5 reviews

Need to Know: A Novel
by Karen Cleveland

Published: 2018-01-23
Hardcover : 304 pages
6 members reading this now
16 clubs reading this now
4 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 3 of 5 members
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • 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, ...
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • 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

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of January 2018: The last thing that CIA analyst Vivian Miller expects to see when she finally accesses the files of a suspected Russian sleeper cell is the face of someone close to her. Someone she thought she could trust with her four children. Someone whose exposure as a Russian spy will destroy her hard-fought career. Miller panics and deletes the file. She knows she's only delayed the inevitable exposure…unless she can use her skills to extract herself and her family. Debut author Karen Cleveland capitalizes on her own experiences as a CIA analyst, shedding light on the gritty and unromantic day-to-day realities of intelligence work even as she tightens the screws on Miller. Russian threats, a CIA internal investigation sniffing closer, and the constant fear that those whom she trusts are not worthy of her faith hamstring Miller's ability to get loose of the situation, while her family is put squarely in the crosshairs. Cleveland brings an invigorating, authoritative twist to the usual CIA thriller, putting you on edge while you flip pages like crazy to find out what happens next. —Adrian Liang, Amazon Book Review


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Discussion Questions


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?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Susan L. (see profile) 10/22/23

by Valerie Z. (see profile) 06/06/19

by Marilyn L. (see profile) 04/21/19

by Alice B. (see profile) 04/17/19

Best book I’ve read in a while!

  "need to know"by Carolyn R. (see profile) 03/11/19

this is a quick easy read and an excellent spy thriller! not usually what I like to read but was thoroughly entertained by this!

  "Uninspiring and disappointing"by Gail R. (see profile) 09/12/18

Need to know, Karen Cleveland, author; Mia Barron, narrator
This book was so highly recommended to me by a friend that I decided to listen to it while on a long drive from New England to Fl
... (read more)

by Emily S. (see profile) 08/29/18

  "This story is hard to believe, but should make for a decent discussion about marriage."by Patrice C. (see profile) 07/21/18

Hard to swallow. If this is a typical CIA agent, I have even more reason to lose sleep at night worrying about our country. The book is certainly a page turner, and the author knows how to keep the suspense... (read more)

  "Fun to Know it was written by a CIA Analyst"by Pauline H. (see profile) 07/08/18

Makes me think some of the scenes of how the office is structured are real. And I thought how the character just wanted to go back to her normal life were very well portrayed. Read in one sitting on... (read more)

  "Suspenseful!"by Betty T. (see profile) 02/14/18

Vivian Miller is happily married and an average mother of four small children. But her job is not so average. She is a CIA analyst whose job it is to locate the ringleaders of some Russian sleeper cells... (read more)

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