Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters are charming as always
Cons: Plot is slow until the final third
The Bottom Line:
Back to Africa
Book with a slow beginning
Still keeps fans reading
Mrs. Pollifax Faces a Killer
While the Mrs. Pollifax series is classified (correctly) as mystery, the books aren’t the traditional dead body and five suspects that I normally read. Mrs. Pollifax and the Lion Killer comes the closest to that formula, and the book actually suffers for it.
If you aren’t familiar with the series, you really should meet Mrs. Pollifax. She is a grandmother, garden club member, and part time CIA agent. While the books were written over the span of several decades, she’s always taking part in whatever were current global affairs at the time.
This is a rare book in the series that is a direct sequel to the book that came before. Most of the time, the books are mostly standalone adventures with few characters crossing over. Here, we get many characters from the previous book returning.
And that includes a set up that doesn’t involve Carstairs and the CIA at all. While Carstairs is mentioned a few times, this is all Mrs. Pollifax. Given the name of my blog, you can imagine how I feel about that.
Mrs. Pollifax’s young friend Kadi Hopkirk has summoned back to Ubangiba in the African desert. Kadi’s childhood friend Sammat is going to be crowned king of this small country soon, but he is facing problems he is hoping Kadi, who grew up in the country, can help him with. Fearing that Kadi might be in danger, Mrs. Pollifax goes with her.
The duo arrive to learn that there have been several deaths recently where the victim has been mauled by lions. The problem? There are no lions in Ubangiba. Rumors are going around the country that these are the works of sorcery, and Sammat is that sorcerer. Can Mrs. Pollifax and Kadi get to the bottom on the mystery before Sammat’s fledging government is overthrown?
While the CIA might not be involved, this does sound like the set up for another exciting Mrs. Pollifax adventure, right? And it easily could have been since there is much political intrigue in this small, fictitious country. However, the pacing is off and the book plods along at time introducing a sub-plot that does little to advance the story. Things definitely pick up in the final third of the book, and then it feels like a classic Mrs. Pollifax adventure. The difference? Mrs. Pollifax goes from passive to active and starts driving the plot.
Fortunately, the characters are their normal charming selves. Mrs. Pollifax is a pure delight, and it’s hard to be having too much of a bad time when you are in her presence. Kadi and Sammat are both returning characters from the previous book, and it’s great to see them both again. The book is filled out with fun, fresh characters, although there are some I wish we’d spent more time getting to know.
These two books are the only time in the series that we are dealing with a fictional country. When the books were written in the mid-90’s, it felt like a time of relative peace for the US with the cold war behind us, so it makes sense that we’d break away from that part of the series formula. Honestly, that part of this book doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Frankly, I wish it had delved more into the politics of this country and the changes that Sammat was trying to make there.
Fans of Mrs. Pollifax will want to journey with her back to Ubangiba in Mrs. Pollifax and the Lion Killer. However, if you haven’t yet found this charming series, I don’t recommend you start here. There are better adventures that will hook you on this great series.
Need to find those earlier books? Here is the Mrs. Pollifax series in order.
This review is part of Friday’s Forgotten Books for the week.