Monday, June 18, 2012

Discovering Dorothy Gilman

It was an old, old-looking book - a Fawcett paperback printed in the 60's - lurking between much larger volumes in a remote, dusty bookcase. The cover was loose, the pages browned, the print tiny. But the title: The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, was irresistable. I drew it out and put it on my desk for future consideration. Finally, about three days ago, I finished all my other reading projects and picked it up.  

"Unexpected" is the operative word. It's a whodunnit on par with "Murder, She Wrote." A retired lady roughly my age ditches the garden club circuit to seek adventure. Somehow she scores an interview at the Langley CIA headquarters. Though not in the least taken seriously, she ends up on a mission anyway when mistaken for the agent actually intended for the job. Needless to say, things go south in a hurry.

Despite her gentility and naivete, she proves to be remarkably resourceful. It was a delightful, albeit suspenseful, romp. The only thing that bothered me was the dialog. The words of Mrs. Pollifax were totally in character, but not even back in the 50's and 60's would a seasoned American agent on his home turf use "quite so" and "rather" in the manner of a cultivated mid-century Englishman. I was convinced Miss Gilman was either a Brit or overly influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The truth is that Dorothy Gilman was born June 25, 1923, in New Brunswick, NJ, and lived mainly in Maine and Connecticut. I was startled to learn that she only recently passed away on February 2, 2012.  She wrote a whole series on Mrs. Pollifax along with several childrens' books and other mystery novels. Needless to say, I've hopped onto Amazon and ordered three more Mrs. Pollifax titles.

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