Analysis, inspiration, Reading, Reviews

Book Review: The Westing Game

Murder mystery! The Westing Game is a wildly cartwheeling murder mystery in the vein of the Clue movie, and it’s packed with even more memorable characters.

Arms and elbows at odds, with fingers fanned, Chris tried to rearrange the words in some grammatical, if not logical, order.
“Hey, watch it!” The intern shouted as one clue wafted to the floor.
Flora Baumbach leaped from her chair at the next table, picked up the square of paper, and set it down before the trembling youngster.
“I didn’t see it,” she announced loudly. “I really didn’t see it,” she repeated under the questioning gaze of her partner, Turtle Wexler.
The word she had seen was ‘plain’.
The players protected their clues more carefully now. Hunched over the tables they moved the paper squares this way and that mumbling and grumbling. The murderer’s name must be there somewhere.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Part one: Who’s gonna love this book?

This book is this wild and crazy, freewheeling, murder mystery with an inheritance at stake with a whole bunch of quirky characters. Many of them are kind of terrible people. Some of them are not and they all have their own thing going on and they’re all hilarious

It’s also packed with clues. I feel like the book really encourages you to be writing stuff down and have a notebook filled with your thoughts and ideas and predictions about who did what where and when. There’s lots of fun clues throughout and it also follows the characters as they try to piece together the clues and they have false starts and then successes as well and it’s really fun to just see their journey in their interaction.

So if that sounds good to you then you’re gonna love this book.

Part two: Who’s gonna hate it?

At first it’s overwhelming with the number of characters and may not like trying to keep track of them all.

If you’re not looking for something a little bit silly. If you’re looking for more of a serious murder mystery, this is not that at all.

One thing that I think is a little bit disappointing is that when the mystery was revealed of what actually happened I didn’t think like, “oh aha! I could have figured that out from the clues that were presented.”

I felt like, “Gosh that’s really tricky and there’s no way I would have figured that out.”

And so that kind of frustrated me a little bit because I really feel like the book was presented in such a way as to encourage you to try and figure out the clues and have one of those cork boards where you have strings between notes and pictures posted all over it, right?

Part three: What I thought of it.

I loved it. I thought it was fantastic. There was a humongous cast of characters and I could name almost all of them. I could certainly give you a key feature or personality trait of all of them. It does an amazing job with the characters and they’re all just fantastic and silly and a little bit terrible but in a fun way.

The clues that are presented are really fun and it’s fun to watch the characters try to piece them together.

The book is pretty short so if you’re reading at a reasonable pace you would probably want to take long breaks and try and piece the clues together yourself and that might really slow down your reading, but also, like I said, even if I’d done that, I don’t think I would have figured out what had happened. I feel like I’ve really belabored that point so I’m gonna stop talking about that.

Part four: What can writers learn from it?

Characters. Just characters. Just study these characters. Notice how they all have distinctive characteristics, distinctive actions, features of clothing or behavior, mannerisms. They are all so distinctive. They’re all identifiable. It works fantastically and it’s not just that they’re all this one single feature. There’s at least a slight evolution and change in all the characters, and with the massive cast that we are talking about here that is an incredible feat that the author accomplished.

I don’t have anything hardly to compare this to although what popped into my head was the movie It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad however-many-mads-there-are World for it’s hectic energy and lots of different characters running around. That’s what this reminded me of. So if you’re looking for that in book form, I highly recommend this. It’s a fun little circus of a murder mystery and just delightful, so check it out.


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