Reading Lists

The Ariadne Oliver Reading List

Thumbnail Ariadne Oliver List

Written by Agatha Christie expert Chris Chan

Ariadne Oliver, often considered as Christie’s good-natured self-parody, is Hercule Poirot’s close friend and detecting partner. Mrs. Oliver is known for her many crime novels with twisty plots starring the Finnish detective Sven Hjerson, her ever-changing hairstyles, her belief in women’s intuition, as well as her fondness for apples.

Mrs. Oliver appears in seven novels, one novella, and two short stories. To celebrate the much-loved character, we take a look at the stories featuring the authoress.

She was a lucky woman who had established a happy knack of writing what quite a lot of people wanted to read.
Elephant Can Remember, Agatha Christie

Parker Pyne Investigates
In her first two appearances, Mrs. Oliver makes cameos as a member of Parker Pyne’s staff, dedicated to making people happy. In ‘The Case of the Discontented Soldier’ and ‘The Case of the Rich Woman,’ Mrs. Oliver’s skill for crafting clever plots is used to create adventures and romances to help bored and miserable people find joy in their lives again. At this point in her career, Mrs. Oliver is already a famous author with dozens of books published, so she probably doesn’t need the extra money. Perhaps she’s just excited about the opportunity to bring more happiness into the world…

Cards on the Table

In Mrs. Oliver’s first appearance in a full-length novel, she is invited to an unusual dinner party. In addition to fellow pillars of law and order Hercule Poirot, Superintendent Battle, and Colonel Race, their host Mr. Shaitana invites four people who he believes have gotten away with murder! When Mr. Shaitana is stabbed to death in the middle of a bridge game, the four detectives have to investigate the four alleged murderers, and Mrs. Oliver proves to have researching skills that rival Scotland Yard’s top investigators.

Mrs. McGinty’s Dead

Poirot is called in to investigate the eponymous death from this novel by a Superintendent Spence… His undercover informant in the Upward household isn’t the only familiar face though when the Belgian sleuth visits the town of Broadhinny. Mrs Oliver is working with Robin Upward on a theatrical adaptation of one of her stories. Of course, she is happy to take a break from the dramatization process to help Poirot save a man, who may have been wrongly convicted of murder, from the scaffold.

Did you know? Zoë Wanamaker played Ariadne Oliver in six television episodes of the series Agatha Christie's Poirot, starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot.

Dead Man’s Folly (see also Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly)
Mrs. Oliver is hired to write a Murder Hunt for a festival at a country estate. She comes up with a series of clever clues, all spread out around the lovely grounds of a stately home. Sensing something amiss, she summons Poirot to visit in order to prevent a tragedy from occurring. Unfortunately, when Mrs. Oliver and Poirot check out the last setting for the Murder Hunt, the teenaged girl who was playing the “victim” has actually been murdered. The detecting duo have to find out the truth in a community where few people are as they seem, and long-buried secrets are starting to emerge. Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly is the early novella version of a story that was later expanded into the full-length novel Dead Man’s Folly.

Mrs Oliver was a singularly muddle-headed woman, and how she managed somehow or other to turn out coherent detective stories was beyond him, and yet, for all her muddle-headedness she often surprised him by her sudden perception of truth.
Dead Man's Folly, Agatha Christie

The Pale Horse
The only novel where Mrs. Oliver appears without Poirot! While Ariadne is battling writer’s block and trying to patch up plot holes in her latest novel, two younger people are investigating a series of seemingly natural deaths that may be connected to a murdered priest and a trio of witches who claim to have power over life and death. Thankfully, Mrs. Oliver’s crime writing may provide some useful inspiration to solve the crimes.

Did you know? Ariadne Oliver doesn’t appear in any TV adaptations of this novel, only in a BBC radio version.

Third Girl
Mrs. Oliver loves to help the younger generation when they’re in trouble. So when the daughter of a wealthy businessman is convinced she committed a murder, Mrs. Oliver tells her to go to Poirot! Unfortunately, the young woman believes Poirot’s too old to help… Determined to prove her wrong, Poirot and Mrs. Oliver investigate, with Ariadne testing her shadowing skills by trailing a person of interest down London’s streets, though when she proves to be more conspicuous than she thought, the author’s life is in severe danger.

Hallowe’en Party

No one believed the girl when she claimed to have seen a murder years ago, but when she was drowned in an apple-bobbing bucket on Hallowe’en night, whilst Mrs. Oliver was chaperoning, Ariadne asks Poirot to help her catch a child-killer. Mrs. Oliver and Poirot not only have to solve the girl’s murder, but they have to figure out which murder the recent victim witnessed, and why that crime hadn’t been uncovered earlier.

Elephants Can Remember

Mrs. Oliver’s goddaughter is in trouble. She’s in love with a very nice young man, but she’s worried about her family history. When she was a small child, her parents died in an apparent murder/suicide, but no one knows the exact truth. With her future mother-in-law scheming to break up the relationship, Mrs. Oliver’s goddaughter begs for help. Wisely turning to Poirot, Mrs. Oliver and the great Belgian detective start questioning witnesses to a years-old crime in order to save the future of two young lovers.

All of these stories will serve as a fun introduction to the unique character of Ariadne Oliver – happy reading!

Thumbnail Tina Fey
Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) and Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) in the 20th Century Studios film, A Haunting in Venice

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