Skip to main content

Dorothy Edith Gilman was born in New Brunswick, N.J., on June 25, 1923 and passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s on February 2, 2012. Under her married name, Dorothy Gilman Butters, she began publishing children’s books in the late 1940s.

She wrote several non-series books but she is best known for her Mrs. Pollifax mysteries. She wrote 14 books in that series. What makes Mrs. Pollifax so unique is that she is in her 60s, a widow, a pillar of society, and was just plain bored and decided to fulfill her childhood wish and apply at the C.I.A. to be a spy. The books were started in the mid 60s when the U.S.S.R. was a world power and most of Eastern Europe was under Communist rule.

The series starts with The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax. Mrs. Pollifax is feeling distinctly depressed. Her doctor urges her to do something she had always wanted to do to get out of her boredom. She decides to go to Langley, Virginia and apply to be a spy. Through a series of misunderstandings Carstairs offers her a courier a job to Mexico. All she has to do is appear at a certain bookstore on a certain day and take what is given her and bring it back to the United States. Simple right? What could possibly go wrong?

It starts with her meeting her contact early and proceeding to be kidnapped along with another American John Farrell. The book proceeds with them being taken to Albania where Mrs. Pollifax tries to corrupt her captors and figure out how to escape from a prison no one has escaped from, get out of a Communist country with Farrell who has a broken leg and a Chinese prisoner no one knows anything about all the while playing endless games of solitaire. The whole story is completely improbable and you don’t care because it is so much fun.

The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax Carstairs decides that this time nothing could go wrong if he sends Mrs. Pollifax to Turkey. All she has to do is contact a spy who is trying to defect to the West and give her some money and a passport. What can go wrong? Well let me count the ways. We have kidnappings. We have agents being murdered. We have a spy on the run who refuses to leave the country until she retrieves something very special to her. We have gypsies. We have people in disguise who aren't who they appear to be but whose side are they on? Again you ignore the plot holes you can drive a Mack truck through because the story is so much fun.
In The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax Mrs. Pollifax is on her way to Romania with a brand new hat that just happens to have eight phony passports in it for some freedom fighters. All she has to do this time is contact their person by ordering a vest and give that person the passports. Of course there are some slight complications like a group of students one of whom ends up in prison on phony spying charges. A young girl who refuses to leave until her friend is free. We have members of the underground who have been imprisoned. A despot named General Ignatov who plans on a coup to take over the country.  People are trying to kill Mrs. Pollifax. Someone is trying to steal her coat. Did I mention another impenetrable prison? Right well this time Mrs. Pollifax wants to break into the prison and rescue some people. No problem. ;-)
In A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax all our heroine has to do is infiltrate a Swiss Rest Resort and find the missing plutonium. As we know from previous books of course nothing could possibly go wrong. At the resort Mrs. Pollifax meets a young child named Hafez. She also runs into people with the child who are not nice people she decides. She meets a genuine jewel thief named Robin who decides to help her out. Of course there are other agents who always seem to end up dead. You might suspect that this woman is Typhoid Mary the way agents die off when she is on the scene. There is a suave sheik who of course is up to no good, a lovesick lady, a mysterious castle, and unrest in a Middle Eastern country. There are also the usual people trying to kill Mrs. Pollifax. I love this woman.
Mrs. Pollifax on Safari is one of my favorite books in the series. It is one of my favorite books period. All she has to do this time is take pictures and see if John Farrell wants to come back to work for the C.I.A. One of her fellow safari travelers is actually a hired assassin who is adept at disguises.  Mrs. Pollifax merrily goes around snapping pictures, chatting to her fellow travel mates, plays matchmaker, and of course gets kidnapped. A love of Africa is very prevalent in this book. This was written at a time when apartheid was just starting to be overturned.

In this book Mrs. Pollifax gets a love interest of her own in the form of Cyrus Reed. I love how the author doesn't feel that love and romance has to be only for the young.

These are the first five books in the Mrs. Pollifax series. In two future diaries I will be reviewing the next five books and then the final four.

Mrs. Pollifax appeals to me very much because she and I are around the same age. She isn't afraid to try new things. She goes after her dreams. In an age where youth is being pushed so strongly it is great to know that in some places experience and age are respected. As I tell my kids I may be a little creakier than I used to be but I still have a lot of life left in me. Mrs. Pollifax is full of life and I salute that and the late Dorothy Gilman.

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule

DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
Sun 2:00 PM What's on Your E-Reader? Caedy
Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
alternate Mondays
2:00 PM Political Books Susan from 29
Mon 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery michelewln, Susan from 29
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM All Things Bookstore Dave in Northridge
Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 2:00 PM e-books Susan from 29
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
alternate Thursdays 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
Fri 8:00 PM Books Go Boom! Brecht; first one each month by ArkDem14
Fri 10:00 PM Slightly Foxed -- But Still Desirable shortfinals
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 12:00 PM You Can't Read That! Paul's Book Reviews pwoodford
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site