The Westing Game – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 / 5 stars)

Sam Westing is dead. That much everyone knows. But, why did his will call for sixteen unsuspecting individuals to his house? And why is he saying they’re his heirs? The answers aren’t simple, and soon these sixteen people are thrown into a game trying to discover who murdered Sam Westing…and what is their connection to the strange millionaire? 

I picked this up from a thrift store recently on a nostalgic intuition. Vaguely, in the back of my mind, I remember reading this in fourth grade. There were a few things I remembered about this book: it was a “who-done-it” type of mystery, riddled with clues and an interesting cast. This holds up even as I read it in my twenties. In fact, I would even go as far to say that I relate more to the hero, Turtle, now than I did at nine-years-old. Her fascination with the stock market relates to my own real-life career.

If memory serves correct, in my fourth grade class, we went through the clues together to solve the mystery. I started to do that on my own while reading this, but in the end got whisked away with the story. This is a great book for students to learn problem solving skills, while also enjoying a thrilling tale that encourages all parties to use their heads. With a hero like Turtle, little girls and boys will realize anything is possible with hard work.

But, with all this being said, it is important to note that the book was written in the 1970s. There is some dated terminology in referring to different races as well as disabilities and genders. If you read it be, be wary of when this was written, and if your child reads it, make sure to have a conversation about how these terms are wrong today. 

The story is written in a way that won’t necessarily appeal to everyone. It’s written like a puzzle, often hopping between different characters’ POVs, that takes a bit to get used to (at least for me). The authors takes on the “tell” rather than “show” mechanisms, something seen in some dated writing as well. I’m sure if this was written today, the narrative would have been different.

But, with all that said, I still had fun reliving a small part of my childhood. It’s definitely an inspiration for many “who-done-it” type of stories out there. While it might be dated, it is still worth the fun read.

What’s it about?

A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger—and a possible murderer—to inherit his vast fortune, one thing’s for sure: Sam Westing may be dead … but that won’t stop him from playing one last game!

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