“The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax” by Dorothy Gilman MYS GILM
This is the first in a series that was published in 1966 with many Cold War references. From the publisher: “Mrs. Virgil (Emily) Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey, was a widow with grown, married children. She was tired of attending her Garden Club meetings. She wanted to do something good for her country. So, naturally, she became a CIA agent.” Yes, she just unexpectedly walked into the director’s office and said she’d always wanted to be a spy and was offering her services on the spot. Through a case of mistaken identity and an emergency need for a simple courier, Mrs. Pollifax was entrusted with the job of picking up an important item in Mexico City and bringing it back to CIA headquarters. The CIA’s communist opponents were underestimated, however, and Mrs. Pollifax gets into deep, deep trouble, ending up in a prison cell in Albania.
Dorothy Gilman’s characterization and humorous dialogue are her strengths. Sometimes the plot will at first seem implausible, but we end up believing it because Mrs. Pollifax says it’s so and the reader trusts her. Oddly enough, though Mrs. Pollifax is 63 years old, teenagers on up in age can easily relate to her. She’s like a beloved grandmother or the elderly next door neighbor. She has definite vulnerabilities, but also reserves of strength that come from experience and necessity. She’s observant, good-hearted, and makes us think we could all be spies.
If you’re looking for an amusing cozy read that’s also an adventure thriller, you can’t go wrong with Mrs. Pollifax.
And if you enjoy “senior sleuths”, ask for the “If You Like Dorothy Gilman” bibliography at the Information Desk.