The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read this on the recommendation of someone whose opinion I respect, although I understand that we have different tastes in literature. I like character and plot driven stories, he's more into world building and provocative concepts.
OK, I'm talking about my husband, but that is beside the point. This book was on his shelf and it looked intriguing so I gave it a shot. There were elements I liked and elements I did not like.
Of course to be fair, it was written for a younger audience, won the Newberry in fact, but I have to chalk up her target audience as another criticism. The plot and cast of characters were quite complicated and I know I would have lost interest in the book at that age. In fact, if I wasn't able to speed read, I would not have gotten through it at my present age.
Sixteen people have been carefully selected to live in Sunset Towers. It turns out that they are all potential heirs to Sam Westing, a business tycoon who disappeared years ago, but lives on an estate near the Towers. Shortly into the story, Sam is found dead in his house. But he seems to know he would die, furthermore he has left instructions for his heirs to follow in order for them to acquire their share of his fortune.
The kicker: Westing claims he was murdered. By one of them! The first person to discover the culprit will win one hundred million dollars. The heirs are paired up and each pair given a set of clues. Each list of clues are incomplete so they need to find out the other pairs' lists to solve the murder mystery.
What I liked:
It was an intriguing mystery. I wanted to know what was going to happen and that kept me going to the end. And I will say without divulging anything that I found the ending satisfactory. It ended the way I like stories to end, with a resolution, like the "Amen" chord at the end of a hymn.
I also liked that, although the characters started out immensely unlikeable and cardboard thin, they actually started showing other dimensions as the story progressed and as I said, I do like where they all ended up.
I felt the characters were a bit stereotyped and a few of them not very believable. In fact, I wish she had less characters and concentrated more on developing them. Some of them had real potential to be very interesting, but they stop short.
Some of the characters were not very believable. The girl nicknamed Turtle is so immature, she runs around kicking everyone in the shins, that for a good third of the book I thought she was around eight years old. It turns out she's thirteen. Sorry, this book was written in 1978. I was thirteen in 1978. I had hit hormonal adolescence big time. Boys were not yucky they were fascinating and while I had my hopeless crushes, I did not express it by kicking the objects of my desire in the shin.
Also, it was very hard to keep track of who everyone was and what the clues led up to. I found myself backtracking and re-reading pages frequently.
All in all, not a bad read, just not a very good one.
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