The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin is a favorite of my grown up daughter. She has probably read it a half dozen times over the past 15 or so years. After she recently reread it, I decided to reread it also. Well, the surprise was on me – I don’t think I had ever read it before.
The book, published in 1978 and the Newbery winner that year, is a clever mystery that unfolds as the tenants of a building are invited to the reading of the will of the enormously wealthy Sam Westing. These are no ordinary group of tenants as described by this great passage in the book – “Who were these people, these specially selected tenants? They were mothers and fathers and children. A dressmaker, a secretary, an inventor, a doctor, a judge. And, oh yes, one was a bookie, one was a burglar, one was a bomber, and one was a mistake.” Only the potential heir who solves the “game” set forth in the will and identifies Westing’s murderer will inherit the money. The heirs are paired off (by Westing in the will) and as they say “the game is afoot”.
The mystery is well thought out (amazing considering that Raskin claims to not have plotted it out completely before she began.) There are several great twists and turns as the plot unfolds. The characters are a great mix from the Chinese restaurateur to the know it all bratty kid with her spoiled sister to the strong minded female judge. It does take a little while to get all the characters straight (there are over a dozen main characters), but they are all well-drawn.
I highly recommend you read this book (yes adults read this kid’s book which is as good as any adult mystery you ever read) and then pass it on to your favorite kid.