Published by Fawcett on Kindle: June 30, 2020 (orig. published 1990)
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Also by this author: The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax, The Clairvoyant Countess, Thale's Folly
All Mrs. Pollifax has to do is to masquerade as the aunt of an inept CIA representative while he confirms the identities of seven undercover agents in Morocco—and keep him from making an unpleasant ass of himself. Immediately, things go horribly wrong. The first informant is murdered minutes after Mrs. Pollifax and her companion identify him in his brassware stall in Fez. Worse, she senses that her colleague is not who—or what—he says he is.
With no one to bail her out, Mrs. Pollifax determines to outfox the enemy and check out the remaining informants on her own. Only Mrs. Pollifax would expose herself to the dangers of being an American and a woman alone in Morocco. And only she would forge ahead, knowing as she does that one of the original informants has been replaced by a deadly imposter...
Mrs. Pollifax in Morocco
I love the Mrs. Pollifax novels, but this one didn’t quite measure up to the early ones for me. Gilman’s descriptions of Morocco are lovely, and Emily Pollifax herself is always a delight. Unfortunately, the plot doesn’t allow Mrs. Pollifax or the reader to settle in with a set of characters for quite some time, so the book lost some of what makes the series so wonderful: the sundry characters Gilman portrays with such perception and compassion. There is very little opportunity for Mrs. Pollifax to exercise her ability to build connection with a wide variety of people, at least in the first half of the book. That is unavoidable due to the nature of the plot, but it was a bit disappointing. The second half of the book was more satisfying in that regard.
Also on the plus side, I now have a slightly better understanding of the geography and geopolitic relationships of Morocco, Western Sahara, and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. (As in, I was only vaguely familiar with the area geographically, and completely ignorant of the Polisarios’ territorial dispute with Morocco before reading this book; I looked at maps and read up on the territorial dispute after I read it.)
Another minor disappointment was the ending, which feels both rushed and abrupt or unfinished, in ways I can’t go into detail about without spoilers. It really needs either another chapter or an epilogue to wrap things up. The current ending would work fine in a different type of book, but it’s stylistically inconsistent with the endings of most of the earlier books in the series.
As far as I can tell, this the first time I have read Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish. I have read all the other Mrs. Pollifax mysteries at least once, but this one never felt familiar to me, except in the ways that any unread book in a well-known series feels familiar. And while I always enjoy spending a few hours with the redoubtably Mrs. Pollifax, this novel has left me a little unsatisfied. I think I’ll go reread some of the earlier (and to my mind, better) books in the series.
Challenges: The Backlist Reader Challenge 2023; COYER Upside Down, Chapt. 2
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Upside-Down 2023: Chapter 2
- The Backlist Reader Challenge 2023