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Mrs. Pollifax #1

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax

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Mrs. Virgil (Emily) Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey, was a widow with grown 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. This time, the assignment sounds as tasty as a taco. A quick trip to Mexico City is on her agenda. Unfortunately, something goes wrong, and our dear Mrs. Pollifax finds herself embroiled in quite a hot Cold War—and her country's enemies find themselves entangled with one unbelievably feisty lady.

204 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1966

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About the author

Dorothy Gilman

127 books614 followers
Dorothy Gilman was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, to minister James Bruce and Essa (Starkweather) Gilman. She started writing when she was 9 and knew early on she was to be a writer. At 11, she competed against 10 to 16-year-olds in a story contest and won first place. She attended Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and briefly the University of Pennsylvania. She planned to write and illustrate children's books. She married Edgar A. Butters Jr, in 1945, this ended in divorce in 1965. Dorothy worked as an art teacher & telephone operator before becoming an author. She wrote children’s stories for more than ten years under the name Dorothy Gilman Butters and then began writing adult novels about Mrs. Pollifax–a retired grandmother who becomes a CIA agent. The Mrs. Pollifax series made Dorothy famous. While her stories nourish people’s thirst for adventure and mystery, Dorothy knew about nourishing the body as well. On her farm in Nova Scotia, she grew medicinal herbs and used this knowledge of herbs in many of her stories, including A Nun in the Closet. She travelled extensively, and used these experiences in her novels as well. Many of Dorothy’s books, feature strong women having adventures around the world. In 2010 Gilman was awarded the annual Grand Master Award by the Mystery Writers of America. Dorothy spent much of her life in Connecticut, New Mexico, and Maine. She died at age 88 of complications of Alzheimer's disease. She is survived by two sons, Christopher Butters and Jonathan Butters; and two grandchildren.

* Mrs. Pollifax

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10,426 (40%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,422 reviews
Profile Image for carol..
1,533 reviews7,860 followers
February 16, 2019
You know what's lovely about Mrs. Pollifax? She's unabashedly enthusiastic about travel and about meeting people from other cultures. Published in 1966, it certainly speaks to simpler times, or perhaps different times. Definitely different times. Lots of Cold War spy drama, if I remember my James Bond movies correctly. Gilman's elevator pitch was to take James Bond out of the picture, and put an adorable little white-haired grandmother in it. Haha! Isn't that funny!? Remember--1966. That's the premise.  We aren't meta-navel-gazers yet, people; there's very little post-mod nod-send-up here. Anyways.

It opens with Mrs. Pollifax contemplating the recent occasion she contemplated suicide. That's quite an opener. I think, back then, it must have been meant by the author as representing Mrs. P's extreme emotion and not something played for laughs. But it was a bit disconcerting reading such exposition, and to then switch into 'applying-to-be-a-spy" mode. Because, of course, way forward in the future here-and-now, we actually understand that suicide is a real and sadly common event. 

At any rate, then it takes off rather nicely, semi-plausibly (1966, people, 1966), with a typical mistaken-identity thing: Mrs. P. is shown to a waiting room in the new CIA headquarters at the same time a legitimate applicant is expected. A simple job turns into a disaster--of course--but you just know that Mrs. P's Can-Do-Spirit is going to get her through, along with her amazing ability to connect with others. No, no secret skills, beyond volunteering her time, being unsuspected of sneakiness (1966 here) and a giant purse. I'll forebear mentioning exactly what happens, but the short version is that her trip to Mexico lands her in an Eastern European prison. The real benefit here is that it didn't feel sappy, or saccharine in a way I associate with cozy mysteries. It felt like a rather determined, resourceful person making-do while spy stuff happened around her. I hate to damn it with faint praise, because I'm really not, but it's kind of a Girl Scout book, in the best, pre-modern-sense of the word. 

It wasn't an amazing story, but for a day or two after--and this is the truly unexpected part--I actually felt kind of positive about the world. I mean, Mrs. P. survives because she really does approach each person with an open heart (to be Buddhist about it), and even when circumstances veer towards suspicion, gives them the benefit of the doubt. Or powers on, and gives them the opportunity to change. It's charming, really. I think I felt my heart grow two sizes, at least for a little while.

I first read a few books in this series sometime in the mid-nineties. I remembered being mildly entertained, and when I was looking for a series for The Mom, this came to mind. Well, also because it is in large print, which is her preferred format these days. Anyways, I read it as well, out of mild curiosity and milder boredom. 

The Mom liked it too, although she did refer to it as "that book with the old lady," which I found very ironic. But I kept that to myself.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
April 15, 2019
Cold War spy thriller, written in 1966, that manages to be both cozy and steely. For the uninitiated (like me), this is the first book in a series of old-fashioned Cold War spy novels, featuring one Mrs. Pollifax. She's a rather fluffy, quirky and kindhearted lady in her 60s, with an unexpected core of steel. You have to like her.

Mrs. Pollifax is a widow who lives alone, and her despair at the monotony and lack of excitement in her life leads her to take a trip to the CIA offices in Washington DC and offer herself up as a spy. Surprisingly, they take her up on it. More surprisingly (at least for the CIA), her adventure in Mexico City - she was supposed to do a simple courier job - turns out to be a lot more dangerous than anyone expected.

It’s a quick read, mixing seriousness and humor, and it’s great to see Mrs. Pollifax rise to the occasion when things get tense and deadly and difficult. It’s easy to see that this was written in the sixties; it has some stereotype characters and definitely isn’t “woke,” despite the female author and main character, so don’t bother digging this book up if some dated social attitudes are going to grate. On the plus side, though, Mrs. Pollifax definitely pushes far beyond the expectations that people have for an older woman.

My friend Hana's advice to me made me laugh: "You just have to be in the mood and try and forget that the people the CIA was actually hiring at the time were more along the lines of mobsters like Sam Giancana than little old ladies with flowered hats :D ... If it's a first read and you treat the whole series as something akin to parallel history time travel you will love it!"

Parallel history time travel works for me!

April 2019 buddy read with the Retro Reads group.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,811 followers
January 14, 2013
I thought I should change my tone here a bit. I've "recently reviewed some audio books, mysteries that I listened to mainly because, well, I was looking for...a book. I figured any book was better than no book. My wife loved whatever series it might happen to be and I listened to them because we had them out of the library anyway.... I wasn't all that taken with many of them. They were sometimes well written, others not. Either I liked or didn't like the main character that much. On the whole I've listened to a lot of audio books I didn't care for much or liked only a little.

That is not the case with Dorothy Gilman's Mrs. Pollifax...I'm not ordinarily a mystery fan, but these are wonderful books (and don't really fit "neatly" under the mystery heading). Again I picked the first up for my wife to listen to, listened to it as I drove (my job involved a lot of driving) after she was finished with it, and found it fantastic. I come very close to giving this a 5 star rating and would call it a 4.5.

When Mrs. Pollifax comes to the CIA and "accidentally" finds herself heading to Mexico then ends up in an Albanian prison (1966 Cold War era communist Albanian behind the Iron Curtain Albania) then manages to save the day it cracks me up. In a plot that should strain the ability to suspend disbelief good story telling and humor not only saves all but drives the novel forward. I tracked several of these down for my wife...and myself. These are good.

Highly recommended, enjoy.
Profile Image for Ingie.
1,343 reviews169 followers
January 2, 2018
Review written May 17, 2016

4 Stars - A solid good old fashioned spy mystery with an unforgettable grey haired lovely lady. - Impressed and surprised.

An oldie spy novel —next to classical— from 1970. Book #1 of a big bunch. I downloaded the 8:16 hrs audiobook (a 2010 edition) narrated by Barbara Rosenblat... and I LOVED it.


« Mrs. Virgil (Emily) Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey, was a widow with grown children. She was tired of attending her Garden Club meetings. She wanted to do something good for her country. This first in the series sends Emily on her first case after she successfully persuades a skeptical CIA recruitment officer that she is the best person for the job. »
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‘It wasn’t that she had so much character, thought Mrs. Pollifax, but rather that always in her life she had found it difficult to submit.’
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Yes, of course you feel that it's been 45 years since The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax first was published, but this was excellent. Truly enjoying audiobook entertainment in the old school spy thriller genre. Not always believable but with heart. Add a FANTASTIC narration from Mrs Rosenblat.

Gosh, so much fun! ~ Even old housewife ladies perform great deeds and surprise you in the case of national security.


I LIKE - grannies with gunpowder
Profile Image for Linda Hart.
733 reviews138 followers
April 22, 2019
This is a charming mystery that may require two things of the reader to be thoroughly enjoyed: a recognition that it was written over 50 years ago, and the ability to suspend disbelief and not take things too seriously. It is a humorous, fun, old-fashioned spy novel which takes place during the Cold War. White-haired Mrs. Pollifax with her extravagant hat, resourcefulness, and her persistent optimism is such an endearing character and this particular adventure which takes place in Mexico City and then behind the Iron Curtain in Albania is very entertaining. This light read is the first of Dorothy Gilman's Mrs. Pollifax series and was so enjoyable that I will read the next one. The audio version contains no profanity, violence or gore, and is fun to listen to.
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,759 reviews1,218 followers
May 31, 2020
Delightful! Emily Pollifax is an endearing and incomparable character and the very best thing about this book/series so far. I appreciate it too that I’m now in her age group and maybe it is a good thing that I waited until now to make her acquaintance. She’s a hoot.

Some of the other characters are wonderful as well. I really enjoyed all the sections. Home, Mexico, and the adventure that makes up a long section toward the end of the book, and the end/conclusion too.

Highly amusing, Touching.

I found some of the politics, what is now highly fictionalized historical fiction, to be tedious but when Mrs. Polifax explains democracy and how the legal court system works that is priceless. Just marvelous. I didn’t like most of the “Cold War” portions but the rest was incredibly entertaining and a perfect diversion, so I forgave the anachronisms.

Definitely a fun comfort read! I would like to continue and read the other thirteen books in the series. I’m also interested is seeing the two movies based on this character.

Due to COVID-19 I read a Kindle e-book edition borrowed from my public library.
Profile Image for Abigail Bok.
Author 4 books191 followers
April 18, 2019
Who doesn't love Mrs. Pollifax--or the novels chronicling her preposterous but weirdly believable adventures?

For the uninitiated (and rush out to initiate yourselves, already!), this is the first Mrs. Pollifax novel. She is a widow living in New Jersey in the 1960s, feeling depressed--not so much because she's a widow as because she feels useless. She was able to go along in life so long as people needed her, but now she's questioning the very basis of her existence. I suspect many women in their sixties experience these feelings, and here they are handled briskly and without unnecessary sentiment. Mrs. Pollifax's situation is poignant enough, and it's what she does about it that matters.

For she's not so lost in sadness that she has forgotten to dream--and what she has always dreamed about is being a spy. Whyever not? It's the depths of the Cold War and she's as patriotic as the next widow from New Jersey. She loves her geraniums but they simply aren't cutting it for her anymore. So off she goes to offer herself up to the CIA.

Through an amusing concatenation of coincidences, she's actually hired as a courier, and we're launched on a rollicking adventure, about which I shall tell you nothing because I wouldn't spoil it for you for the world. These novels are light entertainment on the surface, but are in fact a much deeper emotional experience than that implies. There is real danger and real evil, but what matters is how Mrs. Pollifax is tested and how her character is honed by events. The spy saga is just the fancy dress around a beautifully told tale of how life can challenge an ordinary person and that person can prove to be great. Mrs. Pollifax is great and she specializes in offering others their own opportunity for greatness. She succeeds through grit and goodness, and it's impossible not to root for her.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,860 reviews369 followers
September 2, 2022
Halloween Bingo 2022

Finally, I've cleared almost all of my August library books (just one remaining) and I can turn my attention to Halloween Bingo! Happy, happy, joy, joy! And after a fairly long immersion in Fantasy and Science Fiction, I felt the need for something fluffy and fun. Mrs. Pollifax filled the bill nicely.

Emily Pollifax is so bored that she has contemplated walking off the roof of her building. She visits her doctor, who gives excellent advice: do what you wanted to do when you were young (although he ruins it by laughing at her aspirations). What Emily really wanted was to be a spy, so she sets off to the offices of the CIA to offer her services. Because what else would one do?

There's a lot of humour in the depiction of the CIA (I'm pretty sure actual employees would either cringe or laugh hysterically) and in the role of the older woman (we always get overlooked and underestimated). But since older women are effectively invisible in our society, we would be able to blend in well. I'll be waiting for my recruiting visit from CSIS. Haha!

I had to keep reminding myself that this was published in 1966. The past is truly a different country. Some things haven't changed: Russia and China are the adversaries. As a result, there's a lot of anti-Asian prejudice that doesn't feel good today. But despite that, I was charmed by Mrs. Pollifax and will read on in this series when I get a chance.

A lovely first foray into Bingo. I read this book for the free square, a strategic move to facilitate a speedy completion of a first row!
Profile Image for Dawn Michelle.
2,330 reviews
November 14, 2017
I LOVE LOVE LOVE these books. I have the whole series and have gotten both my mother, my MIL and my Auntie-in-law totally hooked on these books. WE LOVE THEM!
Where else can you find an older woman, bored with her life, who goes and applies to be in the CIA?? Its amazing. YES, some of the stories are far-fetched, but to me, that just adds to the intrigue of these books. This is the first one and I recommend them to ANYONE!
^^I first read these books in Readers Digest Condensed when I was a teen and lived with my grandparents. I loved it when a new book would come and it would have a Mrs. Pollifax book in it. So it was with great pleasure when I was able to buy the series in paperback and have them all the time. I know I have read them more than twice, but since I don't remember the date when I first started buying the in paperback [and reading them as I bought them], we will have to be satisfied with just the two dates I have.

I had forgotten a lot of things that happened in this book; I had had them happening in a later book. It was so good to read this again and revisit the world of Emily Pollifax. I highly recommend these books to anyone who loves a little mystery and a lot of adventure.
666 reviews112 followers
April 5, 2020
April 5 2020
I just realized in re-reading this that I am approx. Mrs Pollifax's age now. You must realize that when I first read this story I was in my 20's. I loved the story, and loved Mrs Pollifax's wisdom, her ways that she was able to adept to new situations and her quirky humor and I hoped that I would have all that when I was her age. I think that I maybe managed the humor part... Working hard on the rest!
Profile Image for Carolyn Jourdan.
Author 23 books153 followers
July 28, 2008
I love all the Dorothy Gilman books, the Mrs. Pollifax mystery series as well as her other books outside the famous series.

I'm reading my way through a couple of dozen of them now, back-to-back.

What fun.

I adore her deep insights about all kinds of people and the spiritual phenomena we encounter in every day life.

Her stories always reveal the value of various kinds of people society tends to ignore (unmarried, middle-aged, and elderly people as well as minorities, misfits, outcasts, ...).
Profile Image for Merry .
575 reviews53 followers
May 13, 2022
I have been transported back to 1966 when the book was written. A world of men who are spies that served in WWII and now are fighting communist both Chinese and Russian. The descriptions are great of travel. How Gimbels is still in business. Mrs Pollifax is looking for meaning in her life now that she is in her mid 60's (might I say a very youngish age). The story how of luck, perseverance and ingenuity saves people lives. I found the book so enjoyable, and I look forward to the next.
Profile Image for Dolly.
Author 1 book643 followers
January 7, 2012
When I first saw one of the books in the Mrs. Pollifax series, I assumed it was another cozy mystery. I was expecting an American Miss Marple.

Now that I've read it, I wouldn't necessarily call it a cozy "mystery" series, but it certainly is a fun spy novel. I think of it as a Jessica Fletcher-meets-John le Carré kind of tale.

This first book in the series shows us how an unassuming Mrs. Emily Pollifax leaves her elderly suburban life to depart on a spy adventure in Mexico. She begins the story as a bored and depressed senior citizen, but ends up a wise and worldly traveler, ready for more adventure. The story is exciting and entertaining, as implausible as it may be.

Mrs. Pollifax is plucky, persistent and determined and a thoroughly enjoyable character. Overall, I found this to be a very fun, quick read and I will certainly read more of the stories in this series.

new word: serape
Profile Image for Lindsey.
471 reviews769 followers
February 15, 2023
I would never have picked this book up without encouragement from a bookish friend. Mrs. Pollifax is the most unique, sweet, quirky, loveable spy I have ever read about. This had me obsessed with the first page. I will be sure to continue reading this series.
Talk about not judging a book by it's cover.
Profile Image for Fiona.
826 reviews437 followers
October 21, 2020
Emily Pollifax is a combination of Golden Girl Rose, Miss Marple, Aunt Augusta and Lara Croft! This is a wildly improbable and impossible adventure. Mrs Pollifax presents herself at CIA HQ one day saying that she wants to be a spy and is promptly given an assignment in Mexico City. Needless to say, it all goes wrong and here I will stop to avoid spoilers.

I really enjoyed reading this. It’s great fun but also has a serious side (Russian and Chinese involvement in South America and Albania). It’s a true page turner as the sticky situation Mrs Pollifax finds herself in becomes even stickier and ultimately very dangerous. I will definitely be continuing with this series. I’ve been hearing about Mrs Pollifax for years through Goodreads and am delighted to have met her at last!

Just one thing that is preying on my mind:

With thanks to NetGalley and Duckworth Books for a review copy.
Profile Image for Nicole.
268 reviews34 followers
September 5, 2007
It's taken me forever to read one of these Mrs. Pollifax books because I just didn't think a book could be entertaining enough for me with the heroin being an old lady. But then my sister told me how much she loves these books and how wonderfully fun and charming they are... she even lent me her entire collection to read (thanks, Mandy!) and I have been so delighted with these fun books and this charming character, Mrs. Pollifax. I couldn't have been more wrong or narrow-minded! It's so fun getting to read about all her adventures and the laughs are plentiful. I highly recommend these books.
Profile Image for Lynn.
1,608 reviews48 followers
January 4, 2017
Mrs. Pollifax.....a pleasant sixty-something widow from NJ who decides to ask the CIA if she can help her country as an inconspicuous spy. Written in 1966 with lots of Cold War complications, this was a fun little book. I'm sure I'll come back to this series when I need a change from darker novels.
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,113 reviews186 followers
April 13, 2020
Feeling as if her life had no meaning, now that her children were grown and living far away, the widowed Mrs. Emily Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey was slipping into a depression when a doctor's visit prompted her to take matters in hand, changing the course of her life. Recalling her childhood desire to be a spy, the retired lady headed to Washington, D.C., there to offer her services to the CIA. To say that she was unexpected would be an understatement, and no one, from the hard-bitten Mr. Carstairs, who made the unusual choice to give her a job, to Mrs. Pollifax herself, could have predicted the extraordinary adventure ahead. From Mexico City to mountainous Albania, this wholly unconventional heroine won allies in unexpected places, revealed unexpected skills and grit, and triumphed over extreme (and unexpected) challenges...

A book I read countless times as an adolescent, The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax is the perfect blend of exciting adventure story and endearingly humorous character study. It's a Cold War spy novel with a cozy, heartwarming feeling to it, a fabulous sense of humor, and an engaging, endearing, unexpected heroine. Stories of espionage are not a particular favorite of mine - save for this series, I can't think of many others I have read, off the top of my head - but the Mrs. Pollifax books have always been a reading pleasure. This one, in particular, is simply marvelous, and I can never read it without chuckling in appreciation at its many humorous scenes, or racing along in suspense at its more action-driven sequences. The settings are fascinating, and I credit this book, read sometime when I was twelve or thirteen, with inspiring in me an interest in the small, mountainous nation of Albania. I'm not sure why it came to mind today, four weeks into this extraordinary quarantine, but when it did, I immediately sought out a digital edition, and read it again for the first time in years. It did not disappoint, and I am off to reread the entire series! Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys adventure or spy stories with somewhat unusual (one might almost say unexpected) characters...
December 7, 2013
I’ve appreciated Dorothy Gilman for years. It’s her individual work that I know. It shows a writer needn’t worry about doing something different from “the expected” because I am a fan of her standalone books. Two are hard to acquire and it was quite a feather in my cap when I did: her autobiography and “The Maze In The Heart Of The Castle”. I have written in the past that if I enjoy all of that so much; I can only surmise that the books responsible for her fame will be excellent indeed. The day has come that I’ve begun her long-enduring series. Her début, “The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax”, 1966, is as good as I imagined!

A 63 year-old CIA spy is original; amidst countless 20 year-olds, or vampire huntresses in literature. Uniqueness is in common with all Dorothy’s masterpieces. So is her success with identifiable personalities, who draw you in. You like ‘Emily’ and understand her plight to defy convention; to do what she truly wished to do for a living. So many of us answer the responsibility of churning out paycheques but haven’t the courage to turn our dream careers into reality; or at least experiment with what works. Along with the most down-to-Earth character to ever grace the written word, perhaps this audacity and honesty are what has resonated with billions of fans.

The journey Emily dives into as a CIA courier is rough. If I weren’t familiar with “Uncertain Voyage”, published the following year; I’d have been shocked by the deprivation and difficulty depicted. The impossibility of escape and the way a mere bath becomes a luxury to strive for, are conveyed sharply. What struck me most is that despite there being a veteran spy, the outcome would have been wholly different without Emily’s earnest self.
Profile Image for Elinor.
Author 3 books167 followers
April 27, 2019
I have a new literary heroine -- Mrs. Pollifax is a bored senior who decides to apply to work for the C.I.A. as a spy. Her first assignment takes her to Mexico, and then to Albania, of all places, where she must dig deep to overcome the most life-threatening physical challenges. This book was published in 1966. Here's my general observation on older books. When I read contemporary "light fiction," it does not stand up well to the writing characterized as light fiction written decades ago, as is the case with The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax. Light fiction, mysteries, and spy novels written in the past are often so much deeper, richer, and more complex -- not to mention being better written. This book is a perfect example. I can only assume sadly that fiction writing in general has been in decline for some time.
Profile Image for Shaun.
Author 5 books171 followers
January 17, 2015
I love well-developed and interesting characters and Mrs. Pollifax excels on both counts.

This was fun and extremely well-written (imagine Miss Marple joining the CIA and you'll get a sense of what this book is about.) It's classified as a mystery but it's really much more than that.

I don't exactly recall how I came across this series (which first came out in the '80s) on Goodreads but I'm thrilled that I did. As an added, bonus when I purchased the first book it came as part of a three book collection and I'm quite looking forward to reading the others.
Profile Image for Ace.
433 reviews23 followers
June 13, 2017
Wonderful. Unexpected.
At 63 years of age, Mrs. Pollifax is a little over her life and thinks back to the days when she wanted to be a spy! The rest is the story of the unexpected Mrs. Pollifax. Thoroughly enjoyable spy novel with a twist. I will have to read the rest of these soon.
Profile Image for Teri-K.
2,068 reviews44 followers
May 8, 2023
Mrs. Pollifax is a widowed grandmother in her 60s and feeling the need to do something more than growing geraniums with her remaining years. So she walks into the CIA headquarters, (it's in the phone book), and offers herself as a spy. Through a concatenation of circumstances she ends up travelling to Mexico as a courier. How she ends up in Albania makes a delightful, exciting and heartwarming book.

I first discovered Mrs. P. when I was in college back in the 1970s. A long time ago. I fell in love. I own all of the books and consider them treasures, replacing them reluctantly when they begin to fall apart. They've traveled with me around the US and overseas. My daughter loves her, too. Recently I discovered these books on audio narrated by the wonderful Barbara Rosenblat, and I find them perfect to listen to as I drive, exercise, or especially late at night when I can't sleep.

What makes these stories so good? First, there's Mrs. P's spirit, her love of life and respect for people, and that sense of adventure and desire to live a life that matters that took her to the CIA to volunteer to become a spy. She did it, she says, because she felt her life had become "expendable". But as you read these books you realize she isn't at all expendable - in fact the world needs more people like Emily Pollifax - more people who care about their world and the people in it, who will put themselves at risk to help others, who will take the time to appreciate the world around them.

I can wax a bit poetic about these books, as they are light-hearted, clean, fun books of a type that can be hard to find today. At the same time Mrs. P. herself makes them more. The best books are the first five or six. But read them all, in order if possible, and enjoy! If I could only read one book series for the rest of my life, I'd pick these. :)

NB- Both DD and I had trouble at first with the audio-books, as Mrs. P sounds old in them. But once I got used to that I've enjoyed the audio a lot.
Profile Image for Leslie.
2,660 reviews202 followers
May 19, 2023
2019 reread via Recorded Books audiobook narrated by Barbara Rosenblat. Rosenblat gives an excellent narration of this, though her voice for Farrell didn't match the accent I had imagined.
This was my fourth or fifth time reading this first Mrs. Pollifax book since I was introduced to the series in the 1970s, and I still love it! Despite the fact that I know the plot so well that there are no surprises, I enjoy the characters and situations.

If you like spy books with a sense of humor, I would recommend this series.
Profile Image for Kathy Chumley.
102 reviews10 followers
April 23, 2017
Cute story (from the Cold War years) about an elderly widow who is bored and decides she wants to become a spy. Through a misunderstanding at the CIA office, she's given an assignment that's meant for a "real" spy and the rest is...Well, the rest requires major suspension of disbelief (including her being able to just waltz into the CIA building) but that's okay. She's such a likable old lady that you don't mind.

I listened to the audio book and found the narrator to be as likable as Mrs. Polifax herself. I'll probably continue with this series and will most likely also continue with the audio book versions.

Don't be put off by my rating. Three stars is a good book in my personal rating system. I've heard of the "dreaded three stars" but that's not how I see them. It's just that I reserve four and five stars for excellent books and great classics.
Profile Image for Amy.
2,578 reviews400 followers
February 18, 2019
Action packed and awesome!
Mrs. Pollifax is a 60 something year old widow who decides to pursue her dream of becoming a spy. One day, she shows up at the CIA and volunteers her services. The CIA needs a courtier for a simple but important job. All she needs to do is pick up a package. What could go wrong?
The 1966 publishing date clearly shows through, complete with naive communists who eagerly learn about George Washington and American juries, "Red China," and Soviet intrigue. But it is fun! Mrs. Pollifax is a delight and I loved Farrell, the Hollywood style spy who fits right into the genre and highlights the absurdity of Mrs. Pollifax. It is like a James Bond movie but the Bond girl is a grandma.
I enjoyed this one and look forward to reading more of her adventures.
Profile Image for Jaksen.
1,327 reviews57 followers
June 12, 2020

Set in 1960's, an era I know very well, was a child, then teenager, and the 'feel' is ohsogood. Berlin Wall. Cold War. Castro and Cuba. Mexico a hot spot for spy activity. Russia - friend or foe or something ill-defined? China is Mao and it is RED. Vietnam heating up. Well some of this is mentioned in the book and much of it is a backdrop to events which play out. Sometimes I read about WW2 and need to simply use my parents' memories or what I KNOW about the era to fit into the reading. But the 1960's? Who will forget the decade they went from child to teenager?

At any rate, Mrs. Pollifax, in her 60's, is feeling restless, out of sorts, wants to DO something more than sit home alone - children are married and out of the nest (I hate that metaphor) and husband is deceased. What to do, what to do? Care for her beloved geraniums? Sit and read and sew or something? Put up with a somewhat haughty neighbor who likes to regale Emily (Mrs. Pollifax) with the 'slides' she's taken in her travels? (I ALSO remember those slide shows! Boring photos, made into slides, which relatives would drag over to the house and make us watch on a screen in the living room. OMG, this book captures the era so well!)

Anyhow, Mrs. Pollifax wants more. She feels she's lived the sedate, careful, secure life of many an American and decides to travel to CIA headquarters and offer herself as a spy. Yeah, this can turn into a comedy darn quick, but due to ...

This book was entirely entertaining and a great change from the 'woman in peril' books with an odd twist at the end that I've lately been reading. I have a list a mile long of other books to read, but I'm gonna throw in a few more Mrs. Pollifax books. She was like a breath of fresh air in a interesting, charming, entertaining kind of way. Loved her!

Five stars
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2,462 reviews847 followers
February 21, 2014
3 ½ stars. I really enjoyed the beginning and the end. The middle was not as good.

It was mostly scene after scene of oh my this bad thing is happening, what will we do, oh, quick do that, gee, we barely made it. I’m not sure why I didn’t enjoy this part. Maybe I would have liked more personality interaction instead of a series of bad things being thrown at them.

I loved it. I was laughing. Here’s this little old lady walking into the CIA offices and saying “I want to be a spy.” The guy is slack jawed and speechless. And in the end, people saying “you did what?” amazed at what she did. That was funny and good. Also she changed the way she treated someone at the end, which was neat.

This is book #1 in the series.

I wanted to buy more books narrated by Barbara Rosenblat, and this was on her list. She was very good, but I have two complaints. This was recorded in 1989. The recording equipment picks up her breaths and some swallowing which was distracting. Second: I did not like her fragile little old lady voice for Mrs. Pollifax. She made her sound like she was in her 90s. Most women in their 60s don’t sound like that.

Narrative mode: 3rd person. Unabridged audiobook length: 8 hrs and 16 mins. Swearing language: mild, but rarely used. Sexual content: none. Setting: around 1965 U.S., Mexico, Albania. Book copyright: 1966. Genre: spy suspense.
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