Book Review: Mrs Pollifax on the China Station by Dorothy Gilman

Posted July 13, 2020 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Mrs Pollifax on the China Station by Dorothy Gilman

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Mrs Pollifax on the China Station by Dorothy Gilman
Series: Mrs. Pollifax #6
Genres: Cozy, Mystery
on March 12, 1985
Pages: 216
Format: Paperback
Source: the library

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Also by this author: Mrs Pollifax on Safari, The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax, The Elusive Mrs Pollifax, A Palm for Mrs Pollifax, Mrs Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha

Sixth in the Mrs Pollifax cozy mystery series and revolving around a retired widow with a sense of adventure.

My Take

That Iris. You can’t help but love her, she’s so earnest. She and Jenny have the biggest character arc, at least in terms of understanding. Iris learned the most about herself before the trip with some interesting action during the trip while Jenny has an abrupt awakening. Although, it is funny to hear a spy say “be yourself”.

Okay, I love organizing, so I can’t help but be fascinated by Mrs Pollifax’s insight about all those clothes hanging on lines at their first stop. It does make sense, but I do worry about bugs, rain, and pollution, hmmm.

Yeahhh, the Cultural Revolution. This is part of what I don’t like about communist regimes, tearing people away from homes, families, their passions, and forcing them to labor at something so outside their interests and abilities. I like the idea of people experiencing something they aren’t normally exposed to, if only to understand — later — what those lives are like and how things work outside their own worlds. But to force them to stay forever?? Uh-uh.

Another dislike I have is the “ugly Americans” routine. Why does anyone go on a trip to another country if they’re expecting it to be just like home? Why do they feel a need to make fun of another person’s culture? One thing I learned to appreciate in my own travels is that there is no one way to do anything and gaining new perspectives on people. One particular “perspective” is that it doesn’t matter what our culture, religion, or ethnicity we are, we’re all the same under the skin. With the same wants, needs, loves, hates, expectations… We. Are. All. The. Same. Okay, yeah, some of what we learn in our cultures can be anti- what we may expect. The Chinese and Japanese, as a general whole, do not respect patents or copyright.

Wow. Wow. When I learned who this secret “companion” is…just, not who I expected. There are even more revelations about characters in this. Oh, they’re not as dramatic as the “secret spy”, but Mrs Pollifax’s fellow tourists will surprise you.

A different “wow” came through when they visited Qin Shi Huang’s tomb and his clay soldiers. I would LOVE to see that, and Gilman did a lovely job of describing the archeological dig, as well as the positives and negatives of Qin’s rule. I liked how Gilman popped in those bits about Chou En-lai, Chiang Kai-shek, and Wa Tei as well. It’s a good point Gilman also makes about Homer’s tales being thought to have been myths.

“I think my parents stopped learning a long time ago, which made me a misfit, a changeling, and restless. A very conventional middle-class family…”

While we mostly see everything from Mrs Pollifax’s perspective, Gilman uses third person dual protagonist point-of-view as we see into the “secret spy’s” mind as well.

We can all learn from Mrs Pollifax’s comment that one should “stop feeling sorry for yourself; relationships aren’t business transactions” and that’s it’s worth a try to grow up. I can, unfortunately, think of too many people who need to hear that.

Ooh, that Mr Chang is unexpected…it’s gotta be Mrs P’s character!

The trip has done Mrs Pollifax a great deal of good, as it helps her make a decision about Cyrus. Lucky boy.

I do love this series. Yes, I love cozy mysteries anyway, and with Mrs Pollifax, I simply adore her sense of adventure and innate goodness, making friends everywhere she goes, lol.

I reckon you’ll realize that this is a character-driven series, yet it’s also packed with action in countries all over the world. It’s a fun read and you won’t regret picking it up.

Remember…don’t drink the water or eat any dried fruit when you travel.

The Story

It’s a critical mission. Find a barber and get the camp location. All under the eye of an unknown compatriot. Then walk away.

Mrs Pollifax? Walk away? Ha!

The Characters

Mrs Emily Pollifax is a widow in New Brunswick, New Jersey, who grew bored with her retired life. She’s in a relationship with Cyrus Reed, a retired judge, whom she met in Mrs Pollifax on Safari, 5. Lisa is Cyrus’ daughter. Roger and Jane are Mrs Pollifax’s son and daughter.

Carstairs is in charge. William Bishop is his long-suffering assistant.

People Emily has met on her adventures include John Sebastian Farrell (The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax, 1); Colin and Sabbahat Ramsey who sent a birth announcement and Magda and Sir Hubert (The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax, 2); Tsanko and the Tredafilovs (The Elusive Mrs Pollifax, 3); and, Hafez and his father, the king of Zabya, and Robin and Court Bourke-Jones (A Palm for Mrs Pollifax, 4).


The People’s Security Bureau, a.k.a., the Sepos, are similar to the Gestapo or KGB. Mr Pi and Mr Chang are with the police.

Markham Tours is…
…putting together a custom tour package. Mr Li is the primary tour guide. Mr Tung is their local Canton guide. Miss Bai is their guide at Xian. Mr Kan meets them in Urumchi.

Mrs Pollifax’s fellow tourists will include the sulky Peter Fox whose wheelchair-bound grandmother sent him on the trip as a graduation gift; the artistic (and psychic) Malcolm Styles who writes children’s books; the insecure and desperate Jennifer A Lobsen, who is a second-grade teacher; George Westrum of Texas is a rancher with an oil well; the retiring Joe Forbes, a history professor who wants to learn Mandarin; and, the klutzy Iris Damson who’s a go-go dancer (the misinformed Suzie, a fellow dancer, is her best friend), who just finished college and discovered Women’s Lib. She’s also been married three times: Mike the cowboy, the crooked Stanley, and the oil-striking jerk, Orris.

Guo Musu is a Buddhist barber these days who had been a prisoner in the labor camp.

Szu Chou ghosts around Urumchi. Sheng Ti is a hei jen, a “black person” who relies on the black market, as he simply can’t fit in.

Ching Ho Forestry Camp translates…
…as Clean Stream and is where an engineer, Mr X, a.k.a., Wong Shen or Wang Shen is imprisoned.

Retired police lieutenant Lorvale Brown is Emily’s karate instructor. Miss Hartshorne is Mrs Pollifax’s neighbor in 4-C. Bill is a man with whom Jenny had been in love.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a picturesque background of a striped summer sky with rounded-top mountains with a Chinese temple gate in front of them and a paved courtyard before us with a tall tree on the left. There’s an info blurb in yellow against a red-orange banner background at the very top. Immediately below is the author’s name in white with the title in yellow in the bottom half.

The title finds Mrs Pollifax on the China Station, aiding in a prisoner escape.

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