From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Mrs. Emily Pollifax is the heroine of a series of comic spy-mystery novels by Dorothy Gilman. Mrs. Pollifax is a widow and senior citizen who decides one day to leave her comfortable apartment in New Brunswick, New Jersey and join the CIA. Through an initial misunderstanding, Mrs. Pollifax is given a simple courier assignment by Operations Chief, Mr. Carstairs, and her ensuing adventure leads her into to a career in espionage.
The Emily Pollifax novels frequently employ comic relief and suspense. A consistent theme throughout the series is Mrs. Pollifax' tendency to take an interest in people who seem disconnected with her mission, but who either become part of the investigation and/or who prove to be of invaluable assistance to resolving the case. Recurring characters include Bishop, Carstairs' assistant; John Sebastian Farrell, an agent turned art dealer; and in later books, Cyrus Reed, a man with whom Mrs. Pollifax finds romance late in life. Most of the novels take place in existing countries and include authentic details; however, characters in the stories sometimes originate from fictional places that resemble groups of non-fiction countries. An example of this trait is evidenced by a character in A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax who is from Zabya, a fictional Middle Eastern monarchy described as one of "those Arabian oil-producing countries." In addition, as is common in the spy fiction genre, many of the stories taking place in the Cold War era are set in Iron Curtain countries or include rival spies from Communist countries.