Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game is not a bad book. It has a lot of cliched mystery elements though: strangers brought together by a mysterious benefactor, a murder, a will reading, etc. It has the trappings of an Agatha Christie novel, but less skilled.
In the beginning a group of people from all walks of life each receive a letter offering them a luxurious apartment for a modest price. The letter is signed by someone they don’t know, but the offer is so good none of them refuse. Across from the apartment building is an abandoned mansion known as the Westing House. Teenager Turtle Wexler enters the house on a dare, only to find the dead body of Sam Westing. Westing’s lawyers call all the tenants together to hear the reading of the will. A challenge is presented to the group: find out who the killer is, who is one of their number. Everyone is split into teams of two with different clues. The team that wins will inherit a vast sum of money.
The book sort of has the feel of one of those old 1970s movies that feature a gigantic, wacky cast running hither and yon to win some kind of treasure at the end. The Westing Game is full of eccentric characters, old and young, who chaotically dash around trying to unravel the mystery. Here, the plot is really the thing. It is hard to keep track of all the characters, which frequently had me flipping pages to remember who a character was. The characters are sketched rather lightly, which is fine for mysteries of this type, but when I finished the book I could barely remember any of them. The book is full of humor, most of it in service of the qUiRkY characters, which I found tiresome after a while.
The Westing Game is a passing diversion; entertaining in places, forced in others. I don’t feel particularly strongly about it, but it’s decent for what it is.