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The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax

(Mrs. Pollifax #1)

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  20,157 ratings  ·  1,626 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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4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  20,157 ratings  ·  1,626 reviews

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Feb 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: mom
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 p ...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
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
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
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
Linda Hart
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 an ...more
Carolyn Jourdan
Jul 28, 2008 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, ...).
Dawn Michelle
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 an
Abigail Bok
Jun 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 thei
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 04, 2007 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 02, 2015 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
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Very enjoyable - if rather on the far fetched side. I'll definitely read more about Mrs. P
Kathy Chumley
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. Polifa
Jul 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of spy stories
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
Marts  (Thinker)
Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
Wow, Mrs. Pollifax has a dangerously exciting time...
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 ****'s. A long time ago. I fell in l
Susan in NC
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reread
Really enjoyed this cozy spy thriller (seems to be an appropriate genre name). I had marked this as read several years ago and apparently didn’t like it, giving it one star, but reading it this time was a total surprise - if I have read it, I didn’t remember it at all!

I found the opening very touching, and right away saw Mrs. Pollifax as a likable, sympathetic character- a widow with her adult children living far away from her New Jersey home, raising their own families, she has her volunteer wo
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
This was an unexpected delight! I love mysteries and I have been looking for good, won't be side tracked by romance sleuths. Emily Polifax fit the bill to a tee.

Even though I knew she (and Farrell) would make it out of their various predicaments- this is book 1 of 14- Dorothy Gilman made the journey feel perilous and exciting.

One of my favorite things about Mrs. Polifax is that, while she was smart and observant, she didn't become a super spy overnight. She messed up a few times and she had to
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ys
what fun it is to read this once again!
mrs pollifax will surely never grow old on me;
looking forward to her next adventure

i don't get the piñata, though

p14: carstairs had unalterable fath in tirpak's ingenuity, and if tirpak said the microfilms would arrive in mexico city between the twelfth and the eighteenth then the microfilms would be there.

p46: "i've lived a very sheltered life," she explained, "and you do have a rather--well, i don't think i've known anyone--i mean, you look as it you'd do
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: strong-females
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! Mr
Aug 05, 2011 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
THT Steph
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, who-dunnit
Let me tell you about dear Mrs. Pollifax. She is a widow with grown children and grandchildren, and she feels like she has outlived her usefulness. What's a woman like Mrs. Pollifax to do? Well, go after her childhood dream of working for the CIA of course.
While I might have found her story far fetched in many circumstances, I ended up being convinced that if anyone could do the things that Mrs. Pollifax did in this book, it would have indeed been Mrs. Pollifax.
With a slew of interesting and lik
Jul 10, 2008 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
Jul 19, 2013 rated it liked it
As I near the end of the Amelia Peabody series, I find myself in a bit of a panic for a solid series that I can turn to, especially on audio. I've heard that the same genius (Barbara Rosenblatt) who narrates "Amelia" does this one too, although I couldn't obtain the first one on audio, so I read it. Very good! It's a bit "Murder She Wrote", I guess. And with another aging heroine. (Am I a "type"?) But I really liked her in this first installment, and will definitely read the next in the series, ...more
Julie Davis
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I'm listening to this for the pleasure of both revisiting a beloved character and the excellence of Barbara Rosenblat's narration. My mother would bring home the latest from the grocery store and it would get passed around. We all enjoyed Mrs. Pollifax's personality and ingenuity, as well as the author's talent for weaving a spy novel with a light touch.

I reread these so many times that the plot is coming back to me, several decades later, but I'm enjoying them immensely anyway.
Aug 13, 2012 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.
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mrs. Pollifax is bored with her life. So she decides she'd like to be a spy. She walks into CIA Headquarters to let them know... and due to things lining up just right, she is chosen for what should be a simple courier job in Mexico City.

When that job goes wrong and she ends up kidnapped and taken to Albania, well, that's when things get interesting.

Though implausible, her adventures as an amateur spy are pretty amusing. There is a lot of suspension of disbelief involved here. Things happen that
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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

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)
“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.” 6 likes
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