Book Review: The Elusive Mrs Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

Posted September 13, 2019 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: The Elusive Mrs Pollifax 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.

The Elusive Mrs Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
Series: Mrs. Pollifax #3
Genres: Cozy, Mystery
on September 1985
Pages: 208
Format: Paperback
Source: the library

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Also in this series: Mrs Pollifax on the China Station

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

Third in the Mrs Pollifax cozy mystery series and revolving around a little old retired lady who lives in New Brunswick, New Jersey, splitting her time between the Garden Club and her karate lessons.

My Take

Another enjoyable cozy with both memorable characters and plenty of action with the flexible Mrs Pollifax, lol! It is all from her perspective — in third person protagonist point-of-view — that we view the story, as she upsets the intended order of a bad man, I should say men. And poor Mr Carstairs continues to pull his hair out, *more laughter*. Bishop certainly enjoys that!

I do love Mrs Pollifax’s philosophy.

“…this was exactly the age, she thought, when life ought to be spent, not hoarded. … One could not always change the world, she felt, but one could change oneself.”

It’s this approach that gets her into all these pickles — every time she plays courier, lol. Ya gotta love her for standing up for her convictions! And such an innocuous spy.

I would like to know why Phil picked someone’s pocket. There’s nothing later in the story to explain that. Well, other than a useful way to uncover someone’s identity. I’d also like to know how Mrs Pollifax determines Ignatov is going to overthrow the government?? As for paying that ransom…how would they explain the public death of the one but produce the same guy as being well and alive?? His dad (and Gilman) is just not thinking.

Gilman’s description of Nevena cracks me up. All the stereotypes of the stolid Communist with her passion for Soviet architecture and disdain for history. Her attitude (and her government’s) all make me so grateful that I live in the United States. Where we have electricity and water 24/7, oy.

On the other hand, Tsanko prefers the Russian oversight. He sees it as protection from the wolves. Isn’t that a kick in the pants!

It’s kind of sad that a citizen’s appearance will affect how one’s government provides aid. It’s also fascinating that it’s Debby who has the character arc in this story, and in her life. It’s her past that plays up those hypocritical parents who alienate their children.

“Because someday I hope a man will look at me the way he looked at Mrs Pollifax.”

Now don’t forget…Wednesdays.

The Story

The unexpected aid that enables Shipkov’s escape deserves a reward — eight forged passports to help others escape Bulgaria.

And who better to deliver those passports but the harmless Mrs Pollifax. Carstairs really should have remembered her penchant for getting into trouble…

The Characters

Mrs Pollifax, a.k.a., 10573, is a retired widow with a variety of interests from the Garden Club to hospital volunteer to karate. Virgil had been her husband. The intuitive Roger is her son who is based in Chicago. Jane is her daughter in Arizona.

Mr Carstairs likes to employ Mrs Pollifax as a special courier. Bishop is his assistant who stays in contact with Mrs Pollifax. Osmonde is a hatmaker. Shipkov, an undercover agent, managed to escape Bulgaria.

Tsanko is Mrs Pollifax’s Underground contact; Adriana had been his wife. His second wife, an ex, is an engineer in Varna. Vasil is Tsanko’s only surviving child. Other members of the Underground include Kosta; Boris, a history professor; Encho; Georgi who is a student at the university; and, Volko, who is the businessman of the group. The nasty Assen Radev is the only CIA agent left in Sofia and works at the Dobri Vapacarow Collective where they raise geese. Slavko is their guide at the collective. Durov is a tailor at Number nine Vasil Levski. Anton Schoenstein will make use of one of those passports.

Nevena is Mrs Pollifax’s contact with Balkantourist, the official travel agency in Bulgaria. Herr Vogel is a hotel manager in Tarnovo. Chairman Brezhnev is the leader of the USSR.

An English expat, Carleton Bemish, is a has-been journalist, recommended to Mrs Pollifax as an unofficial guide. Stella Trendafilov is his wife. Her brother, Petrov Trendafilov, is a millionaire in the US.

The scheming General Ignatov is a CIA worry. Titko Yugov, Minco Kolarov, and Nikolai F Dzhagarov, a protege of Ignatov, are with the secret police. The Panchevsky Institute is an inescapable institute in Sofia where the secret police stash those they take. Miroslav is a venal guard there.

The young people, some of whom don’t want to go to Bulgaria, include the bossy Nikki, the parents-beset and physically adept Debby, the ill Philip Trenda, the French Ghislaine, and Erika and Andre. Benjamin Eastlake is with the US Embassy in Sofia.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey, Garden Club consists…
…of Miss Grace Hartshorne, Mrs Pollifax’s neighbor; Professor Whitsun from the university botany department; and, Mrs Otis, the club’s president.

Retired police chief, Lorvale Brown, teaches karate. Mr Omelianuk owns the delicatessen around the corner from Mrs Pollifax’s apartment. Dr Kidd is Debby’s psychiatrist. Paul Trenda is Philip’s father.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a red-brown background. At the top is the author’s name with a thin underline in a pale yellow. The title is centered below that in white. A rectangle of a gradated yellow-to-brown ranging left to right with a thin white border is the background for Mrs Pollifax’s elaborate brown hat, en-mossed in green with two long creamy gray feathers thrusting out behind and a cup of tea in Blue Cantonese sitting to the left of it. Underneath the graphic is an epigraph followed by a testimonial in white.

The title is how the frustrated Nevena views our protagonist, The Elusive Mrs Pollifax.

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