“Let me introduce you – do you know Mrs Oliver?” Mr Shaitana – Cards on the Table
Of course Poirot knows Mrs Ariadne Oliver: “[she is] one of the foremost writers of detective and other sensational stories. She [writes] chatty (if not particularly grammatical) articles on The Tendency of the Criminal; Famous Crimes Passionnels; Murder for Love v. Murder for Gain. She [is] also a hot-headed feminist, and when any murder of importance was occupying a space in the Press there [is] sure to be an interview with Mrs Oliver.” Cards on the Table
Christie first introduced her in the short story The Case of the Discontented Soldier (1932) as a friend of Mr Parker Pyne. This fictional crime writer would later assist Poirot in six of his novels, beginning with Cards on the Table – she would, however, be solely in charge in The Pale Horse. She also appears in two short stories contained within Parker Pyne Investigates.
A middle-aged woman and successful detective novelist, she is 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 a feisty character and believes that Scotland Yard would be better run by a woman!
Christie took a somewhat tongue in cheek approach to her supposed fictional alter ego, who she credited with writing a novel entitled “The Body in the Library”. Ariadne Oliver’s novels centre on a character called Sven Hjerson, a Finnish detective. Ariadne often expresses a dislike for Sven – in much the same way that Christie often spoke of her own creation – Hercule Poirot!
Ariadne Oliver was portrayed on screen by Jean Stapleton in the 1986 adaptation of Dead Man’s Folly. Most recently, Zoe Wanamaker has appeared alongside David Suchet in the recent Poirot adaptations, beginning with 2005’s Cards on the Table.
Masthead Photography: Joan Hickson image © BBC
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