Category Archives: Spy Thriller

Review: Keep You Close by Karen Cleveland

Title: Keep You Close by Karen Cleveland
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Spy Thriller, Suspense
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A woman must confront her sense of right and wrong when the one person she loves most is accused of an unimaginable crime. From the New York Times bestselling author of Need to Know. . . . 

A strange sensation runs through me, a feeling that I don’t know this person in front of me, even though he matters more to me than anyone ever has.

Stephanie Maddox works her dream job policing power and exposing corruption within the FBI. Getting here has taken her nearly two decades of hard work, laser focus, and personal sacrifices—the most important, she fears, being a close relationship with her teenage son, Zachary. A single parent, Steph’s missed a lot of school events, birthdays, and vacations with her boy—but the truth is, she would move heaven and earth for him, including protecting him from an explosive secret in her past. It just never occurred to her that Zachary would keep secrets of his own.

One day while straightening her son’s room, Steph is shaken to discover a gun hidden in his closet. A loaded gun. Then comes a knock at her front door—a colleague on the domestic terrorism squad, who utters three devastating words: “It’s about Zachary.”

So begins a compulsively readable thriller of deception and betrayal, as Stephanie fights to clear her son’s name, only to expose a shadowy conspiracy that threatens to destroy them both—and bring a country to its knees. Packed with shocking twists and intense family drama, Keep You Close is an electrifying exploration of the shattering consequences of the love that binds—and sometimes blinds—a mother and her child.


Keep You Close by Karen Cleveland is a riveting spy thriller which is also full of suspense.

FBI Agent Stephanie “Steph” Maddox is a single mom to seventeen year old Zachary. She is quite driven, works long hours and over the years, she always puts her career first. Their relationship has deteriorated to the point she has no idea what is going on in his life as he prepares for high school graduation. This feeling of alienation is driven home when Steph discovers a gun hidden in his closet and she is visited by a former boyfriend, FBI Agent Scott Clark. Steph is horrified when Scott informs her that her son has turned up in his ongoing investigation of anarchist group Freedom Solidarity Movement.  Steph wants to believe Zachary’s strong denial that he is not involved with the group or the gun, but can she trust that her son is being truthful? Soon enmeshed in an investigation that uncovers far-reaching implications, Steph must decide whether her loyalties lie with Zachary or her country.

Steph leads a fairly solitary life since she has no close friends and puts in long hours at work. She is also very tight-lipped about her past and she does not discuss Zachary’s father. Steph’s relationship with her mother is a bit antagonistic since her mom is quite vocal about her daughter’s disappointing mothering skills. Steph does not do herself any favors with Zachary due to her impatience with him and her caustic comments. She desperately wants to believe her son but will Steph overcome her self-doubts long enough to look at the situation objectively?

Steph is very reactive to the situation and she quickly learns that something nefarious is afoot.  What she cannot figure out is who might be targeting her and why. Her first big case yielded a high profile take down and numerous arrests, but why would they come after her so many years later? Steph’s next avenue of inquiry leads directly back to a traumatic incident in her past, but why would this person want to harm her or Zachary? Her next suspicion is so far-fetched that she can barely entertain her supposition seriously. But if what Steph is soon coming to believe is, in fact true, a vast conspiracy is underway that could reach the highest levels of law enforcement and the American government.

Keep You Close is an absolutely electrifying, pulse-pounding thriller. Steph’s solitary approach to life is so deeply ingrained that she makes incredibly ill-conceived decisions. By the novel’s end, she finds herself in an ethical and moral quandary that leaves her with very few choices when faced with a virtually impossible choice.  Karen Cleveland brings this multi-layered and timely story to a jaw-dropping, twist-filled  conclusion. An outstanding thriller that will leave readers asking “what if” about current day, headline news.

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Filed under Ballantine Books, Contemporary, Karen Cleveland, Keep You Close, Rated B+, Review, Spy Thriller, Suspense