Title: The Westing Game
Author: Ellen Raskin
What it's about: Sam Westing, founder of Westing Paper Products and a very rich man, has died. He calls sixteen heirs to his mansion for the reading of his will, telling them that they each have a chance at inheriting his fortune. Now, Sam Westing had a fondness for games, and he's not making this easy on his heirs. They've got to figure out the solution to the Westing Game by using clues he's left them and by working together. This is easier said than done. Most of the sixteen heirs live in the Sunset Towers apartment building, and their personalities come in constant conflict, making it hard to collaborate on their clues. And where do the mysteries of Sam Westing's tragic past come in?
What I thought: Confusing summary? Perhaps. But the less I say, the better, because you won't want a single thing spoiled for you when you read this. I just have to say that anyone who has not read The Westing Game is missing out on one of the most amazing books they've never read. It's a masterful mystery with memorable characters and delicious humor; it unfolds in such a deft, intricate way. I wish that I could read it for the first time again and remember the experience of having the story come alive for me and discovering all the secrets for myself. This is one of those books that's written for children but can be enjoyed by anyone. That's a mark of a good writer, wouldn't you say? So, the thing that really makes this book stand out is the characters. They vary widely, from Turtle with her braid and her kicking to Madame Hoo, who can't speak English, to Grace Wexler and her airs. And the thing is, you end up liking all of them, including the ones who seem the least sympathetic at the beginning. Grace, Mr. Hoo, and Dr. Deere, for example, all turn out to not be as unlikeable as they initially seem. Also, the plotting of the mystery is just intricate and ingenious. One thing that amazed me was that the foreword in my copy of the book stated that Ms. Raskin wrote the book as she went, not plotting it out beforehand. That takes skill!
Overall: Why are you still reading this? Go grab The Westing Game!