Review | Keep You Close, Karen Cleveland

41753974Keep You Close is a taut and thrilling page turner that challenges us to consider: how far would you go to protect someone you love? Stephanie Maddox is an FBI agent and single mother who learns that her teenage son Zach is being investigated by a colleague for potential involvement with a terrorist group. Her duty as an FBI agent dictates that she stay out of the investigation completely, but her love for her son makes that impossible.

I enjoyed this book. It’s not quite as gripping as the author’s earlier novel Need to Know, but Cleveland is a talented storyteller, and drops just enough clues and red herrings along the way to keep me invested in the outcome. Mostly, though, the strength of this book is in its protagonist. Despite her high-powered job and unusual circumstances, Stephanie is a very relatable woman. I love how her investigation into her son’s case slowly unearths the possibility that her career may be directly responsible for the current situation. Without spoiling anything, Stephanie works in the Internal Affairs division, which understandably puts a target on her back from some of her colleagues. She has also used her professional position in the past to go after Zach’s father, a rapist and a powerful man with ties to organized crime. The twists and red herrings did feel a bit much after a while, and part of me wished the story had kept a narrower focus, but I like the emotional arc of Stephanie’s fear that her son may be an innocent victim of her choices.

I do wish Stephanie had a bit more uncertainty about Zach’s innocence throughout the novel. Instead, apart from a few niggling doubts here and there, she seems almost fully convinced of his innocence and the story spirals out more into her investigation into past enemies. Some things do happen, particularly near the end, that somewhat complicate Zach’s role in the whole affair, but I think fewer red herrings and a tighter focus on the particulars of Zach’s case would have built up to this emotional payoff much more powerfully.

Overall, this is an entertaining read, and a fun thriller. In my review for Need to Know, I mentioned how much I loved the way Cleveland shows her protagonist balancing the professional and personal parts of her life, and I thought Keep You Close tackles this same theme in a different way.

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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