Dutton Children’s Books, 2003. 978-0-525-47137-0
Synopsis: Sixteen persons have been named heirs to the estate of paper tycoon Samuel W. Westing: mothers, fathers, children, a dressmaker, a secretary, and inventor, a doctor, a judge, a bookie, a bomber, and a mistake. Only one of them will figure out the bizarre clues left by the eccentric, game-loving millionaire and be able to claim their inheritance, but all of them must figure out why they were chosen and the connections that have drawn them together.
Why I picked it up: I didn’t want it to be another victim of “should-have-read-that” syndrome, and, oddly, the premise never intrigued me until now. Plus, after reading the teaser on the cover, I wanted to know who the mistake was.
Why I finished it: This book is fun, fresh, funny, intriguing, and wastes no time in drawing the reader into the mystery. Samuel W. Westing is clearly a little off his rocker inviting sixteen persons who seem to have only a slightly passing knowledge of him and making them play a somewhat ridiculous game for which the prize is a very lot of money. Then again, one must also consider that each of the characters has their own eccentricities: Turtle Wexler kicks people that pull her braid, Chris Theodorakis is a birdwatcher confined to a wheelchair, Doug Hoo is a runner who is always jogging in place, Grace W. Wexler fancies herself an interior decorator, and Sydelle Pulaski is faking an injury to get some attention from the other tenants in the apartment building. The timing is well-paced and readers are given the opportunity to solve the mystery even before the characters have figured out all of their clues, but the conclusion is still not predictable regardless of how formulaic the game seems to be.
Other related materials: The Westing Game (TV movie); Skellig by David Almond; The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler; The Broken Blade by William Durbin; Betsy and the Emperor by Staton Rabin; A Murder for Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner; The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell; The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope; The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder