In True Face

A Woman's Life in the CIA, Unmasked


By Jonna Mendez

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$39.00 CAD

The bestselling coauthor of The Moscow Rules and Argo tells her riveting, courageous story of being a female spy at the height of the Cold War

Jonna Hiestand Mendez began her CIA career as a “contract wife” performing secretarial duties for the CIA as a convenience to her husband, a young officer stationed in Europe. She needed his permission to open a bank account or shut off the gas to their apartment. Yet Mendez had a talent for espionage, too, and she soon took on bigger and more significant roles at the Agency. She parlayed her interest in photography into an operational role overseas, an unlikely area for a woman in the CIA. Often underestimated, occasionally undermined, she lived under cover and served tours of duty all over the globe, rising first to become an international spy and ultimately to Chief of Disguise at CIA’s Office of Technical Service.

In True Face recounts not only the drama of Mendez’s high-stakes work—how this savvy operator parlayed her “everywoman” appeal into incredible subterfuge—but also the grit and good fortune it took for her to navigate a misogynistic world. This is the story of an incredible spy career and what it took to achieve it.
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  • “Engaging and enlightening, In True Face [is] an important addition to the canon of nonfiction books about an institution encrusted in myths created by movies, television, novels, hostile intelligence services and, occasionally, the agency itself.”
    Washington Post
  • “Mendez details her fascinating career in this gripping memoir… an entertaining and enlightening glimpse inside the opaque world of spycraft.”
    Publishers Weekly
  • “Fans of true espionage will enjoy Mendez’s stories of a formative era in intelligence history.”
  • “An extraordinarily brave and entertaining book. Jonna Mendez shows us that one of the CIA’s biggest secrets was its treatment of women and the consequences not only for its officers, but the nation it was supposed to serve.”
    Sonia Purnell, New York Times-bestselling author of A Woman of No Importance
  • “Few outside the intelligence community understand the pressures and deceptions involved in spying. Even fewer know what it means to navigate this world while also fighting against discrimination. But all that secrecy can take a toll. In this book, Jonna Mendez takes a risk that she never could in her spying days--to tell the full and unvarnished truth.”
    Valerie Plame, bestselling author of Fair Game and Burned
  • “Who can imagine James Bond without secret weapons, tricky cars and disguises? Meet Jonna, the CIA’s version of Q and the first woman to master the many skills of deception and spy craft.  With more than a decade of undercover operations, I had met only a few of the Agency’s rare, but storied technical officers — the ones responsible for many of the most sensitive, elaborate activities. In True Face had me glued to the pages until I finished in one sitting! This is a rare glimpse at the Spy-vs-Spy that won the Cold War and wages still. A must-read and inspiration to women who fear not.”
    Mary Beth Long, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
  • “In this refreshingly personal account, Jonna Mendez uses stories from her amazing 25 year CIA career to shed light on everything from clandestine photographic operations to decades of sexism at the Agency to mind-blowing disguise technology. A must-read for anyone interested in intelligence.”
    David Priess, former CIA officer and author of The President's Book of Secrets
  • "I loved the book. Part adventure story, part real-life espionage novel, and part life journey, the book comes alive with Jonna’s rich vignettes of a life and work overseas for the CIA. Most importantly, Jonna battled terrible institutional misogyny to rise from a contract spouse to Chief of Disguise at CIA, where she was a critical component of the CIA’s espionage activities against our nation’s toughest adversaries. Jonna’s experiences will no doubt inspire the next generation of female CIA officers.”
    Marc Polymeropoulos, former CIA operations officer, MSNBC national security analyst and author of Clarity in Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the CIA
  • "In True Face: A Woman's Life in the CIA, Unmasked ranks as one of the great CIA autobiographies of all time. It is a must read for anyone interested in the CIA's unique mission and what it was like for a woman rising through the ranks to a position of great importance. Jonna Mendez's story of her career is inspiring. It is also filled with vignettes of espionage, as well as the humor and the challenges of daily life serving in the world's best intelligence service, that make it a page turner. Thanks to Jonna for sharing her career with all of us!"
    Michael Morell, former CIA deputy director
  • “Engaging and enlightening… This consistently absorbing book is a wonderful memoir that offers more than simply a compelling life story.”
  • “In her best-selling new memoir, In True Face, the agency’s onetime Chief of Disguise makes her 27-year intelligence career sound like a gender-switched Bond movie.”
    The Week
  • “Engaging… full of fascinating details.”
    Foreign Affairs
  • “Jonna Mendez’s In True Face is more than just an autobiography; it is an essential piece of intelligence literature that provides a nuanced view of CIA operations through the eyes of one of its most innovative officers. As we turn the pages of her life story, we are reminded of the enduring impact of those who operate in the shadows, their legacies shaping not just the history of espionage but also the very fabric of international politics.”
    Times of Israel

On Sale
Mar 5, 2024
Page Count
320 pages

Jonna Mendez

About the Author

Jonna Mendez is a former Chief of Disguise with over twenty-five years of experience as a CIA officer working in Moscow and other sensitive areas. With her late husband Tony Mendez, she is the bestselling coauthor of Argo, The Moscow Rules, and Spy Dust.

Learn more about this author