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Keep You Close

Review

Keep You Close

Those of you --- and there are many --- who read 2018’s NEED TO KNOW will want to turn on your reading lights. KEEP YOU CLOSE, Karen Cleveland's sophomore effort, is full of the surprises hinted at and promised by her debut novel.

Readers familiar with Cleveland’s work will be pleased to know that KEEP YOU CLOSE is not merely a rewrite of NEED TO KNOW. It is much more of a slow boil, one that begins in a manner that seems to herald a domestic thriller and then becomes something else. The first person present narrator is an FBI agent named Stephanie Maddox, a former field agent who is the chief of the Bureau’s Internal Investigation Division. Stephanie, a single parent, has more than her share of difficulties balancing professional and personal duties, with her son Zachary, a graduating high school senior, often getting the short end of things as Stephanie’s mother is always quick to remind her.

"There is a subtle connection between KEEP YOU CLOSE and NEED TO KNOW. Each is complete in itself, but Cleveland threads a plotline between each that may (or may not) resolve itself with her next effort."

Things take an abrupt turn (the first of many) when Stephanie finds a loaded handgun in Zachary’s closet. Within moments of discovering the weapon --- a real sinus-clearing event for Stephanie --- she receives a visit from an agent she once dated who is now the head of the FBI’s domestic terrorism squad. It seems that Zachary is under investigation as a result of his being linked to an anti-government group. He denies any knowledge of the gun in his room or being part of the terrorist group. Stephanie, who is a trained professional skilled at the art of ferreting out the truth, can tell that Zachary is not lying. She slowly comes to the conclusion that he is being framed, and the reason concerns her work and an incident that occurred two years before involving the man who is now her direct superior.

Stephanie attempts to use her position with the Bureau to uncover information while protecting her son, even as she begins to conclude that a foreign takeover of the Bureau --- and the government beyond it --- is imminent. However, she is being quietly threatened not only at work but also at home. Then a subtle threat becomes what appears to be an attack. Or is it? Stephanie can’t be sure, but is unable to stop her own investigation, given that her son remains on the wrong end of an FBI probe. Worse, though, she learns that a secret she has kept hidden for years isn’t really a secret at all. Things come together explosively near the end when Stephanie discovers that everything she knows is somehow (however improbably) wrong, and is on the verge of possibly losing everything. Then things get worse.

There is a subtle connection between KEEP YOU CLOSE and NEED TO KNOW. Each is complete in itself, but Cleveland threads a plotline between each that may (or may not) resolve itself with her next effort. There are several different directions in which she can go, including, in all probability, at least one that readers of both novels will be unable to foresee. In any event, Cleveland’s third book cannot come too soon.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 31, 2019

Keep You Close
by Karen Cleveland

  • Publication Date: May 28, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 1524797057
  • ISBN-13: 9781524797058