Book cover
The Westing Game
Ellen Raskin

My brother and I read this book together during a family trip when we were maybe 10 and 11. I had completely forgotten about it until Audible promoted it to me because it is apparently having a birthday. As soon as I saw the title, the memories came flooding back, however unclear.

I remembered my brother reading it on the long car drive. He told me how amazing it was and then loaned his library copy to me when we got to the hotel.

I can’t say I remembered much detail, and much of what I did remember was mixed up (it was an old hotel in my memory, not a new apartment building, for instance). But I did remember a precocious young girl called Turtle, and some kind of elaborate and very tricky scheme. I have to say, to the jaded eyes of a 40-something, the game that drives the plot of the story isn’t nearly so tricky as I thought it was at ten. But it is fun and clever.

In some ways The Westing Game feels like a progenitor of the Lemony Snicket books. The setup is wild, the story absurd, and the adults all behave in a way a child might think adults would behave. It even includes a female judge-hero whose grasp of law is, shall we say, a little fictive. I love how unsentimental the book is. It believes deeply in its characters, and presents them earnestly. It never toys with our emotions. It only seeks to surprise and delight. It all adds up to a charming and funny story.