Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (Mrs. Pollifax, #1)” as Want to Read:
The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (Mrs. Pollifax, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax

(Mrs. Pollifax #1)

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  21,864 ratings  ·  1,830 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  21,864 ratings  ·  1,830 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (Mrs. Pollifax, #1)
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
Lisa Vegan
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 f
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
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, ...).
Jeanne Adamek
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
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
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
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.
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone Who Enjoys Fun & Funny Adventure/Spy Stories with Somewhat Quirky Characters
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 M ...more
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
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
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
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
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
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 humo
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing

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 rea
Gary Sundell
An unexpectedly good read and listen. I listened probably more than read. Hope to get to more of the series soon.
Jane Stewart
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
Marts  (Thinker)
Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
Wow, Mrs. Pollifax has a dangerously exciting time...
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: keeper-shelf
Author: Dorothy Gilman
Publisher: Fawcett/Random House, 1966
Genre: Mystery/Crime/Spy

I had no clue this series existed until I was searching on YouTube for a movie to watch. Sometimes I just search for actors I like and see what pops up. This time I was trolling for Angela Lansbury. I wanted to see her in something besides Murder, She Wrote. And up popped a made for television movie from 1999. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax.

I saw it was based on a book....that intrigued me. Then, after watching abou
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
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Cindy Vincent
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was looking for a little bedtime reading, something to take me out of the day and let me ease into sleep. But what I got instead was a wild, roller-coaster ride that kept me up till the wee hours, because I couldn't put it down. Wow, what a fantastic book. Loved the character and loved the way she handled . . . everything! Highly recommend!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody, #1)
  • Death On Demand (Death On Demand, #1)
  • Wednesday the Rabbi Got Wet
  • Monday the Rabbi Took Off
  • The Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin, #1)
  • The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (Cat Who..., #1)
  • The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #1)
  • Aunt Dimity's Death (Aunt Dimity Mystery #1)
  • The Cater Street Hangman (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #1)
  • Friday the Rabbi Slept Late (The Rabbi Small Mysteries #1)
  • Fer-de-Lance (Nero Wolfe, #1)
  • Tuesday the Rabbi Saw Red
  • All the Devils Are Here (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #16)
  • Whose Body?  (Lord Peter Wimsey, #1)
  • The Less Dead
  • The Vicious Vet (Agatha Raisin, #2)
  • Glass Dolls
  • Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home
See similar books…
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 ...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)

Related Articles

You might know comedian Colin Jost from his work as the co-anchor of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, or perhaps you know him as Scarlett...
120 likes · 46 comments
“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.” 16 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
More quotes…