Thursday, March 14, 2013

Book Review: The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman (Mrs. Pollifax #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fast paced, intriguing story. Mrs. Pollifax
Cons: None, really
The Bottom Line:
A trip to Turkey
Filled with Cold War intrigue and
Charming Mrs. P

Mrs. Pollifax Faces More Danger in Turkey

Mrs. Pollifax is such an original character. She's a grandmother, widow, garden club member, and part time CIA agent. After showing up in Langley in the first book and volunteering, she finds herself going on all kinds of adventures for her boss, Mr. Carstairs.

The series was written over 35 years. Each book is a product of its time. The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax, the second in the series, was originally written in 1970, and the Cold War is still a major factor in international relations.

After her first adventure, Mrs. Pollifax figured she'd never hear from the CIA again. Naturally, when Mr. Carstairs calls and asks her to do another bit of courier work, she's surprised. After a moment of hesitation, she recklessly agrees to go. And this time, Carstairs is taking no chances. He's assigning another agent to follow Mrs. Pollifax around and keep her out of trouble.

A notorious Soviet agent has recently defected, and Mrs. Pollifax is to go to Turkey to meet her, give her a fake passport, and help her get to US soil. Naturally, every agency in the world is after this agent, so the danger will be fierce. Mrs. Pollifax's one advantage is that she knows where the agent will appear.

Her first night in Turkey, Mrs. Pollifax makes contact, only to be arrested moments later by the local police. Then her shadow is murdered. Alone in a foreign land, Mrs. Pollifax has only her instincts and Colin, a young man she just happened to meet, to help her. Can she get herself and the agent safely back to the States?

While the first book needed time to set up the premise of the series, this book jumps right in with Carstairs's call. Fortunately, there's a little set up before the plot starts in earnest, but once it starts, hold on! The pace is fast and the danger almost constant. Again, there are some plot points that seem a little far fetched, but the book is such fun that I don't care.

Part of the fun is the characters. Mrs. Pollifax herself is a dear. Her unique perspective on the world makes anything fun. She's taken up karate between books, a skill that comes in quite handy through the rest of the series. She's the kind of person you'd enjoy spending time with in real life, which makes the books so much more enjoyable.

And it helps that she is surrounded by colorful characters. The heroes are lovable and the villains menacing. This is especially true of Colin, who starts out kind of lost in life but quickly begins to become more confident as they face danger together. Then there's Sandor, the vagrant they meet in a graveyard who blackmails his way into the adventure.

Part of the fun of the books is the look at another time and place. Remembering the fact that this is 1970 Turkey is key to understanding the story. The book makes many references to international realities of the day as well as the non-violent movement of the time. Still, the writing style is fine without too many references that will truly stump modern readers.

While coincidence shows up a time or two, the overall effect is minor. The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax is another winner. You'll be turning pages desperately trying to find out what danger awaits Mrs. Pollifax next.

And watch the years go by as you read the Mrs. Pollifax books in order.

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