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

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  53 ratings  ·  44 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

When Tracy Walder enrolled at the University of Southern California, she never thought that one day she would offer her pink beanbag chair in the Delta Gamma house to a CIA recruiter, or that she'd fly to the Middle East under an alias
Hardcover, 272 pages
Expected publication: February 25th 2020 by St. Martin's Press
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    The Unexpected Spy: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World's Most Notorious Terrorists
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    Average rating 4.34  · 
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    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
    Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
    Shelves: netgalley, kindle
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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 :)
    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.
    Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
    Shelves: paperback
    I'm always fascinated by an inside look at the CIA, and this has a bonus of a little time in the FBI as well. The author submitted this to the CIA for its review, and while the redactions are at first a little distracting, I got over that. I'm glad that she went through the process. I felt I would have learned more about our world if she could have listed more specifics, but appreciate that she did what she needed to do to maintain security.

    The author is clearly a dedicated, driven woman with
    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
    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
    Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
    Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    Very well told story, great read. Gave this book to my daughter to read also. This is a great read for young women to show them that women can do anything.
    Jena Henry
    Nov 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
    Tracey Walder shares her journey in this engaging personal story. On the surface, she shares her path from California girl, to sorority college woman, to her service with the CIA and FBI. She also goes deeper into her life, and exposes her feelings, dreams, and challenges. At time troubling, but always uplifting, her story will resonate with all readers seeking to learn more about modern global problems.

    Tracey majored in history and had developed a passion for current affairs. Near the end of
    Stef (Noveltea Corner)
    I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

    So, it looks like 2019 may have been the year I started reading biographies and memoirs. I didn’t read many, but the ones I did read I enjoyed a lot and when I was approached to review The Unexpected Spy I took a moment to think if it was something I would really be interested in. The offer came on the back of my review of Jet Girl, which I enjoyed a lot, and I came to the
    I received a copy from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    I tend to only read autobiographies featuring women in “nonconventional” hobbies or careers (Jet Girl: My Life in War, Peace, and the Cockpit of the Navy's Most Lethal Aircraft, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North, What Happened), as their struggles and successes are either personally inspiring or indicative that, as a society, we still have a ways to go
    Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
    Tracy Walder began life with hypotonia, known as a “floppy baby syndrome”. The odds of her walking were nearly impossible, and the odds of her becoming a dancer, a sorority girl, a CIA agent or an FBI agent were too crazy to consider. Yet, that is exactly what she did. But not without determination, hard work and confidence in herself.

    Her mother can be credited with never giving up when doctors did. She worked with Tracy until she got stronger and finally walked on her own. Unfortunately, the
    Zohar -
    Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: 2020
    For more reviews and bookish posts please visit:

    The Unexpected Spy: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World’s Most Notorious Terrorists by Tracy Walder and Jessica Anya Blau is an account of Ms. Walder who went straight from being a college sorority girl to the CIA. After her stint at the CIA, Ms. Walder joined the FBI for a short time, and is now a teacher.

    This memoir by Tracy Walder nee Tracy Schandler tells of her time in the Central
    Jan 14, 2020 rated it liked it
    Shelves: 2020, netgalley
    Disclaimer: I received an email from St. Martin's inviting me to read a book billed as a fast-paced memoir that reads like a fiction book. The email went on to say that the book "starts out when Tracy goes straight from Delta Gamma to the CIA". I have to support a fellow DeeGee, so I clicked the pre-approval button right away and started reading.

    Memoirs are tricky, and they are a genre a rarely enjoy, but I love spy thrillers, so I had high hopes. Tracy Walder begins with a note about the fact
    Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
    Review of digital galley

    Tracy Schandler’s memoir recounts her time working for the CIA, most notably in counterterrorism in the aftermath the September 11th terrorist attack at the World Trade Center. As her story unfolds, she comes to recognize her desire to fight terrorism within the United States and, not wanting to become an analyst, decides to apply to the FBI. After a required training session made more difficult by misogynist training agents, Tracy finds herself assigned to
    Kay Brooks
    Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
    An amazing true life story of Tracy Walder’s time in the CIA and later the FBI, spending long hours struggling to stay ahead of the terrorists intent upon harming the United States. The work wasn’t fun, and it wasn’t easy, but Tracy overcame all obstacles she encountered, persevering to get the job done. Her courage and stamina to take on every challenge, not only with the job itself but the numerous training exercises in which she competed with herself and against other trainees was amazing.

    Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
    The Unexpected Spy by Tracy Walder is classified as a memoir, detailing the harrowing career of a former CIA operative-turned-FBI agent in a post-9/11 world. Walder brings readers to the core of her missions, describing one woman's objective to take down the world's most notorious terrorists. Though this fits into the autobiography category, it reads very much like a thriller, with riveting details, complex characters, and intense writing, making for one unputdownable read.

    Walder recounts untold
    Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    This is an excellent book - and the storyline would never be accepted if it were fiction!
    I found it especially interesting to read about what was going on in the CIA "behind closed doors" in the aftermath of 9/11

    It was somewhat frustrating to read round the redacted parts & I think I'd have preferred some rewrites or "Mr X" /"Middle East Location I will call City B" but I can understand why the author chose to do this - it added authenticity for her.

    It was interesting to learn about her
    Kim McGee
    Dec 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
    When Tracy joined the CIA she went from sorority rush to being part of a poison expert team in the middle east and Africa. She had to deal with sexism from her peers and terrorists as well as undergo more scrutiny than some presidential candidates. After many years of being on the front lines and preventing as many terrorist cells from growing and attacking the west, she finally had enough and came back stateside to join the FBI where the good old boy club and proving herself began all over ...more
    Jan 23, 2020 rated it liked it
    Shelves: netgalley, abandoned
    Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for inviting me to read this memoir, pre-publication. Unfortunately I only got about 40% in before deciding not to finish. Although I have great respect for the author’s service, I don’t find her memoir very compelling. As another reviewer mentioned, the author chose to leave large redacted-by-the-Agency sections in the book instead of doing some kind of re-write to lessen the impacts of those areas. They were jarring, aggravating, and also seemed in ...more
    I *love* a peek at a secret world, and Walder offers fascinating glimpses of her life as a CIA and an FBI agent, including training details, political machinations, significant and rankling discrimination, and her own glowing pride in doing her job well and protecting others from danger—even when anyone without security clearance remained necessarily ignorant of the invaluable nature of the work and the imminent risks avoided. Her evolution into her present-day self and current profession was ...more
    Thanks to netgalley, St. Martin's Press and the author for the ebook-ARC.
    I enjoy fictional spy-espionage novels, and I was very happy to receive this ARC about the “real thing.” The memoir covers Tracy Walder’s CIA recruitment and training, moving on to time spent at Langley and eventually her work tracking down some truly nasty bad guys. Not so much a suspense-thriller spy novel as a look at the CIA’s inner workings. Much was redacted but it didn’t take away from her story, and I found it to be
    Al West
    Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
    I really enjoyed this book, reading in 1 day. Ms. Walder provides very interesting information on the working of the CIA and intelligence community. She also provides information about the role of women in the intelligence community and what it was like to be a blond woman in a Moslem culture. Her information on training at the Farm was very entertaining as well.
    She is very blunt about information that led us into the 2nd Iraqi War, the perceived and actual role of the CIA in our involvement in
    Marianne K
    The author, Tracy Walder, was recruited right out of college by the CIA as an operative. The first two-thirds of the book is concerned with her life within that agency. I found it interesting but not very engrossing. Many parts were heavily edited by the CIA, and when I say edited I mean sentences after sentences were redacted. This made for a rough read. The last third of the book covers Tracy quitting the CIA and joining the FBI. I found this much more interesting. I think the book struggles ...more
    Edi McNinch
    Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
    I believe this must have been quite cathartic for the author to share her experiences in this book. She describes herself from being different from childhood in into adulthood and coming into her own self actualization despite the abuse of co workers. Co workers who were most likely jealous of her reserve and determination to succeed. I can relate on some points as it always seems when I came up with an idea,it was often ignored until the person without the southern voice in the room said the ...more
    Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
    I'm not a huge reader memoirs of 'regular' people or historical figures because usually they are kind of boring as they plod from one significant event to another. That was so not the case in the Unexpected Spy. This was a fascinating, engrossing read that moved at a fast clip through her time in the CIA to the FBI all the while dealing with sexism that no doubt still remains. I want to say it didn't read like memoir as if it reading like a memoir is a bad thing, but it's not and it's the memoir ...more
    Mark Easter
    Jan 23, 2020 rated it liked it
    An interesting read. The lack of specificity throughout the book was somewhat disappointing, but learning about Tracy all along the way kept it interesting. I found her FBI experience, sadly, confirmation of some of my own conclusions about the agency. The FBI is in great need of an overhaul to get rid of the ol' boys and politicos and return to the best, pure investigative service in the world. In particular, the shadow government elements need to be surgically removed. But, I digress. This is ...more
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