Spy Dust


Reviewed and released by the CIA, and opening a window on the true-life world of espionage–the elusive identities, the sophisticated gadgetry, the triple-think strategies–SPY DUST reveals more than any published work of non-fiction about US intelligence techniques abroad.

Moscow, 1988…

The twilight of the Cold War. The KGB is at its most ruthless, and has now indisputably gained the upper hand over the CIA in the intelligence war. But no one knows how. Ten CIA agents and double-agents have gone missing in the last three years. They have either been executed or they are unaccounted for.

At Langley, several theories circulate as to how the KGB seems suddenly to have become telepathic, predicting the CIA’s every move. Some blame the defection of Edward Lee Howard three years before, and suspect that there are more high-placed moles to be unearthed. Others speculate that the KGB’s surveillance successes have been heightened by the invention of an invisible electromagnetic powder that allows them to keep tabs on anyone who touches it: spy dust.

CIA officers Tony Mendez and Jonna Goeser come together to head up a team of technical wizards and operational specialists, determined to solve the mystery that threatens to overshadow the Cold War’s final act. Working against known and unknown hostile forces, as well as some unfriendly elements within the CIA, they devise controversial new operational methods and techniques to foil the KGB, and show the extraordinary lengths that US intelligence is willing to go to protect a source, then rescue him when his world starts to collapse. At the same time, Tony and Jonna find themselves falling deeply in love.

During a fascinating odyssey that began in Indochina fifteen years before and ends in a breathtakingly daring operation in the heart of the Kremlin’s Palace of Congresses, SPY DUST catapults the reader from the Hindu Kush to Hollywood, from Havana to Moscow, but cannot truly conclude until its protagonists are safely wedded in rural Maryland.

At a time when the public has more questions than ever about the role of our intelligence services, and what is being done in America’s name, SPY DUST both reassures us and gives us hope for the espionage battles of the future.


This is an entertaining thriller with the added virtue of being true…Fans of Alan Furst’s WWII espionage novels will appreciate the subdued nature of this thriller, where the stakes are always high but the individual actions are usually low-key, as well as the details the Mendezes provide on the art of eluding surveillance.

– Publishers Weekly

Jonna and Tony Mendez have given us a true story of spying with all the suspense and intrigue of a James Bond novel. It’s amazing the CIA has allowed these two former officers to say so much, so if you want to know what real spying is like, here’s a first hand, exciting account.

Admiral Stansfield Turner, former head of the CIA


“If the United States of America is to lead and thrive throughout the 21st century, the people of our land must understand and participate in safeguarding our security. SPY DUST is a recruiting poster for service in intelligence as part of that work. Antonio and Jonna Mendez write as dazzling experts in an exotic tale documenting their espionage role in the ringing down of the cold war.

A. Denis Clift, President of the Joint Military Intelligence College

Spy Dust…details the Russians’ latest anti-espionage technologies, including a mysterious light-sensitive tracking powder, insect sex pheromones, and clairvoyants, and double agents like Robert Hanssen and Edward Lee Howard. (The Mendezes were helped by the true-crime writer Bruce Henderson.) Officially, Jonna’s mission is a “smoking-bolt operation” designed to relieve the K.G.B. of an important communications device, but it’s actually a ruse to distract attention from the agency’s exfiltration of a K.G.B. officer about to be unmasked as a spy for the Americans. The book, which passed the C.I.A.’s publication-review board, makes a post-September-11th case for spooks — reminding us that the most successful operations are the ones we never hear about.

– The New Yorker

Readers interested in the spy game will salivate at the prospects of reading this insider account of final five years of the cold war. The authors, former CIA agents charged with developing new techniques for keeping the KGB from spying on and recruiting American intelligence personnel, fell in love as they worked to change the rules of espionage; their story is a rare combination of nuts-and-bolts tradecraft and gentle romance. But don’t be misled by the love angle; the developing relationship between the spies adds a human dimension to the story, but it never gets in the way of the insider stuff…This is an endlessly fascinating book, one that spy buffs will return to again and again. Spy novelists take note, too: as a research tool, it’s invaluable.

– Booklist

Included here are fascinating tales of clandestine meetings, narrow escapes, missed clues, ingenious equipment, and various successes and failures, and the reader soon comes to realize that a lot of professional brain power goes into planning and carrying out this deadly game with the highest stakes imaginable.

– Library Journal

“Moscow only thought they knew how they lost the cold war: here are the missing secrets!”

H. Keith Melton, expert espionage historian and author of The Ultimate Spy Book

Fascinating…Avoiding the noir clichés of the spy genre, the Mendezes offer an eye-opening look at the complex business of gathering intelligence and spreading a few lies to disrupt the opposition…Solid storytelling brought to bear on engaging material: a real-life pleasure for fans of John le Carré and Tom Clancy.

– Kirkus Reviews