Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Unexpected Spy: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World's Most Notorious Terrorists” as Want to Read:
The Unexpected Spy: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World's Most Notorious Terrorists
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Unexpected Spy: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World's Most Notorious Terrorists

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,842 ratings  ·  365 reviews
A highly entertaining account of a young woman who went straight from her college sorority to the CIA, where she hunted terrorists and WMDs

"A thrilling tale...Walder’s fast-paced and intense narrative opens a window into life in two of America’s major intelligence agencies." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

When Tracy Walder enrolled at the University of Southern Califo
...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 25th 2020 by St. Martin's Press
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Unexpected Spy, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Sarah there is definitely language but doesn’t go past the occasion use of the f word

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,842 ratings  ·  365 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of The Unexpected Spy: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World's Most Notorious Terrorists
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
This was fun actually, even though the protagonist came across as a teensy bit too naive. a lot of globe trotting, a lot of office work. Lots of image recognition and plenty of illustration of how our thinking and our doing are 2 different things.
Love how spunky -the MC is about pretty much everything. Great into to her family history. Had a laugh at the evasion driving lessons. LOL. A great way to sit exams.
Q:
And every time I was stateside, I made sure to get highlights in my hair or touch up
...more
Erin
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thanks to Netgalley, St. Martin's Press and Sara Beth Haring for approved access to an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Tracy Walder takes readers into the heart of her experience with both the CIA and FBI in the post-911 world. Overcoming obstacles in her childhood, Tracy emerges as a fiery spirited woman who cares deeply about people and her country. Often labeled as a "Malibu Barbie," at home and abroad, Tracy dealt daily with sexism on the job. I am still thinking of that instructor
...more
Lex Kent
This was an interesting and at times riveting memoir. While I don’t read a ton of nonfiction, I’m a fan of memoirs, biographies, and true stories that almost feel like reading fiction. I figured the true story about a real life female spy would be right up my alley. This was a little different than I expected, but I thought it was very good. It’s very readable and I finished it in one sitting since I didn’t want to put it down.

What made this story really interesting to me was that Tracey was in
...more
Nenia ✨️ Socially Awkward Trash Panda ✨️ Campbell

Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest


The only other spy memoir I've read was Valerie Plame's FAIR GAME, which was really good, although irritatingly, large sections of the memoir had been redacted for security purposes by the CIA. The CIA is a jerk like that. I figured that since Tracy Walder not only worked for the CIA but also the FBI, something similar would happen here. I was not wrong. Portions of THE UNEXPECTED SPY were redacted, although not as significantly. Maybe b
...more
Michelle
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
4 stars

I was really excited to read this book because of my huge interest in politics and history and on a fun note, Alias was one of my favorite shows in college (remember Jennifer Garner totally kicking butt as a spy?) and reading the story of a real life, badass woman in the CIA and FBI checked all the boxes I needed to read this with gusto. I am happy to say that this did not disappoint. It just so happens to have come at the perfect time too - I had just finished the audio of the oral histo
...more
Valerity (Val)
I stayed up late the first night reading this, until I just couldn’t hold my eyes open any longer. I might have read it right through if I hadn’t been so tired from just inhaling another book before this one. A really good read about a young lady spy for the CIA who goes after bad guy terrorists after 9/11. She later changes jobs to work for the FBI. I found it a good book and hope it might give some young women different goals for the future about making a difference. I found this to be another ...more
Monica
Apr 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
This was a really interesting book! I found the differences between the CIA and FBI from a female perspective chilling - I'd like to know if there are other female agents who also feel such a level of misogyny in the FBI. And perhaps (hopefully) a lot has changed in the last 20 years.

Except for the distraction of having entire paragraphs redacted, I found the story engaging. Walder did a great job characterizing her fellow teammates; that gave a level of humanity to the horrors they faced while
...more
Ankit Garg
Feb 24, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is the true story of how a sorority girl worked hard to join the CIA and the FBI and helped foil terrorist activities across the globe. It is a story of inspiration, of silent heroes and their dedication in whatever they choose to do. The spy memoir also lingers around the topic of prevalent misogyny in the said agencies, and conveys how our protagonist gracefully dealt with it all.

Across the length of the prose, several parts have been erased out in order to maintain confidentiality a
...more
L.A. Starks
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book for everyone who likes thrillers, mystery, suspense, and current events.

Walder--about whom I knew only as a parent of a Hockaday alum--explains her background, her work for the CIA in terrorist takedowns including regrets over the bad guys she didn't get, and the fiasco that was (no real surprise given evidence from more recent events at the Bureau) the relentlessly sexist attitude of the FBI towards her CIA background, e.g. "you didn't really do that."
She finishes with an insight
...more
Bam cooks the books ;-)
Tracy Schandler Walder writes about her fascinating careers in her memoir: first as a CIA operative right out of college; then as an FBI special agent working to stop hate crimes in the LA area; and currently as a history teacher in an all-girls school where she tries to empower young women.

The CIA section is a little frustrating to read because portions were redacted by the government as containing too sensitive information. This really disrupts the flow of the story and one wishes Tracy had fo
...more
Wendy
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Unexpected Spy, by Tracy Walder, has to be one of the most fascinating memoirs I have ever read!
This is her account of as a young woman going straight from her college sorority to hunting terrorists for the CIA. Under an alias identity she flew to the Middle East, post 9/11, and helped to foil terrorist activities. She then became a Special Agent for the FBI where she had to deal with the relentless sexist attitude towards her CIA background. She is currently a history teacher at an all-girl
...more
Dee Arr
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spy, memoir
Welcome to the world of the CIA and the FBI, described by a former agent who views the world through serious glasses while sharing occasional humorous views as part of what is primarily an intense landscape.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. It isn’t a book of chapters, each taking a talking point and ripping her former agencies. It is a chronological story of author Tracy Walder’s life, beginning with a brief description of her younger years before joining the CIA shortly before 9/11
...more
Carolyn McBride
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating, sometimes frightening book but it was consistantly eye-opening. I do not understand how cruelty and narrow-mindedness can exist in our day, but I am glad that there are people working to shut it down.
The author has had an interesting life and it was good to see a driven woman in a position to do all she could to keep the world a little safer. The many redacted sections were a little distracting, but I understood the necessity for them.
This line "...trying to hold the terr
...more
Sherwood Smith
This highly readable. absorbing memoir has already received a huge number of reviews, so I don't feel I need to summarize Tracy Walder's background, or the general layout of the book.

It's a very intense look at her experiences overseas while a CIA Agent as part of the Poison Squad (her name--I have no idea if that is a real thing). There were some very grim descriptions (severed heads, anyone?) but what I found most disturbing was the hate-filled misogyny aimed at her, especially during her FBI
...more
Alexa
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Almost DNFed this early on but I'm glad I didn't. It gets off to a rough start--even with the author's note that explains why many passages are redacted at the CIA's behest--it still makes swaths of the book dissatisfying to read (not her fault!). You'll get to a juicy bit and--redacted! That plus in her first few chapters, Walder's descriptions of herself are A Bit Much. She takes delight in really paying up the sorority girl angle and I wasn't sure I could read a whole book by that person... b ...more
Molly
Feb 08, 2020 rated it liked it
THE UNEXPECTED SPY

This was a nice memoir written by Tracy Walder about her early life and then her time later serving in the CIA and the FBI.

As a youngster, Tracy Walder had some challenging issues to overcome. She was diagnosed as having droopy baby syndrome and as a teenager she was bullied. Although not very socially involved, she was quite studious, participated on the dance team, and was interested in current events. Upon entering college at University of Southern California she began to f
...more
Natasha Niezgoda
WOW... I never realized how much you had to give up.

First off, reading/listening to The Unexpected Spy did really get me thinking that I need some cooler “badassery” skills.

True story: Tracy Walder goes from being a USC sorority girl to a CIA agent in a semester. And then she’s thrown into some of the most notorious and prolific cases that the CIA has been a part of since September 11th.

This isn’t a full tell-all of every CIA secret because - paragraph redacted - you really think the CIA would a
...more
Zoe
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Candid, eye-opening, and inspiring!

The Unexpected Spy is the informative, intriguing story of Tracy Walder’s personal and professional experiences, successes, struggles, and accomplishments as a CIA SOO, FBI Special Agent, and beloved history teacher at an all girl’s school.

The writing is clear and precise. The characters are intelligent, focused, and driven. And the novel is a compelling, fascinating, introspective tale of one woman’s life as a covert operative in the wake of 9/11.

The Unexpect
...more
R
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Unexpected Spy was Tracy Walder’s memoir of her years as a counterterrorism officer in the CIA, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, and as a special agent in the FBI. This was written, of course, without revealing any classified information.

The content was riveting, personal, and at times humorous. The author recounted her many journeys across the world and in the United States to gather information in order to protect against terroristic attacks. It was interesting to read a first hand ac
...more
MPG2016
Mar 05, 2020 rated it did not like it
An interesting woman and an interesting subject matter, but what a drain it was to push through. My mind kept wandering because of the bland and superficial prose. There is a lack of world building, Walder simply presents a laundry list of activities she engaged in. She provides little insight into her experiences and emotions, presenting everything in a surface level manner. Her naivety, black and white thinking and childishly dogmatic opinion that the US is right, the CIA is good, everything A ...more
Kasia
Apr 23, 2020 rated it did not like it
Nope. Not good at all. Half of the book is redacted and the rest of it is self glorifying list of author’s achievements.
Chris Wolak
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
AMAZING memoir. Walder’s story is an inspiration for girls and women. A must read for people who care about the U.S., the world, and waging peace.
Robyn
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When Tracy Walder, still a pretty recent CIA agent, noticed that a lot of terrorists were leaving their home base -- it was her job to monitor them via drone surveillance every day, and she could identify them by name from miles above the earth -- she told her bosses. And it went up the chain. But not far enough up the chain, because just a few weeks later, the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

She felt like it was her fault. She had known something was wrong. She and her colleagues had bee
...more
Christine
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5 I recently read Amaryllis Fox’s CIA Book so it was interesting to read this one soon after. As is par for the course, she had to run her book by the CIA and they redacted parts which blacked out redactions were actually included in the book— at times interesting, but at times annoying as I felt the thread was lost, particularly when entire paragraphs were excised. What’s the point? I also found certain parts vague. Again, I understand the need for secrecy, but then write about some other inc ...more
Denise
Nov 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2020, own
Sorority girl turned CIA officer turned FBI agent turned teacher - by all rights, this memoir should make for an enthralling read. Unfortunately, the book proved to be somewhat less gripping than I had hoped.
In large part, that's due to that perennial foe of the truly fascinating CIA memoir - good ol' CIA-imposed censorship. Some writers manage to skillfully edge around the limits imposed by that Agency's review board, succeeding in weaving a coherent, compelling tale despite having to omit som
...more
Suzanne
When I was a kid and asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I often said "spy", which was partly serious and partly not. I suspected it wouldn't really fit with my other life goals, and besides, how does it happen. Thus, this book was interesting to me. I liked seeing how Tracy Walder got into the business, and I liked how this didn't feel glorified- but seemed a very real glimpse of those people in the trenches of intelligence and the difficulty of the work. One thing I especially liked was t ...more
Barbro-Katrin
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a honest review. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own

This is a fantastic book! So interesting to read about the life as an Agent in both the CIA and the FBI and I look forward to seeing in on the tv screen :)
Melanie
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Loved this story filled with girl-power perseverance in difficult situations from participating in anti-terror activities to surviving the FBI “boot camp.”
Janet
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When it is snowy and cold outside, superspeed readers like me can read 150 - 200+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. LOL

I received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review.

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

A highly entertaining account of a young woman who went straight from her c
...more
Julia
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received an ARC in exchange for honest review. I really enjoyed this "insiders look" into life as a CIA and FBI agent - particularly from the perspective of a woman. I didn't enjoy the way the author left out many parts of the narrative with blacked out text - I understood the need, but felt the story would have followed better if those parts had just been eliminated all together. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Last Widow (Will Trent, #9)
  • In the Heart of the Fire (Nameless #1)
  • Stop at Nothing
  • Hard Shot (Jon Reznick, #7)
  • The Body: A Guide for Occupants
  • Being Known (Haven Makers #2)
  • Red Rain (Nameless #4)
  • The Praying Mantis Bride (Nameless #3)
  • A Minute to Midnight (Atlee Pine #2)
  • The Mercy of Snakes (Nameless #5)
  • The Girls at 17 Swann Street
  • Memories of Tomorrow (Nameless #6)
  • Tell Me Lies (Detective Max Carter #1)
  • Property of the State
  • Just Watch Me (Riley Wolfe #1)
  • The K Team (The K Team #1)
  • What Unbreakable Looks Like
  • What Is a Girl Worth?: My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth about Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics
See similar books…
34 followers
Tracy Walder trabalhou como staff operations officer do Centro de Contraterrorismo da CIA e foi agente especial da delegação de Los Angeles do FBI, especializada em operações de contrainformação chinesa. Faz atualmente parte da direção do grupo Girl Security, que pretende dar a conhecer o tema da segurança nacional às raparigas das escolas preparatórias dos Estados Unidos de modo a torná-las numa ...more

News & Interviews

Readers have a lot to look forward to this year! Just feast your eyes upon all of these debut books to check out and emerging authors to...
89 likes · 32 comments