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In this sixth adventure of Mrs. Pollifax, she is sent by Mr.Carstairs, her CIA boss, on a tour of the People's Republic of China with the objective of locating a particular man in a particular barber shop in a warren of alleyways outside the walls of a historic Chinese city. Once she finds the man, she is to attempt to get information from him about the exact location of a particular work camp where dissidents are held.
Written in 1983, this book deals with China in a period of very tense relations between the US and China, when the Chinese government kept an iron fist over the Chinese people, and foreign tourism was tightly restricted. As a result, a large part of Mrs. P's mission was to get away from the tour long enough to locate the man in question, get the information from him, and get back to the tour group without being caught in any suspicious behavior. Then she was supposed to hand the information over to another member of her tour group and her mission was finished. Of course, Emily Pollifax can never simply do her job and withdraw -- she will always want to help any person who could use assistance. And so she gets more deeply involved than was intended.
One of the best parts of Mrs. Pollifax stories is not the mission she is sent on, but the people she encounters and becomes friends with. In this book, the members of her tour group are a varied bunch of Americans, and there is a lot of personal emotion going on in the group. Mrs. P becomes personally involved with several of the group, advising young people about relationships, and not-so-young people about life in general. She forms an emotional attachment to the young American agent she was sent to help, and as a result becomes more emotionally involved than in some other adventures.
Emily Pollifax is such a delightful, amusing and caring little old lady that the books written about her are warm, funny, suspenseful and heartwarming all at the same time. They always provide a lovely escape from the everyday lives we lead.
As usual, Barbara Rosenblat is amazing in narration, providing Emily with the absolutely perfect sweet little old lady voice while also providing spot-on portrayals of Americans fvrom various regions of the country and of Chinese characters, both male and female. If you see Mrs. P books read by someone else, avoid them -- only Rosenblat will do!