“The Unexpected Spy” is the real life story of Tracy Walder’s time in the alphabet agencies, CIA and FBI. This is not a colorless, dry, news-like account, but a vibrant, funny, and frightening look at recent national and international events. I knew I would love this book as soon as Tracy pulled out a box of “Hot Tamales,” my personal favorite candy. She shares that the CIA building has an internal Starbucks, but they do not put names on the cups. Readers also learn the hazards of traveling under an alias on a fake passport with an assumed name and the airline loses your luggage. She admits that she left out a lot, but she also has a lot to tell.
Her first person narrative is casual and friendly, as if a few friends are sitting around eating “Hot Tamales” (of course) and sharing stories. She originally wanted to be a history teacher but decided making history would be better than teaching it. She was all grown up, working to save the world.
She takes readers through the thrills of learning the PIT maneuvers and looking into the woods wondering wonder how many pairs of eyes are watching. She shares the daily trauma of working in counterterrorism, knowing that the people she was chasing were planning murders, multiple murders of innocent people. She could stop them by getting important information. She traveled, ate new foods, took in all the world had to offer, and tried to get rid of the people who wanted to poison and kill all of us.
Her multisensory descriptions pull readers into the locations. “Everywhere you looked, all you saw was white, brown, or beige— different hues of sandpaper. And every surface was as dry as chalk. It sounded like shells crunching beneath our feet as we walked to the makeshift barracks.” She shares her feelings, her accomplishments, but not everything. “This country ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~” (redacted)
I received a review copy of “The Unexpected Spy” from Tracy Walder, Jessica Anya Blau, and St. Martin’s Press. It was compelling and yet easy to read. The stories were frightening, encouraging, and at times funny. Walder achieved her other childhood goal; she is a currently a teacher, and hanging on the wall in her classroom is an American flag that has written in the stripes the names of every person killed on September 11.