Whenever one comes across a spy thriller, one comes to expect a book stuffed with action, men fighting over secret messages, high ranking officials giving orders, and higher ranking officials being revealed as spies. And, if it is a modern day spy thriller, add to all the above a bevy of gadgets and an over-the-top protagonist. And, for these reasons I had moved away from spy thrillers in recent times. Somehow the prospect of reading about gadgets and dashing heroes don’t appeal to me.
And, for this reason I enjoyed reading THE UNEXPECTED MRS. POLIFAX, by Dorothy Gilman. The book was set in the times of the cold war, the protagonist Mrs. Emily Polifax was no muscle bound Adonis, but rather an old lady, bored with life, who walks up to the CIA headquarters to apply for the job of a Spy. The action takes place, at first, in Mexico, then in the Eastern European nation of Albania. This point got a huge thumbs up from me, as for me no Cold War spy thriller is complete without an Eastern European setting.
The plot and setting reminded me of Alistair MacLean books. This was more of an adventure with the good and the bad being segregated and clearly defined right from the beginning. The scope for suspense was low. But nevertheless Gilman managed to create a book, which was a page turner. And has not lost its charm even 50 years after it got published.