Short Book reviews: mysteries

In 2013, I read 7 mysteries by Dorothy Gilman, from her series on Mrs. Pollifax.
I presented here earlier on The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax and Mrs. Pollifax on Safari.

So I’d like to highlight quickly the 5 others I read, as well as 3 mysteries by Agatha Christie I read in the very last days of 2013, and 1 by Alexander McCall Smith.

The books by Dorothy Gilman count for the following Reading Challenges:


2013 TBR Pile 2013 Audio Book Challenge

I have listened actually, not read, all these by Dorothy Gilman. The narrator, Barbara Rosenblat, is phenomenal. Her voice fits perfectly for me the profile of Emily Pollifax, this grand-mother who went to look for some spy job with the CIA as she was getting bored, not feeling busy enough with her garden club and her karate classes.

As a grand-mother, she has a great connection with kids and young people, and I believe this aspect comes up in every book of the series: there’s always a kid showing up who is going to be instrumental in helping Emily solve the case or even plainly escape and survive a tough and dangerous situation.

Another thing which is really good in the series is that each book takes place in a different country. There are lots of details about the landscape, society, and history of the country. The plot of each book is very closely connected to a reality proper to that country.

These elements make these mysteries very smart and enjoyable reads. I’m just sad to see that I only have 3 more to go, and the series will be over.

The Elusive Mrs Pollifax

Emily Pollifax takes 8 passports for Bulgaria Resistance leader Tsanko from CIA Carstairs.
Emily must elude bossy Balkantourist agent Nevena, vicious General Ignatov,
and free passport recipients from infamous Panchevsky Institute,
along with student Philip Trenda, kidnapped for ransom.
Athletic Debby also learns her strengths and the value of life [Goodreads]

This one in Bulgaria highlights realities of the Cold War
and the Russian hegemony over surrounding countries,
and the inevitable resistance movements.

Mrs Pollifax and the Golden Triangle

On the very morning Mrs. Pollifax and her husband Cyrus are leaving for Bangkok,
the CIA arrives on her doorstep with an urgent request for help.
All she’s got to do is carry a small object to someone named Ruamsak,
and get something from him in exchange.
After her arrival, however, she discovers the body of a murdered man and, moments later,
watches in horror as Cyrus is kidnapped!
Soon Mrs. Pollifax is tramping through the ominous Thai countryside
— known for its smugglers and drug warlords — led by a curious called Bonchoo,
who may be trying to help find her husband. Or may have other, more sinister plans… [from Mrs Pollifax Fan Blog]

This one in Thailand is on the background of the network of drug trafficking.


Mrs Pollifax and the Second Thief

Emily Pollifax goes to the Sicilian countryside for a CIA rescue mission.
Comrade John Sebastian Farrell was shot tracking down a document
that allegedly bears the signature of Julius Caesar.
Feisty vacationing Kate Rossiter joins them to find the truth.
Farrell and Kate flirt, danger threatens, and a deadly cartel is uncovered. [from Goodreads]

This one in Sicily is about art thieves and the mob.


Mrs Pollifax on the China Station

Once again, Mrs. Pollifax, the cheerful little woman with the flyaway white hair
and a penchant for old hats
is plunged headfirst into another hair-raising CIA mission.
Posing as a tourist in China,
Emily Pollifax meets the sinister challenges of the Orient
to safeguard a treasure for the CIA…
and all but loses her life in the bargain. [Goodreads]

This mission in China is within the context of repressed freedom and labor camps.


Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha (Mrs. Pollifax, Book 7)

Emily Pollifax goes to Hong Kong for CIA Bishop
and young friend Sheng Ti.
Feng Imports has sent false reports for two months,
co-owner Detweiler, now addict, lives in store.
Psychic Hitchins seeks Inspector Hao for his son Alec.
Eric the Red leads terrorists to take over the citadel and city within days.
Robin, now with Interpol, and Cyrus help. [Goodreads]

This one in Hong Kong is with independentist terrorists,
with the relation between Hong Kong and mainland China,
before its transfer to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.



Dead Man's Mirror

The volume contains actually three stories:
“Dead Man’s Mirror”,
“Murder in the Mews”,
and “Triangle at Rhodes”.

A Caribbean Mystery

There is no rest or relaxation for Miss Marple.

Miss Jane Marple (this is case #10 here),
Agatha Christie’s most appealing sleuth,
returns in this classic baffler of a vacation-turned-deadly.


Sleeping Murder

Despite her best efforts, Gwenda is unable to modernize her new home.
Worse still, she feels an irrational fear every time she climbs the stairs.
With Miss Marple helping to exorcise the ghosts,
the two women uncover a crime committed years ago.

This is Mrs Marple’s last case. I really enjoyed it very much,
it is very well constructed, and as usual, once you think you got it,
you turn a page and discover the truth is miles away from what you thought,
at least what I thought. Very easy, cozy, enjoyable readings at the end of the year.

The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency

I enjoy good vibrant, suspenseful mysteries.
As I had not yet read any by the famous Alexander McCall Smith,
and felt a bit ashamed about it,
I decided to remedy the situation a few months ago,
and finally set to read this popular book.

Mma Ramotswe is the only lady private detective in Botswana.
She set up her agency with money from her dad’s big cattle sale, when he died.
After telling us about her dad and her own education,
the author invites us to follow the detective in cases for her first clients.
Actually, she always feels she shouldn’t agree on helping with some cases,
but ends up doing it anyway, wanting to help desperate clients.

I got quite of a shock, seeing how boring the book was ! There are basically 60 pages of introduction. These pages were good on…

= to read my whole review, please come this way. I’d like your input, see the questions at the end of that very unhappy review.





Book review: Mrs. Pollifax on Safari

Mrs. Pollifax on Safari


By Dorothy Gilman

Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat

Publisher: Recorded Books

Pub. Date: 1992

6.75 hours

Mrs Pollifax on Safari

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

2013 Audio Book Challenge      

2013 TBR Pile Cozies


Rating system


It is really time to rediscover Mrs. Emily Pollifax, who’s been called Miss Marple’s cousin. She’s a very active grand-mothermember of a garden-club, growing roses and orchids, and practicing karate. She still feels bored however, so ends up going one day to the CIA to see if by any chance she could work for them. A grand-mother always carrying flowery hats, she definitely does not have the regular profile of a spy, and can so be very helpful.

In each book of the series, she is thus sent to special missions in a different country.

In Mrs. Pollifax on Safari, Emily is sent to Zambia. The CIA knows that an assassin nicknames Aristotle is preparing a coup against the president of that country, but they only have one clue: that he will meet with an accomplice on a safari, to discuss the details on their plans. So Emily’s mission is simple: to go on that safari, and pretending to take lots of pictures of the wild animals around her, to take pictures of all the members of the safari, to try to identify the future murderer.

As in all her previous missions, things do not turn out that simple.

People on the safari seem rather nice, but she quickly discovers that her first film has been stolen, which could confirm that the assassin in indeed among them, but also that he has already identified her and understood why she’s there!

I really enjoyed this cozy mystery. Apart from the smart plot, with good twists and turns, Gilman does a great job at describing the country, its landscape and animals, and also the whole political situation, in Zambia itself, and with its neighbors, such as Rhodesia. There’s a good setting about independent movements and the apartheid.

The author has also a nice small set of characters to work with, and each person on this safari is quite colorful, and complex enough to make you wonder for each of them if he or seven she could be Aristotle.
There’s particularly a man who seems to be keeping a close eye on Emily: is he the guy? or a friend? Well, there is a good surprise for you at the end of the book, as well as for Mrs. Pollifax!

Thoughts on the audiobook:
Barbara Rosenblat is the narrator for each book of the series. Her voice fits perfectly the character of Mrs. Pollifax, in fact I could no longer imagine Emily with a different voice!
She has this great mix of good nature, calm, and mastery, but also excitement at discovering new adventure, and fear in facing unexpected dangers.

If you like cozy mysteries with a good plot, if you like traveling to other countries, you really need to meet Mrs. Pollifax. I highly recommend the audiobook over the hardcopy.


Mrs Emily Pollifax goes on safari for the CIA. She will photograph her companions – one is an international assassin sent to kill the president of Zambia. Somebody steals her film. Rhodesian terrorists kidnap her. Again humor and the unexpected help white-haired karate student Emily face fatal danger and remember the value of life and liberty.. [Goodreads]



Dorothy Gilman started writing when she was 9. At 11, she competed against 10 to 16-year-olds in a story contest and won first place. Dorothy worked as an art teacher and telephone operator before becoming an author. She wrote children’s stories for more than ten years and then began writing adult novels about Mrs. Pollifax–a retired grandmother who becomes a CIA agent. The Mrs. Pollifax series made Dorothy famous. While her stories nourish people’s thirst for adventure and mystery, Dorothy knew about nourishing the body as well. She used to live on a farm in Nova Scotia, where she grew medicinal herbs. Her knowledge of herbs comes through in many of her stories, including A Nun in the Closet, in which a nun treats a man’s wounds with the herbs growing nearby. Many of Dorothy’s books, including Caravan, feature strong women having adventures around the world. Dorothy spent much of her life in Connecticut and Maine. She died at age 88 of complications of Alzheimer’s disease. [Goodreads]

And there’s a great Mrs. Pollifax fan club website!



How Do You Choose Your Audiobooks? – Audiobook Week Discussion

audiobook week 2013

Day 1: 2012-2013: My audiobook year

Today’s prompt is:

How do you decide what you’ll listen to?

As I mentioned yesterday, now when I plan to read a book, I first check if the audiobook is supposed to be really good.

I also have now a TBL [To Be Listened to] list. It grows through recommendations, taken mostly from Jen’s weekly feature Sound Bytes and from reviews written by other bloggers for Teresa’s yearly Audiobook challenge.

I have also some favorite authors for audiobooks. For instance, I am trying to listen to the whole series of Mrs. Pollifax, by Dorothy Gilman. They are all read by the great narrator Barbara Rosenblat. She has the perfect tone of voice for these stories, and I cannot imagine Emily Pollifax with any other voice. I have read one, but the are so much better on audiobooks.

And if I see that a book has an audio version narrated by Simon Vance, well, why would I hesitate one second?

Do you mostly listen, or split time between listening and reading? Particularly if you split time, how do you decide what you’ll consume in audio and what in print?

Looks like my audiobook time is max 20% of my book time. I always have an audiobook going on. I listen while doing other things, as said yesterday.

I tend to listen more from October to Christmas, as I have many more painting commissions, and I always listen to audiobooks when I paint.