Crime Fiction Alphabet – A is for Ariadne Oliver
A flat share of three girls, in the 1960s does not seem a likely place for the renown Hercule Poirot to become involved in the minds of criminals but he does. The third girl of this flat share, Norma Restarick interrupts Poirot one morning whilst he is breaking his fast with “a steaming cup of chocolate…to accompany the chocolate was a brioche. It went agreeably with chocolate”. She thinks she may have committed a murder and came to him for help after hearing Ariadne Oliver the author, sings Poirot’s praises. But Norma thinks he is too old for any kind of assistance and leaves as quickly as she arrived satisfying nothing of Poirot’s interest which is now piqued, he seeks solace in that of Mrs Oliver.
And so begins the trail of Norma Restarick and the whereabouts of this unknown murder if it really did happen. Mrs Oliver with her own style of veering from one theory to another, not getting any names right along the way most of the time, does not like the thoughtfulness of Poirot’s method and goes it alone with amusing coincidences. But the little grey cells work in mysterious ways and with Agatha Christie’s style we see he conclusions reached and I had worked out quite a lot of the end result.
However, for some reason I admit to struggling with this novel and I am not sure why. Its setting is the 1960s which I found very disconcerting, somehow Poirot and the swinging sixties do not go together. Although it did provide some amusing observations of girls. I wonder if this was really Christie’s own personal thoughts voiced through the detective? Ariadne Oliver’s is not as prominent in this novel as in others but when she is, she does provide a lot of humour.
I had preconceived ideas about this novel after having seen the television adaptation which is vastly different from the book, which is probably why the book and I did not get on. That said, it is a clever tale and I am rather pleased that I worked it out. However, if I wanted to recommend a Christie book with Ariadne Oliver in, I would not choose this one.
Ariadne Oliver appears in 6 novels with Hercule Poirot starting with Cards on the Table (link to my review) , Mrs McGinty’s Dead, Dead Man’s Folly, The Pale Horse (without Poirot), Third Girl (review above), Hallowe’en Party, Elephants Can Remember. She was introduced to Christie readers in 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!
I always think of Ariadne Oliver as being played by Zoe Wanamaker in the ITV Poirot series with David Suchet as the man himself. She seems to fit the character so accurately “Poirot sighed. With Mrs. Oliver one always needed a lot of patience.” I sometimes think her love of crime but her complete hate of her own fictional creation in Oliver’s own books that of Finnish detective Sven Hjerson was a tongue in cheek way of showing readers that perhaps Christie was not that much of a fan of the Belgian Detective she had created.
I read this as part of The Crime Fiction Alphabet Challenge hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.