Mystery Flashback: The Westing Game

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Westing Game
Ellen Raskin, 1978

Fantasy Flashback is a week long event in which I'm re-reading books that were important to me as a young person. And, yes, this one isn't Fantasy, but it's my project, and I'll read what I like.

I hadn't read The Westing Game for many years, although I did remember the central mystery and its solution. I loved the book as a child because it was a puzzle that asked for solving, and it didn't withhold any of the clues unfairly from the reader.

From an adult perspective, it's a clever story, largely about a group of seemingly unrelated people finding common ground. The sixteen heirs of Samuel Westing are challenged in his will to solve his murder. They are assigned into pairs, each are given clues, and each take a unique tactic in trying (or not) to solve the mystery.

The different parts of the mystery aren't hard for me to figure out now (there are big obvious hints on page one), but it's still fun to watch the clues fall into place, the characters' stories are complex and subtle, and there are still a few red herrings to watch out for.

The wide assortment of characters and perspectives runs the risk of feeling fragmented, but it all comes together for a touching ending.

The Westing Game is a classic for good reason: with few exceptions, the language has aged well, and I'm sure it's still a fun read for dedicated young sleuths, to try to solve the puzzle before the characters do. It's also a fairly well-disguised coming-of-age story. In that sense it can be read as a commentary about how growing up is as much about the people around you as it is about yourself.

All the ratings this week come with a caveat: every book discussed this week was a five star book to 11 year-old me. So please keep that in mind, this is not a universal judgement, but a personal one.  

29 year-old me gives The Westing Game: 4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Tomorrow: The Phantom Tollbooth


Charlotte said...

I'm very fond of this one myself!

Lindsay said...

I was surprised how much I'd forgotten about all the characters; I really enjoyed re-reading it!

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