Poirot: The Complete Ariadne Oliver; Volume 2 by Agatha Christie HarperCollins, $263 Ah, the colossal legends of popular crime-busting fiction: Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe, Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple ... Ariadne Oliver. Yes, really, Ariadne Oliver, one of Agatha Christie's most cherished characters - and the creation said to be her most autobiographical. Oliver (surprise, surprise) is a crime writer who joins forces with the Belgian detective to crack cases otherwise beyond the considerable intellect of the great man, however unfeasible such cases may seem. But Christie is not so presumptuous as to put herself at the centre of the action, so Oliver is always a foil for Poirot: ever the bridesmaid, never the name in lights. The combination works surprisingly well given the vainglorious nature of Oliver's origins, and the traditional brain-teaser case solutions remain as cunning as any in Christie's long career. Poirot makes his final appearance in Elephants Can Remember, so this volume is not the place for readers to make Christie's acquaintance. But fans - rewarded here with a 'bonus' story, The Pale Horse - will wallow in the classy devilishness of it all.