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The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax (1987)

The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax (1987)

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4.11 of 5 Votes: 5
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0449215237 (ISBN13: 9780449215234)
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About book The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax (1987)

I have not read other books in this series and chose this one because it took place in Bulgaria, and I had recently traveled there. It mentioned a very few places and things I had seen, but did not bring back a lot of "been there" memories. The time is the communist era. Mrs. Pollifax is an Agatha Christie-type of character who could easily be played by Angela Lansbury. She is the quintessential optimistic, adventurous widow who occasionally works for the CIA. Using her naievete as a weapon of sorts, she manages to accomplish her mission by using her keen wit, powers of observation, and sincere interest in others. This novel is constructed no differently than most in the genre. It is pleasant. You do not really need to read others in the series, but if you enjoy others of this type, you would probably benefit be beginning with book 1 because I suspect you would know more about Mrs. Pollifax. In this novel she is asked to deliver some passports to help some people get out of Bulgaria and she carries the passports in her hat, which looks like a birds' nest. (The word "jaunty" comes to my mind when I picture it.) She is not told that a coat she owns has been lined with Russian rubles and that somewhere during her mission, someone will collect it. At the airport she meets a group of young people who are aimlessly back packing around Europe - as one did in those days because it was so cheap. And she befriends one of them, a young man named Phillip, who is feeling under the weather and is given something by his friend Nikki, who behaves quite badly when they arrive in Bulgaria. You know they are going to become involved with Mrs, Pollifax. The book, like many mysteries of this sort, is set up like an elaborate domino game where one lines all the dominos up, flips the first one in line over, and along the way, they fall in interesting, even improbable, and sometimes unexpected ways, thundering to a fast and happy conclusion. I enjoyed reading the book. If Mrs. Pollifax happens to operate in another country I am going to visit, I would happily join her again. And, it was interesting to read about Bulgaria under communism and to see how different tourism is today.

I was in the middle of this book when I read of Dorothy Gilman's recent death. Losing one of my favorite authors makes me sad, knowing that there will be no more books with that voice, wisdom, and wit. Dorothy Gilman is best known for her Mrs. Pollifax series, but it was actually her other novels that I preferred. My late mother-in-law was a devoted Mrs. Pollifax fan, and perhaps I stupidly relegated the series to old ladies who liked Murder She Wrote, for I resisted reading all but the first one. I should have known better, because I've re-read many of her other books. Now I am making up for it by going back and reading the Mrs. Pollifax series from the early days. Maybe I've grown more 'old lady-ish' myself and no longer mind a protagonist in the latter decades of her life. I certainly can't seem to relate to teenage vampire stories and tiresome petulant seventeen-year-old heroines any more.This book, published in 1971, is a delight. It has a rip-roaring plot where Mrs. Pollifax is supposed to smuggle passports into communist Bulgaria in the midst of a bloody crackdown. Being Mrs. Pollifax, she manages to go beyond her simple courier mission for the CIA, and get involved with a couple of traveling American college students, one of whom ends up arrested by the Bulgarian secret police. I'm not sure how she does it, but Dorothy Gilman has the talent for making you immediately care for these characters. Perhaps it's because the observant Mrs. Pollifax cares so, without being nosy and intrusive. She is also psychologically astute. She has an intuitive understanding of others and knows innately how to deal with them. She is also very brave, as well as being at peace with her death, which she faces a number of times. I feel sure that Ms. Gilman, who suffered from Alzheimer's, had bravely faced her own.

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This is the third book in the installment that I've listened to on audio. I don't know if Rosenblatt's narration that I quite enjoyed for the first book has started to wear off, but I find myself less and less enamored of this series, although I adored the first one, but again, I don't know if it's because I wasn't a fan of the voice-over of Debbie, and the very convenient appearance of "Santo" (??) at just the point when Mrs. P and Debbie were supposed to be shot. It is strange that the good guys decide to shoot them at this point, and later seemed to quibble at killing other (worse) people. Also, has anyone noticed that there seems to be a person named "San--" in all three of the first books in the series? I don't know if the author thought that was the accepted name variation for the region or what. I know that these were written in the Cold War era, but what bugged me to no end was the feeling that this book followed on the heels of the propaganda at the time -- that communism was just about the worst thing in the world -- when that's really not the case. The problem is when a country becomes a police state and the government has too much power and abuses it under the guise of stating that it's for the good of the people. Clearly most people can see now that capitalism in its purest form without any sort of government oversight or regulation really doesn't help the poor. But that's obviously not the point of the book, so I don't expect that to be an obstacle to enjoying it.Again, this might have been because I was listening to it on audiobook. The breaking the prisoners out of the "hospital" was expected, of course. But Nicholas showing up at her hotel later was a nice touch, along with Ivana saving her butt.What I did like is that despite these deficiencies, the book is able to be carried forward by its action-filled plot. And it was interesting that Mrs. P falls in love in this book. Of course, it's very vague but that's what was implied. All in all, because Mrs. P did not immediately fall in love with Debbie, and I did like the cut brakes on the mountain roads bit, so this was an improvement over the last book.

I have read this series many times over the years. It is not one I read every year, but every couple of years. I found the audio on my audio book rental company (Recorded Books) requested them to give them a try. The narrator is good and she has read some other series that I really enjoyed. This is a quirky character that is fun and easy to read. These books are not intense, but very enjoyable. I highly recommend this series to anyone. If you want to start at the beginning start with the Amazing Mrs. Pollifax and continue through the other 10 books in the series.This book takes Mrs. Pollifax to Bulgaria behind the Iron Curtain. Only Mrs. Pollifax can get into all the mischief that she does and accomplish everything she does. It is a whirlwind adventure that is highly amusing!
—Stacie M. Ritchie

This is my favorite book in this series so far. It has a fresh, optimistic tone that I like very much. It's charming and funny, yet somehow reflects a genuine concern for people too. There is a depth in the book that I didn't experience with the two additional books I've read in this series. If you haven't read any of these books, they're worth checking out. These mysteries were written in the 70s when the cold war was still a real threat. Back then it was unlikely for a grandmother to be anything like an independent woman acting as an agent. The books were written long before television's Jessica Fletcher appeared on the scene. This series paints older people as strong, smart, and capable. I like that message and like the characters very much.
—Monica Willyard

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