Then one day (it happened to be the Fourth of July), a most uncommon-looking delivery boy rode around town slipping letters under the doors of the chosen tenants-to-be.How cool is that, I read about it on the same day (well, a couple decades later) that the story started.
The Westing Game was a great read for a summer day (and evening): relaxing, and interesting enough to keep me turning pages, but not so compelling that I couldn't put it down when it was time to go swimming or catch fireflies. And after reading a couple of very intense, emotionally wrenching stories in the last week, I found this mystery by Ellen Raskin pretty refreshing. It's the YA/older elementary kid's equivalent of Janet Evanovich - so I'm a little surprised that it won the Newbery award, actually. Maybe there were a lot of mystery lovers on the selection committee in 1979.
It is probably more accurate to compare The Westing Game to vintage Agatha Christie than to Janet Evanovich - there's no sex, and no cars blow up in TWG. It's a classic "closed house" murder mystery, complete with an eccentric, manipulative millionaire with a ridiculously strange will, and a huge cast of characters (it may be useful to have a printout from a site like this one at The Westing Heirs on hand to keep every one straight). There are numerous plot twists - some really obvious (especially in retrospect, if you read a lot of mysteries), and others that are totally unanticipated.
In a lot of ways, this reminded me of a cheesy 80's movie - something about the tone of the story, with its unabashedly greedy characters - and when I looked around the net, sure enough The Westing Game movie (also called Get a Clue!, but not to be confused with the 2002 Lindsey Lohan movie without an exclamation point) was made in 1997. Ray Walston played Sandy McSouthers and Diane Ladd played Berthe Erica Crow, but I've never heard of the rest of the cast. I guess it was a kind of a forgettable movie.
The Westing Game wasn't profound, but it was fun, especially if you like codes, clues, spooky mansions, and chess, and I'll bet I would have absolutely loved it if I'd read it when I was twelve.