Five Little Pigs

Five Little Pigs - Agatha Christie I hate the Yankees. I think that it is required if you are a true baseball fan and you live in a baseball town outside the State of New York that you hate the Yankees. You don't even have to be living in Boston. It is pretty much universal. There are exceptions made for transplants, relatives of players, casual fans, etc., but basically it holds true.

But I have to admit that I like Mariano Rivera.

You have to like him because he is the best ever at what he does and he doesn't make a big fuss about it either. For the non-baseball folks and my friends from across the pond who don't watch baseball (some do) and may not know him other than by name, Rivera is the closer for the New York Yankees and he is the best closer in the history of the game. Not by a little, either. And he does it with one pitch---cut fastball. He may monkey around with a change or whatever, but it is basically going to be one pitch. Cut fastball. What makes it special is that he can perfectly place this pitch wherever he wants to for a strike and the ball has such natural movement that it just isn't in the same place when it gets to you as where you started swinging. The result is either a swing and miss or a poorly executed hit that winds up with the ball in the first baseman's glove long before you get to first. If Rivera is on the mound in the 9th it means that you have already lost the game.

More people have walked on the moon (12) than men who have scored against Mariano Rivera in the postseason (11).

Agatha Christie has her stats too. If you don't count the Bible or Shakespeare, she the best selling author of all time. Her novels have sold about 4 billion copies. "Ten Little Indians" alone has sold over 100 million copies. She has been translated into at least 103 languages. Christie's stage play "The Mousetrap" has been running continuously since November 25, 1952.

She doesn't write classics and makes no claims to be a "great" writer. And just like Mariano Rivera, she doesn't need an arsenal of tricks. No last minute characters, no hidden information, no unreal coincidences---just a cast of 5 to 10 characters, a simple method of death, limited venues, and every single thing you need to know to solve the case. And 9 times out of 10 you will walk away shaking your head, wondering how you missed it. She is the best that ever was at what she does.

Five Little Pigs is a classic example of her art. She did love her nursery rhymes with titles like Ten Little Indians, Hickory Dickory Death and others.

A simple plot. The daughter of a convicted murderess comes to Poirot (my favorite detective second only to Holmes himself) with a request. She wants him to re-investigate the 16 year old murder to determine if her mother really did kill her father, a temperamental artist with a thing for younger women. Her mother died a year after her conviction, but all of the other characters (including the 5 principal witnesses/suspects) are still alive---and willing to be interviewed by Poirot. You can see why this novel was originally entitled Murder in Retrospect.

The story breaks down into three parts. Poirot interviews them all. He asks them to each write down their recollections of what happened which we then read. Finally, in part 3 Poirot explains what really happened 16 years ago. Sounds simple?

It is actually; but I bet you won't figure it out. I guessed a small portion of the resolution. A squibbler to the second baseman and I am thrown out before I get halfway to first. Christie will give you every detail you need to solve the murder. Some of them several times. But I doubt you will succeed as Poirot does. He will make it look easy.

She isn't just clever at thinking up puzzles. Along the way you will be treated to witty dialogue, interesting characters that behave like real people, dry humor, a calm sense of reserve that is perfect for these types of stories and a return to a simpler time and place. Masterful in every way. Just like Rivera would never attempt to pitch a complete game, Agatha Christie never attempted to write a literary classic. She did however, write these types of mysteries better than anyone ever has and, judging by how many people love her work, I am not the only one that thinks so.

If you haven't read any Christie, you should. Either this one or "Ten Little Indians/And Then There Were None" or maybe "The ABC Murders." Others may have different favorites. In the 80 or so books she wrote, both novels and short story collections, there is hardly a dud in the bunch.