Who is Ariadne Oliver? A Fact File

Inline Tina Fey Ariadne Oliver
Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) and Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) in A Haunting in Venice, 2023

As Ariadne Oliver hits the big screen in A Haunting In Venice we explore the character as she appears in Agatha Christie's books and beyond. Discover what we know about this observant, amusing, and somewhat scatty authoress.

About Ariadne Oliver

Ariadne Oliver is a middle-aged woman who writes detective fiction.

She is handsome, albeit untidy, with a habit of changing her appearance regularly.

Mrs Oliver considers herself a feminist, and often remarks that a woman should be in charge of Scotland Yard.

Despite public murmurs to the contrary, Ariadne Oliver is a teetotaler.

Ariadne's favourite food is apples, a fruit Christie herself was partial to.

She has been known to employ the tricks of her trade to chase a real life mystery. In Third Girl she opts for a disguise to avoid being recognised when observing a woman who has done a disappearing act. She also attempts (somewhat disastrously) to tail a suspect in the book.

Mrs Oliver was not quite sure whether Norma was likely to recognise her or not ... ‘I expect I can do something to myself anyway,’ thought Mrs Oliver. She looked at herself in a small fly-blown mirror provided by the café’s management, studying particularly what she considered to be the focal point of a woman’s appearance, her hair. No one knew this better than Mrs Oliver, owing to the innumerable times that she had changed her mode of hairdressing, and had failed to be recognised by her friends in consequence ... Out came the pins, she took off several coils of hair, wrapped them up in her handkerchief and stuffed them into her handbag, parted her hair in the middle, combed it sternly back from her face and rolled it up into a modest bun at the back of her neck. She also took out a pair of spectacles and put them on her nose. There was a really earnest look about her now!
Agatha Christie, Third Girl

About Ariadne Oliver's Writing

She is a bestselling crime novelist. Her famous detective, Sven Hjerson, is Finnish.

Books written by the author include The Lotus Murder, The Clue of the Candle Wax, The Dying Goldfish, The Affair of the Second Goldfish, The Death in the Drainpipe, The Cat It Was Who Died, Death of a Debutante and The Woman in the Wood. Which book title tempts you the most?

Mrs Oliver references writing non-fiction articles on the following topics: murder for love vs murder for gain; the criminal tendency; and famous crimes of passion.

Ariadne Oliver could do with someone a little less like Miss Lemon. She has had trouble with her secretaries throughout her career, as their extreme efficiency frustrates her.

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

About Ariadne Oliver's Relationships

The short story 'The Case of the Discontented Soldier' marks Ariadne Oliver's first appearance in print. She worked with the detective Parker Pyne in two short stories in total.

The female authoress appears in six Hercule Poirot novels, and one without him: The Pale Horse.

Ariadne Oliver has so many goddaughters she has lost count of them!

According to John Curran's Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks, Christie toyed with the idea of introducing a brother for the character, but this never materialised.

It is unclear what happened to Mr Oliver... How long were they together? Were they happily married? When did he die? The only nod to their marriage exists in Elephants Can Remember.

Ariadne Oliver or Agatha Christie?

'That is Mrs Oliver,' said Poirot. 'The one who wrote The Body in the Library?' 'That identical one.'
Agatha Christie, Cards on the Table

There are plenty of parallels to be spotted between Ariadne Oliver's character, and Agatha Christie herself. She has been referred to as a parody of the author, as an alter ego, and even a mirror of Christie. Readers can enjoy spotting hints to the great woman herself in this character.

Certainly, her feelings towards her fictional detective Sven Hjerson mirror Christie's towards Hercule Poirot. She also shares her difficulty with social situations.

Agatha Christie credits her fictional authoress with the creation of The Body in the Library in her novel The Cards on the Table.

Ariadne Oliver invites Poirot to speak at their annual dinner for the Detective Authors’ Club, an undoubtable nod to The Detection Club which Christie was president of from 1957 to 1976.

Thumbnail The Lotus Murder Ariadne Oliver
The Lotus Murder by Ariadne Oliver, Book Prop as seen in Agatha Christie's Poirot [Third Girl, 2008]

Acting as Ariadne Oliver

Ariadne Oliver is played by Julia McKenzie, who would become ITV's most recent Miss Marple, in a BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Dead Man's Folly.

Mrs Oliver has been portrayed on screen by Jean Stapleton, Zoë Wanamaker and Tina Fey.

Both Jean Stapleton and Tina Fey portray the author as an American.

The character of Ariadne Oliver did not appear in the 1997, 2010, nor the 2020 TV adaptations of The Pale Horse.

In 2021, Ariadne Oliver's detective was brought to life in the – first of its kind – contemporary spin off series for TV entitled Agatha Christie's Hjerson. The show made up of eight episodes is available to watch on Walter Presents in the UK.

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