Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Review: The Westing Game

Title: The Westing Game
Author: Ellen Raskin
Publisher: Puffin Books
Publication Date: 1978
Genre: Junior Fiction, Mystery

Sunset Towers is a beautiful apartment building in Wisconsin, which looks out over Lake Michigan. With a restaurant on the top floor and a coffee shop and doctor’s office on the ground floor, each apartment is quickly let out. The tenants were all carefully chosen, but one of them is a mistake. The residents of the building seem to have little in common: they are a doctor, a restaurateur, a hairdresser, a secretary, a judge, a delivery boy, a housekeeper, an doorman, an athlete, brothers, sisters and wives. One is a thief, one is a bookie, one a bomber and one is not who they say they are. When millionaire Sam Westing is found dead in his mansion, sixteen people who live in Sunset Towers are called for the will reading. Westing’s will is actually a puzzle, and he intends to give his entire fortune to whoever solves the mystery of who killed him. The sixteen are divided into eight groups of two, and are given $10,000 each as incentive to play. Each pair is given a clue, which consists of random words with nothing in common. The will says that one of the sixteen is the person who took Westing’s life. As each pair tries to solve the mystery behind Westing’s death, they find out that things are even more complicated than they first imagined.

What fun! This murder mystery of sorts was extremely clever and well thought out. I love junior fiction that doesn’t underestimate its readers or talk down to them. The Westing Game provides a mystery with many layers, the first of which we are introduced to just as the book begins. Who handpicked the tenants of Sunset Towers and why? As we are introduced to Westing’s sixteen potential heirs, we get to know this colourful cast of characters. I especially loved Turtle, who first appears to be bratty and spoiled but proves to be a brilliant young girl. I loved getting to know the many characters and seeing how they changed throughout the game, and being able to see what they became as they grew older. While many authors do not succeed in creating a believable protagonist, Raskin managed to write a book with so many well-developed and realistic characters. The plot was creative and well planned out, and I was very satisfied with the resolution. The forward says that Westing did not plan out the plot before beginning to write, which is kind of unbelievable. The Westing Game was a smart mystery that’s perfect for anyone (young or old) who likes a gripping puzzle.

4/5

“The poor are crazy, the rich just eccentric.”

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