You Can Run
September 15, 2021

Book Review

You Can Run

reviewed by Lou Jacobs


“We have your son. Breathe a word of this to anyone and you’ll never see him again.” With this robotic voice proclamation Jill Bailey’s life will never be the same.

Jill is a senior CIA analyst whose job is vetting potential double agents, to ensure field agents haven’t been compromised or coerced into recruiting a foreign source. The mechanical voice instructs her to approve the report involving a Syrian defense official, attached to the covert biowarfare program, known by code name: Falcon. Jill does as she is told, and her son is returned to the daycare unharmed. She suspects she’s been compromised forever, and it’s a matter of time before “they” come at her again.

Realizing that she has compromised both family and country, she impulsively resigns her hard-earned position and career. She realizes that Falcon is most likely a “dangle;” a planted double agent from an adversarial country. Put in place to plant misinformation or obtain knowledge of our agents working in the field, leading to their elimination. Her husband, Drew Smith, is convinced by a vague argument to relocate their home and his legal career to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. He has followed her faithfully on several foreign postings when she was a field agent. An uncomfortable four years has passed, with her teaching part-time both Mandarin and Turkish, and giving birth to a beautiful girl, Mia. Drew even says one day over breakfast, “We’re acting like we’re on the run.” She has left nothing to chance and used every tactic she learned in CIA training. All to no avail. One day she receives a simple note, in block letters and black marker: “YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE.”

She senses and identifies a young black woman, late twenties, and quite statuesque with short black hair, who is following her in the grocery store. With her life unravelling, she is approached by this woman. She is an investigative journalist and wants to talk to her about Falcon. Alex Charles is eager to investigate a reliable tip regarding the CIA’s Syrian source. Not only to ferret out the truth, but also to break a blockbuster story and garner a Pulitzer for herself. This tipster tells Alex to find “Jill Bailey,” and everything will fall into place. Have the Syrians really developed a super strain of anthrax? One so lethal that it would kill ninety percent of those exposed. Who is Alex’s source and how is she privy to this inside intel?

Karen Cleveland weaves a complex and convoluted thriller that escalates inexorably with bursting tension and intrigue, as Jill and Alex eventually team-up to investigate who’s behind the insertion of this dangle , known as Falcon. They uncover a vast conspiracy that stretches into the depths of highly placed senior CIA officers. Only someone who has actually been a former CIA analyst, like Karen Cleveland, can provide the authenticity that exudes through every page. The ultimate reveal in the exciting denouement is chilling and decidedly unexpected … and without any breadcrumbs.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing – Ballantine for providing an uncorrected proof of this gem, in exchange for an honest review.

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