Ariadne Oliver

Mrs Ariadne Oliver is "one of the foremost writers of detective and other sensational stories." She accompanies Poirot on several of his most famous cases, offering solutions based on her astute female intuition.

A deal table, her typewriter, black coffee, apples everywhere. What bliss, what glorious and solitary bliss! What a mistake for an author to emerge from her secret fastness. Authors were shy, unsociable creatures, atoning for their lack of social aptitude by inventing their own companions and conversations.

Mrs McGinty's Dead

About Ariadne Oliver

About Ariadne Oliver

Mrs Oliver is a middle-aged woman and successful detective novelist, described as "handsome in a rather untidy fashion, with fine eyes, substantial shoulders, and a large quantity of rebellious grey hair with which she was continuously experimenting". She is feisty, quick to jump to conclusions (sometimes right, sometimes wrong), and strongly believes that Scotland Yard would be better run by a woman.

Ariadne Oliver and Hercule Poirot

Ariadne Oliver appears in six Poirot novels, assisting him (often in Hastings' stead) by providing her own unique perspective on each of the crimes they encounter. Her first appearance in a full length novel, with Poirot, is in Cards on the Table. She finally appears on her own in The Pale Horse.

Agatha Christie’s Voice

She is, in many ways, a vehicle for Agatha Christie’s own voice, particularly in relation to writing and the public. In a 1956 interview with John Bull magazine, Agatha Christie dismissed the idea that any of her characters are truly derived from real life, although she did admit that Mrs Oliver has "a strong dash" of herself. Christie always took a somewhat tongue in cheek approach to her supposed fictional alter ego, who she credited with writing a novel called The Body in the Library, a title she would use herself in 1942. Mrs Oliver also has a pedantic detective, a Finnish man by the name of Sven Hjerson. "Of course he’s idiotic," Mrs Oliver says, "but people like him", a sentiment Christie often applied to her own Hercule Poirot.

Adaptations

Ariadne Oliver was portrayed on screen by Jean Stapleton in the 1986 adaptation of Dead Man’s Folly. In the 1990s, BBC Radio 4 cast Julia McKenzie (later to be known for playing Miss Marple) in the role of Mrs Oliver, alongside John Moffatt as Poirot.

However the most recent example is Zoë Wanamaker who played Mrs Oliver since her debut in 2005's Cards on the Table, in the series Agatha Christie's Poirot. Wanamaker has featured in a version of every novel in which Mrs Oliver and Poirot join forces, concluding with Elephants Can Remember and Dead Man's Folly, both of which were adapted in the final series in 2013.

Did you know?

  1. The Pale Horse stands out as a novel which has actually saved lives and solved crimes. In three separate instances in the 1970s, one in Latin America and two in England, people have spotted the symptoms of thallium poisoning, having recognised the description from The Pale Horse, just as Ariadne Oliver did.

  2. Although they struck up a lifelong friendship, it wasn’t to Poirot that Ariadne Oliver was first introduced. She appeared in the short story The Case of the Discontented Solider in 1932, alongside the lead detective Parker Pyne, with whom she was friends.

  3. Mrs Oliver, like Christie, is also a member of the Detection Club, a collection of prominent detective writers who banded together to preserve the integrity of the genre. Christie did consider setting a murder there, with Ariadne as suspect and detective, but it never came to fruition (see John Curran, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks).

Featured Ariadne Oliver stories

Cards on the Table
Hercule Poirot
Dead Man's Folly
Hercule Poirot
The Pale Horse
Ariadne Oliver