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The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (Mrs Pollifax #1)

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  15,628 Ratings  ·  1,080 Reviews
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 ou ...more
Paperback, 204 pages
Published December 1983 by Random House Ballantine Fawcett Crest (first published 1966)
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Community Reviews

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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 Gar
Mike (the Paladin)
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' ...more
Carolyn Jourdan
Jul 28, 2008 Carolyn Jourdan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: mystery series lovers, elderly heroine, middle-aged heroine
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, ...).
Sep 04, 2007 Nikki rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all
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 gett ...more
Jan 16, 2015 Shaun rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-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 coll
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
Aug 23, 2016 Jesse rated it it was amazing
Mrs. Emily Pollifax is a widow in her sixties, her children have grown up and live far away and have lives of their own, and she realizes that something is missing - that there is a life out there, somewhere, waiting for her. Discovery. Adventure. Intrigue. As a girl, she always dreamed of becoming a spy, so why shouldn't she just drop by the CIA and ask them if they need any spies?

I love this book. I love it IMMENSELY. I first read it nearly twenty years ago, and what's even more amazing is tha
Jul 10, 2008 Rachel rated it really liked it
If you enjoy Miss Marple, you'll like her American counterpart Mrs. Pollifax. The Mrs. Pollifax series were more suspenseful than I believed it would be, seeing how the heroine of the novel is in her 60s. However, that's part of the books--most people underestimate Mrs. Pollifax. This is the first book in the series, where Mrs Pollifax--deciding that she wasn't satisfied with her normal life--goes to the CIA and asks to become a spy. She is confused with being the courier spy the government need ...more
Marts  (Thinker)
Feb 18, 2016 Marts (Thinker) rated it it was amazing
Wow, Mrs. Pollifax has a dangerously exciting time...
Jane Stewart
3 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
Nov 22, 2015 Mo rated it really liked it
3 1/2 stars

I loved the premise of this story. I found the character of Mrs. Pollifax to be quite endearing, and at times the book was terrific. At others it read too much like “The Perils of Pauline” for the over fifty set.
Oct 02, 2014 Richard rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-14
This series is my favorite comfort read, although this book is not one I've gone back to as often as some of the others. Always a pleasure, and definitely more plausible and better-written than some of the later entries.

I was fortunate to meet Ms Gilman a number of years ago, while she was touring to promote Mrs Pollifax and the Lion Killer. I told her that I've gone back to some of her books three or four times, and she said, "There's no better compliment than that."

She told a charming story ab
Jan 29, 2013 Kristin rated it it was ok

This book series was recommended to me by a friend. I am not a mystery lover or spy book enthusiast but I decided to give it a try.

The book was published in the 1960s and has a dated feel and tone. It also has an antiquated political storyline in a Pre-Internet world but it was that part that I actually enjoyed. I liked the retro-factor. As for the rest of it...uh...not so much. I just didn't really get into it. I kept thinking that this was a book for the Murder She Wrote crowd and Mrs. Pollifa
May 25, 2016 Theresa rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery

Mrs. Pollifax has raised her two children and is a widow in her sixties.

"As she passed the desk the engagement calendar caught her eye and she stopped to glance at it with a sense of ennui. This was Monday; on Tuesday she wheeled the bookcart at the hospital, on Wednesday she rolled bandages, on Thursday morning there was a meeting of the Art Association and in the afternoon she worked in the gift shop of the hospital. On Friday the Garden Club met, on Saturday morning she would have her hair tr
Aug 23, 2013 Leslie rated it it was amazing
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.
Harry Connolly
Apr 04, 2015 Harry Connolly rated it liked it
Book 8 of #15in2015.

I'm honestly torn about this one, because there are so many good things but the negatives are colossal.

Setup: Mrs. Polifax is an elderly widow so bored with her life of volunteering and middle class charity work that she's on the verge of suicide, until she decides to revive her childhood dream of becoming a spy. So she slips out of her home in New Brunswick, NJ and takes a train to CIA headquarters in Langley to volunteer.

Of course, due to a mixup, an administrator actuall
Mrs. Pollifax has long been a favorite road trip companion. But we had never listened to this, the first in the series. This book explains how the bored 60 something widowed retiree got hired by the CIA as a courier. It was supposed to be a simple assignment; spend a week in Mexico City as a tourist and then pick up a package from a bookstore. Of course, nothing is ever simple when Mrs. Pollifax is involved and she soon becomes a prisoner in an Albanian jail.
This series was written 3 decades ago
Nov 14, 2012 Kacii rated it it was amazing
When you think of spies I imagine James Bond comes to mind, yes? How about a sixty-year-old woman who kicks butt in the most wity way imaginable? Sound like your cup of tea? It definitely sounded good to me.
My grandmother recommended this book to me, and usually the books she recommends are a little wordy for my taste, but this was a hilarious, thrilling read that I enjoyed very much. It's not what I expected, but then again--the title is 'The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax' so I think that's kind o
Dec 06, 2013 C. rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Aldon Rau
It appears that it has been longer than I would have estimated since my last book review. I find that one is easily distractable at my time of life, especially since...oh hey, my mother has left her mug of tea unattended! What an opportunity! I'll be back shortly...

...Ok, that is taken care of. Now that mommy is fully occupied with some sort of cleanup project, I can get back where was I...oh yes, Mrs. Pollifax. When I began reading this book, I initially felt...oh dear, it appears that
Joy H.
This was a great read, a cozy mystery. Mrs. Pollifax is an amusing character. I've enjoyed all the Mrs. Pollifax books.

I recently learned that there have been a couple of movies made, based on this book.
See the following links:
"The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax" (TV 1999) (starring Angela Lansbury)

"Mrs. Pollifax-Spy" (1971) (starring Rosalind Russell and Darren McGavin)

I watched
Mar 21, 2010 Leslie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The Unexpected Mrs. Polifax is the first book in this Dorothy Gilmore's remarkable series. In this delightful novel, you will meet the wonderful and thoroughly charming Mrs. Polifax who in her "golden" years presents herself at CIA headquarters and offers her services as a spy. A fun turn of events sends her on a simple courier assignment which turns out far different than expected.

The Mrs. Polifax novels are a wonderful series of books for reluctant readers. The novels read quickly and are exc
Dec 02, 2015 Diane rated it really liked it
We introduced this series to my mother-in-law and she loved Mrs. Pollifax Thought I'd try it. Fun read.
Dixie A.
Feb 26, 2015 Dixie A. rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This is the story of someone's widowed grandmother who, bored by volunteer duties and the life of an elderly spinster, volunteers to be a spy. Yes, a spy. She waltzes down to the CIA, gets an interview on false pretenses and offers her services. Accidentally mistaken as someone else, she gets the job -- a simple courier mission. Go to Mexico, utter a code phrase at the right time to the right person and bring the results back.

Mrs. Pollifax is a more than a bit dotty, but she's desperately good w
Jun 07, 2016 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am so excited to have found another mystery series worth reading ... in my opinion ! Mrs. Polifax, having reached the ripe age of 65 (I am fast approaching that milestone myself!), finds herself a bit depressed and at loose ends. She wishes to invest the remaining years of life having done something more exciting than the usual garden clubs and charities. At her yearly doctor check-up, her physician challenges her to do something she's always wanted to do. Thus, Mrs. Polifax ends up in Langle ...more
Aug 26, 2015 Amanda rated it really liked it
The edition that I got from thriftbooks has perhaps the worst cover of any book I have ever read. or ever seen for that matter. and the good reads description is kind of awful. lucky for me I ignored both of those issues and still read on. (although I DID purposely leave this at home when I went to the dentist today. I was slightly humiliated by the cover picture) turned out to be a fun and funny spy novel with a refreshingly brisk pace.
Feb 15, 2016 Teresa rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-read
This was an entertaining book. First published in the 60s which led to so many funny throw back terms such as, teletype, telegram, radiogram, red chinese, red russians, intercom, bring me the file. That wasn't so long ago and yet it seems forever in the tech world.

Mrs. Pollifax is bored with her life as woman who has lost her husband, whose children are grown and moved away and who volunteers for virtually every stuffy group in town. One day she walks into CIA offices and asks if there's someth
Julie  Durnell
Jul 07, 2016 Julie Durnell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
A rollicking good tale of a sixty-something lady re-inventing herself as an international spy! Her escapades and ingenuity stretch belief but it was a fun introduction to Mrs. Pollifax. I only hope I would be as strong and resourceful in similar circumstances!
Apr 01, 2016 Kristel rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, albania
I read this book for three reasons; GeoCat was the number one reason and it was one Nancy Pearl recommended for a book about Albania and this was the month we read books about Eastern Europe, I read it for PBT as a mystery thriller. It was also available at the library and short and not too complicated. A cozy mystery written in 1966 as the first in a series. Mrs. Pollifax is a older, widowed woman who's children are busy and is not fulfilled by the life of volunteering. Her doctor writes her a ...more
Kristina Simon
May 30, 2015 Kristina Simon rated it liked it
Shelves: src-spring-2015
Cute beginning to a new-to-me series. Like I needed another one!
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Dorothy Gilman started writing when she was 9. At 11, she competed against 10 to 16-year-olds in a story contest and won first place. Dorothy worked as an art teacher and 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 ...more
More about Dorothy Gilman...

Other Books in the Series

Mrs Pollifax (1 - 10 of 14 books)
  • The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax (Mrs. Pollifax, #2)
  • The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax (Mrs Pollifax #3)
  • A Palm for Mrs Pollifax (Mrs Pollifax, #4)
  • Mrs. Pollifax on Safari (Mrs. Pollifax, #5)
  • Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station (Mrs. Pollifax, #6)
  • Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha (Mrs Pollifax #7)
  • Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle (Mrs Pollifax #8)
  • Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish (Mrs. Pollifax, # 9)
  • Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief (Mrs. Pollifax, #10)
  • Mrs. Pollifax Pursued (Mrs. Pollifax, #11)

Share This Book

“In the morning when Mrs. Pollifax awoke she realized at once that a fateful day was beginning. She lay and thought about this dispassionately, almost wonderingly, because to every life there eventually came a moment when one had to accept the fact that the shape, the pattern, the direction of the future was entirely out of one's hands, to be decided unalterably by chance, by fate or by God. There was nothing to do but accept, and from this to proceed, doing the very best that could be done.” 13 likes
“If life was like a body of water, she had asked that she be allowed to walk again in its shallows; instead she had been abruptly seized by strong currents and pushed into deep water.” 4 likes
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