The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax, by Dorothy Gilman

The irrepressible Mrs Pollifax is at it again, this time in Bulgaria.

Carstairs of the CIA has received a desperate missive from Bulgaria: the secret police are growing more powerful and arrests are growing more and more frequent. The CIA is given a name–Tsanko–an address, and a plea: send identity papers. So Carstairs, being Carstairs, sends Mrs Pollifax off to Bulgaria with eight forged passports hidden in her hat, secure in the knowledge that it’s nothing more than a simple courier job. Just like the last one. Oh. Oops…

Upon arriving in Bulgaria, Mrs Pollifax discovers that the British guide she was to hire isn’t interested in the job after all–he’s hit some sort of jackpot. Not only that, but a young man she spoke to on the trip over has been arrested as a spy. Someone broke into her room to try to steal her coat. And Tsanko wants to meet her in a city on the other side of Bulgaria, which results in Mrs Pollifax going on a bizarre cross-country drive with a hippie hitchhiker in the passenger seat and a mysterious car following close behind.

Join Mrs Pollifax, her contact Tsanko, and her ragtag Bulgarian Underground on an ingenious adventure you’re not likely to forget.

I’ve been sick lately, and this book is one of my comfort reads. I found it in a library when I was ten, and even though I had no idea what ‘elusive’ meant or what the Iron Curtain was, it stuck with me. When I found the book again ten years later I was absolutely thrilled. It’s an exciting little book full of memorable characters and what is quite possibly the (mild spoiler) most unlikely prison break ever put on paper. But it works, and it’s fun, and you should give this one a go–at the very least, you’ll never see little old ladies the same way again.

Favorite Line:

“I wondered how long it would take you to understand,” she said happily. “Of course I’m blackmailing you. I have what you want, and you have what I want. That’s the way blackmail works, isn’t it?”

Don’t read if: you hate night-blooming cereus, geese, Young People, explosions, or telling time with eggplants.

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