Mildred In Disguise: With Diamonds (Mildred Unchained Book 1)

by Toni Kief


Robbed of a comfortable retirement by her late husband’s gambling debts, Mildred Petrie takes a job as an undercover security officer at the Ivory Winds casino. She is quickly involved in solving a robbery and learning the truth about the corruption at the heart of the casino’s ownership. In partnership with the casino security staff and the local police, Mildred must find the truth about her husband’s death.

Theme of the Book

Mildred in Disguise with Diamonds centers on a woman of 71. Despite – or perhaps because of – her age, she is offered a new start in life and grabs it with both hands. Life for Mildred, and for many of us, does not end with retirement, but can continue in new and unexpected ways. Chronological age is no barrier to a full life.

What I Liked About the Story

There is wonderful humor in the story. In some places, I was laughing out loud. Mildred is a lively, aware, and creative woman whose interest in people of all sorts keeps her young at heart. Her disguises allow her not only to do her job but also to mine other aspects of her personality and history. She is quick to make lasting friends, close to her children and grandchildren, and open to all sorts of new experiences. Mildred is not presented as a super-sleuth, but more as a modern day Miss Marple who, with her ability to observe and understand human behavior, is able to point the authorities in the right direction.

While the plot is a bit involved, including kidnapping, robbery, bribery and corruption, organized crime, and murder, the pace is quick and engaging.

One serious issue is explored in the novel: the invisibility of old people, especially older women. Mildred is successful at her job because no one looks at or pays attention to old women. Although the issue is presented as an advantage in Mildred’s work, it would be tragic if she did not hold her casino job. In the casino, it is easy for her to act as undercover security because her age means that she is viewed as a nobody, and certainly not as any sort of threat. Ms Kief treats elderly invisibility humorously, but as a fact of life that often isolates the older population.

What I Didn’t Like About the Story

Mildred is a well-developed character with strengths and weaknesses, but the other characters are much more one-dimensional. There are Mildred’s two sons, Richie and David, who play their roles as devoted and estranged children. The grandchildren are there as props to show Mildred’s closeness to her family. The security staff and police are simply that with no other human traits.

Only one of the supporting cast, Qaseema, is given any backstory and even then, her story has little detail. We never learn where she is from or what brought her to the US. Toward the end of the novel, Qaseema, or Q as she is often called, seems to take a much greater role in solving the crime than would be expected. We are never really given any explanation for this and it feels contrived.

Finally, there are some minor editing and language issues, but not enough to ruin the enjoyment of the story. These could easily be fixed.

Final Say

Mildred in Disguise with Diamonds is a quick but entertaining read. As someone close in age to Mildred, I was pleased to see an older protagonist who was clever, strong, and resourceful. The book is well written with an engaging plot and a fascinating main character.

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