The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
In his last will, an eccentric multi-millionaire summons a group of seemingly unrelated “heirs” to solve a puzzle to find his murderer, the prize being the inheritance of his fortune.
- A light-hearted mystery story that seems like it might be well-suited to its target audience of around pre-teens.
- Fairly progressive for a children’s book written in 1978, with some anti-racist, anti-ableist, anti-classist, and pro-feminist ideas taken as a matter of course without being too strident.
- Doesn’t shy away from presenting the adult characters as real, flawed, people, but also works to provide satisfying endings for everyone that feel earned.
- Keeps the feel of a murder mystery while staying almost entirely free of actual violence.
- Must’ve felt very contemporary at the time, but seems like it would be too dated for kids to relate to now. (Especially all the references to stock market trading).
- Impossible for me to tell if the two central puzzles were intended to give a flash of recognition to younger readers, but felt frustratingly obvious for me as someone reading it 40 years “too late.”
- The implications of the puzzles aren’t revealed until long after you’ve figured out the solution, because information is withheld until the last minute.
- Flirts with some more mature ideas for its adult characters, but they’re still so shallow that it doesn’t feel like there’s a genuine ethical or moral arc for any of them.
Feels a bit like a novella-length Encyclopedia Brown mystery, where everything revolves around one or two puzzles. This definitely feels like a children’s book instead of an “all ages” one; it’s difficult to tell if I’d have enjoyed it if I’d read it when I was in the target age range for it.