Review: The Unexpected Spy by Tracy Walder

The Unexpected Spy

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. The opinions below are entirely my own. Cover image from NetGalley. Set to publish 2/25/2020.

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 that she had to have CIA approval to write her book and the CIA reviewed her book before it was allowed to be published. Despite careful writing to avoid classified subjects, the CIA did find sections that needed to be deleted. Rather than rewrite the story to create a more cohesive narrative, Walder elected to leave the blacked out sections. This causes my main gripe with this book, and the primary reason I’ve given it 3 stars. The redacted sections disrupt the flow of the story, and especially early on, seem like a plot device, a ploy to manufacture interest in the story she is allowed to tell. It feels like lazy storytelling, especially where the overall writing style seems simplistic, with a lot of telling instead of showing. I would have appreciated more depth to the narrative, as the majority of the book felt shallow, superficial. I don’t know how much of that is Walder’s style versus the style of Jessica Anya Blau, and how much was missing story that Walder is not allowed to tell.

Technical issues aside, there is a lot to enjoy here. I appreciated Walder’s insight into the operations of the CIA and FBI. It’s clear that she loved her job at the CIA and still has a strong sense of loyalty to that organization. I was horrified by her experiences at Quantico, and am thrilled to see that she has moved into another job that she loves, where she can continue to do good and make a difference.

~ by Rachel on February 25, 2020.

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