells in the United States? Do you feel they’re a serious threat the public should worry about?

11. Interspersed in the narrative are flashbacks to milestones in Vivian and Matt’s relationship. Did you like these scenes? What did they add to the story—or did they detract from it?

12. On page 267, Vivian says, “They get you where you’re most vulnerable.…With us, it was our family.” Where would you be the “most vulnerable”? Why?

13. Discuss the ambivalence Vivian feels about returning to the CIA after having a year off with her family. Why do you think Vivian decides to go back to work at the end of the novel?

Customer Reviews

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Need to Know 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Page turner..Had to keep reading...Could it really happen???..In the world today it looks like they are getting closer... Interesting ending...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book. The author really portrayed the woman's emotions and inner dialogue very well. The ending makes you think in today's political climate.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a sleeper! I could t put it down. Even when you could only imagine disaster, it turned in another direction. The ending left me anxiously awaiting the sequel. John Grisham’s recommendation made me buy it immediately and I’m so glad I did!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book and would like to see a sequel. Ending was predictable so step up the game in book 2.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Keeps your attention to the very (surprise) ending.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Excellent, suspenseful. Great read!
Anonymous 5 months ago
Couldn't put it down.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Anonymous 6 months ago
I am watching a new TV series about a women who was a American spy and she was put in a situation where she had to betray her country as she was given a choice to tell or her daughter would die. I think if you are going to be in job like that you shouldn't have children. Or maybe not get married. I also feel in this book Matt was Avery good lier. Looks like he still is a lier. I think he is still a spy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely could not put it down! On vacation with 3 other couples and found endless ways to escape from the group to read! DEVOURED it. Loved the way she had you sympathizing, even justifying while still being horrified. You never know how far you will go for your loved ones, or for your country....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kind of predictable. The end was what I expected all along which was a bit disappointing.
LauraMHartman More than 1 year ago
DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Viv and Matt live a full life. Viv has a demanding job as a counterintelligence analyst for the CIA. While she is looking for Russian sleeper agents on U.S. soil, Matt takes on most of the duties of child rearing. They have a young daughter that is older than their twin boys. One of the boys has developmental problems requiring frequent visits to specialists that Matt willingly takes care of. Like any couple that has been married for over a decade, they know each other inside out. Because of the cost of her son’s specialists, Viv had to go back to work sooner than she planned. But she loves and believes in the importance of her job. She is on the cusp of having her hard work to pay off. She has developed a program to identify people involved in these sleeper cells. Pictures start appearing on her monitor, she recognizes one of them. It is Matt. Has her whole life been a lie? How could he be a Russian spy and did he marry her because she works for the CIA? The old adage of keeping your enemies close just might be the reason Matt met her in the first place. So many things run through Viv’s mind she can barely breathe, but she knows her husband is mixed up in something that has the ability to implode her family. Once Matt is confronted, Viv realizes that she will have to make impossible decisions involving the country she loves and the safety of her family. She can no longer trust anything Matt says – or can she? Was he trapped in situation that he did not want to be in? Is he lying or telling her the truth? Viv has to make a move that will change the rest of their lives forever. Debut novelist Karen Cleveland’s psychological thriller will keep you up late into the night. Her characters come to life on the pages and the twist in the last chapter will stay with the reader long after closing the book. Need to Know could literally be ripped from today’s headlines. Recently I was in Washington D.C. at the Newseum. There is a section on spy cells that infiltrate the U.S. and how they are uncovered. The real life spies acted much like the ones in Cleveland’s novel. The realism of the book became more and more evident with each exhibit. It is evident that Cleveland, a former CIA agent, is a gifted novelist. Need to Know holds a well-deserved spot on the New York Times Best Seller list. Film rights to the book have been sold – snatch up this book before the movie hits the screen. While I am excited to see the book come to life in the theaters, in my opinion, the book is always better than the movie and this one is outstanding. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman
USVIreader2018 More than 1 year ago
Kept me up all night. Couldn’t put it down. Sequel?
USVIreader2018 More than 1 year ago
Kept me up all night. Couldn’t put it down. Sequel?
CCinME More than 1 year ago
Wow! A contemporary roller-coaster ride. You can just imagine it happening right here, right now. Compulsively readable!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well thought out book. I couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very thrilling
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great for a quick vacation read. Excellent
readers_retreat More than 1 year ago
In pursuit of a Russian sleeper cell on American soil, a CIA analyst uncovers a dangerous secret that will test her loyalty to the agency—and to her family. What do you do when everything you trust might be a lie? Vivian Miller is a dedicated CIA counterintelligence analyst assigned to uncover the leaders of Russian sleeper cells in the United States. On track for a much-needed promotion, she’s developed a system for identifying Russian agents, seemingly normal people living in plain sight. After accessing the computer of a potential Russian operative, Vivian stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents within America’s borders. A few clicks later, everything that matters to her—her job, her husband, even her four children—are threatened. Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust? ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- As soon as I read the synopsis I knew I just had to read this and thanks to the publisher I got my wish! I was drawn into the book from the very first chapter, there is so much suspense, a great plot and fantastic writing. The book actually starts with a huge plot point and then the rest of the book focuses on the fallout of that event. The fact that Karen Cleveland actually worked for many years as a CIA analyst lends authenticity to the book that is usually notoriously absent in other fiction titles. The book centres around Vivian and her young family and the dilemma she faces that could change her and the kids' lives forever. The situation and the feelings surrounding the betrayal are something that no normal person could sweep under the carpet. You can really relate to what Vivian actually does and doesn't do during the book. I often find books featuring espionage go either one or two ways - either really tedious and like wading through mud in reading terms...or superb, authentic feeling and i am pleased to say this was the latter. It was such an edge of your seat thrill ride as you got twists and turns in each chapter. A lot of spy novels feature tonnes of characters that aren't developed in any way but this is the opposite of that - there are fewer characters making it easy to follow and you get to know a great deal about them, especially Matt and Viv(ian). An absolutely cracking debut novel. It's safe to say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading Need To Know and I look forward to reading more of Karen Cleveland's writing! I would like to thank Random House UK - Transworld/Karen Cleveland and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an impartial review.
Gurlay Garcia More than 1 year ago
Wow! Definitely the Russian got one point in this story. The conspiracy was well-planned and was laid out even before Vivian came into the picture. It was so well-planned that Vivian was actually targeted and how her career progressed was also part of the whole scheme. Incredible! I hate the guy. I can't say which guy is it because that will then unravel everything and would just spoil the story. But the guy that's very close to Vivian wasn't anything he was claiming to be. I am not even sure if he really loves Vivian. It was all part of the mission and Vivian helplessly feel into it. What she had to go through wasn't worth it just to protect that person she thought had her and their families best interest at heart. No. It was Mother Russia right from the start. I give the book 4.5/5 passports. This is like "How to be a Russian Sleeper agent in the US." With the author being a seasoned CIA analyst, she had made the story so believable and so engaging. My heart goes out to Vivian and I wanted to be her ally and help her see through all the deception and lies that was fed and being fed to her. It's like having a friend who's in an abusive relationship and you wanted to help that friend but the friend is bent on helping the other party rather than herself. She's being manipulated and you can't help but stand and watch because you've been told to stay out of it. This story is delicious yet leaves a bitter taste in you mouth because of the ending. It was another revelation on itself on top of all the lies and deception. What else is there? I think this story needs a sequel because I wanted to know who else is on the conspiracy. Who else was lied to and manipulated? Who else was used as scapegoat and how deep does this go? This story makes you think which do you value more--duty and love for your country or your love for you family? Both are the same it's love. But which love is greater that makes you want to defy everything else? Like knowing the bad news is better than knowing nothing at all. - Karen Cleveland, Need to Know - Thank again, Karen Cleveland and Netgalley for the copy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You won't want to put it down!
colo48 More than 1 year ago
Engrossing story, well written. The constant pull between protecting her children and keeping her family together, (and keeping her marriage to Matt) always outweighs Matt's betrayal and the truth. Time and time again, she takes the risks of choosing Matt over all else, despite making herself vulnerable and still putting her family in jeopardy. Her children are so important to her decisions, but so is Matt. Hard to believe she is such an important asset, that the Russians will pull out all stops to keep her. Maybe she suspects something is not right, but she still accepts that everyone around her is trustworthy. The twist at the end is just author's manipulation. It does not ring true. It presumes she has been surrounded her whole adult life (professional and personal) with people who have been using her. Peter her boss, Matt her husband and now Omar her colleague. And she can't make the connection. What will happen if she wakes up to the reality???????
nooklooker More than 1 year ago
Well written exciting fast read.
Michelle_Palmer More than 1 year ago
As a Political Science/Russian Studies double major who teaches history and government, this book was right up my alley. However, at first I almost threw it across the room when she didn't turn him in. This felt like all of the Cold War spy thrillers that I grew up loving but with the intimacy that is generally lacking in them. (However, it takes place modern day not during the Cold War.) Vivian is a CIA counterintelligence analyst and she is good at her job. She is also the mother to 4 children with her husband Matt. When she finds some information that could destroy her world she hides it. Thus beginning the thrilling ride that is Need to Know. I was angry at her, I felt for her, I was almost dizzy at times because the thrills kept coming at me so quickly. The characters were more well developed than many thrillers of the Cold War era and therefore it was even easier to be drawn into this. The plotting is fast paced and an absolute roller coaster. This thriller earned being among the best of the genre.
Brian_Baker More than 1 year ago
You might like this book if you're into pearl-clutching domestic soap operas, but if you're looking for an actual "spy" novel, keep looking. This ain't it. The protagonist -- if you want to call her that -- is a CIA intel analyst who happens to be unknowingly married to a Russian sleeper agent (not a spoiler, as this is all revealed in the first couple of chapters). He's her husband of ten years and the father of her four kids. So, once this is revealed, you'd think the door is open for a story of intrigue and excitement as she tries to resolve the inherent conflict... and you'd be wrong. Instead, we're subjected to what seems an endless litany of domestic crises involving sick kids, lovesick adults pledging undying love, and flashbacks to their courtship, marriage, etc. A whole lot of boring navel-gazing, with hardly any advancement of a discernible plot. I'll be honest; I couldn't even come close to finishing this borefest. After the first couple of chapters I started reading faster and faster, waiting fruitlessly for anything really interesting to happen, until I was speed-reading. I finally gave up about 120 pages in. I figured that if after a THIRD of the book nothing of interest was happening, why bother torturing myself any further? This book is the literary equivalent of a chick-flick. Ugh! A solid one star, fully earned.