The Unexpected Spy: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World’s Most Notorious Terrorists Book by Tracy Walder

This memoir follows Tracy Wilder’s life as she is recruited out of her USC sorority house into the CIA. She joins the service just before 9/11 and goes into counterintelligence where one of her jobs is to analyze satellite pictures of terrorist encampments looking for evidence of Bin Laden and other key leaders. Tracy is at the heart of the CIA’s information gathering unit and routinely has President Bush, VP Cheney, and others in her top clearance work room. She finds the work exhilarating as she moves from one unit to the next honing her skills as a spy.

At one point, Wilder is on the team that searches for evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction. She and her colleagues take multiple trips all over the globe to confer with other intelligence agencies, swapping information in pursuit of the bad guys. I found the stories of her training at The Farm insightful and fun. There’s great humor and comradery as they try work to better their offensive driving or knowledge of poisons and explosives. She also spends time in the Middle East as an interrogator trying to get valuable information out of confirmed terrorists.

The story of her time in the service of our country is riveting. I found her voice authentic, straightforward, and insightful. But the writing was not without its issues. Obviously the manuscript had to go through a reading by the agency before being released to the public. Yet, instead of rewriting the book after the redactions are made, the authors chose to leave those sections with black lines. So there are whole pages that are empty of words except for the censor’s lines. This was frustrating and I thought a better choice would be to do a rewrite. I also felt some of vagueness of the descriptions were frustrating as well. I understand that this is necessary, but entering a ‘European city’ can be confounding for a reader.

Overall, this is a good read, but it suffers from some issues in the writing.

3 out of 5 stars

Thank you to Edelweiss, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

3 thoughts on “The Unexpected Spy: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World’s Most Notorious Terrorists Book by Tracy Walder

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  1. Great review. I had to give up on this one, I wasn’t enjoying the writing and the blanked out sections bothered me a bit too. It was a weird contrast between vagueness (out of necessity, I know!) and an extreme level of personal detail elsewhere that wasn’t grabbing me. What I did read of her work was totally fascinating, though!

    Liked by 1 person

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