Book Review: ‘The Westing Game’ (1978)

The short: 4/5 ✦. A fantastic, well-crafted, thoughtful middle-grade mystery for readers of any age.

The long:

This is the sort of book that younger me would’ve loved. That’s not to say I didn’t like it now, as an adult, but I would’ve loved it back then (especially the character of Turtle!).

If you try to read this is a conventional mystery, where you are provided with all the clues and the suspects and can try to solve it yourself, then you’re probably going to be disappointed. The Westing Game is indeed a mystery, but it’s not about whodunnit. It’s about revenge and identity (a lot about identity) and the uniting of strangers as they realize the reasons for their respective unhappiness. The description (on Goodreads, anyway) make the book sound like a wacky adventure of people competing for a grand prize, à la Clue or something, but the actual text is much more contemplative. I admit that it’s a bit slow-going at first, but it picks up once you realize that this isn’t a by-the-numbers Sherlock or Marple mystery (and I say that as someone who loves both those characters).

I could talk more about the book. I could talk about the oddly named Sunset Towers (which faces east) and the Westing mansion. I could talk about Sam Westing, Turtle Wexler, Mrs Baumbach, Chris Theodorakis, Dr Deere, Josie-Jo Ford, Sandy McSouthers, Grace Wexler, James Hoo, Berthe Erica Crowe, Otis Amber, Doug Hoo, Theo Theodorakis, Sydelle Pulaski, Angela Wexler, Madame Hoo, and Jake Wexler, and how interesting and varied all these characters are. I could talk about the mystery itself and the paper towel clues, the chess game, the purple waves, and the fireworks. I could talk about how it ends, how it’s much less about the dénouement and more about the revelations made along the way, and how that wonderful epilogue is everything both little me and present me loves about such endings.

But I won’t.

It’s better for you to read and discover The Westing Game for yourself. Have fun!

Header image: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, published April 12th 2004 by Puffin

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