By Karen Cleveland

Random House / Ballantine

Pub date: 31-Aug-2021

you can run book cover by karen cleveland

AMBER LOVE 14-JULY-2021 This review is a courtesy provided by NetGalley. To support this site and my other work, please consider being a monthly donor at; you can also buy my books through Amazon (or ask your local retailer to order you copies). I’ve also curated lists of books and other things I like on Amazon so you can shop through my lists of recommended products.

Publisher’s summary:

A CIA analyst makes a split-second decision that endangers her country but saves her son—and now she must team up with an investigative journalist she’s not sure she can trust in this electrifying thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of Need to Know.

We have your son.

It’s the call that’s every parent’s nightmare. And for CIA analyst Jill Bailey, it’s the call that changes everything.

It’s Jill’s job to vet new CIA sources. Like Falcon, who’s been on the recruitment fast track. But before she can get to work, Jill gets the call. Her son has been taken. And to get him back, Jill does something she thought she’d never do.

Alex Charles, a hard-hitting journalist, begins to investigate an anonymous tip: an explosive claim about the CIA’s hottest new source. This is the story that Alex has been waiting for. The tip—and a fierce determination to find the truth—leads Alex to Jill, who would rather remain hidden.

As the two begin to work together, they uncover a vast conspiracy that will force them to confront their loyalties to family and country. An edge-of-your-seat thriller, You Can Run will have you asking: What would you do to save the ones you love?


I have little to nitpick about Karen Cleveland’s YOU CAN RUN because it was a story about trust delivered in two different points of view. Jill Bailey Smith leads the charge to get back her kidnapped son while she’s a covert communications (COVCOM) analyst. To get him back, she has to do exactly as the kidnappers say which means pushing through an intel asset without proper vetting and betraying her husband. As Jill conquers one hurdle, she packs up the family and tries to start fresh, even adding a daughter to their family. Meanwhile, journalist Alex Charles is itching to make a name for herself as a black woman in investigative reporting. Their worlds collide when Alex’s anonymous source has information about the asset Jill approved.

That’s the basics of YOU CAN RUN, but the meat of each action is where Cleveland proves her talents. Not only are the points of view clean and delineated by chapters, but both main characters have clear arcs and motivations. Jill wants safety for her family and her country; Alex wants to get the truth out to the public and dreams of a Pulitzer. Both have added pressure: Jill has to contend with her choices that could land her in prison and certainly come between her husband Drew and herself; Alex is haunted by memories of her divorce and the death of her mother, the woman who adopted her and instilled the truth that black women usually don’t get to win.

By chapter five, the time line jumps four years allowing Jill and Drew to have settled into a new normal when the kidnappers are back to threatening the children. At the midpoint, Jill changes from reactionary to aggressively pushing back and takes hold of the situation when her brain is telling her to runaway again.

A third woman comes into play, Natalia, a Russian spy. With her, both Jill and Alex have another struggle with trust. Readers don’t get to see Natalia’s point of view until the very end with an explosive twist.

Since this is all about spies and what governments do that the general public never learns about, it’s hard to think that after all the top secret games are played and foiled, Jill’s family’s involvement would be kept secret. Even though it’s Alex who breaks the story, other reporters and (let’s face it) citizens salivate with curiosity and likely reveal every detail about her life (doxxing). Cleveland expects readers to go with the premise that Jill’s children will be safe from the post-kidnapping trauma of being in the spotlight. One of Barack Obama’s daughters smoked a joint at concert and the whole world knew.

The ride of action versus reaction will captivate readers who get sucked into a feminist drama disguised as a spy thriller.

Rating: 5 stars

five star rating

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