Review – The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin


Where there’s a will, there’s a way – and Sam Westing has left quite a will!

One fateful day, sixteen people gather for the reading of the very strange will of the very rich Samuel W. Westing. To their surprise, the will turns out to be a contest, challenging the heirs to find out who among them is Westing’s murderer – and the winner may become a millionaire! Forging ahead, through blizzards, burglaries, and the attacks of a mad bomber, the race is on. Only two people hold all the clues. One of them is a Westing heir. The other one is you!



The Westing Game is a classic whodunit mystery story. Sam Westing, a millionaire has been murdered and upon arriving at his mansion for the reading of Westing’s last will and testament, an eclectic group of possible heirs discover that old Uncle Sam had a penchant for games. Most of the people gathered together have some connection to Westing, either the fact that they live in Sunset Towers, a building owned by Sam, they may work there, be a cleaning lady, doorman or delivery boy. Others are not so apparent, such as the little girl named Turtle who likes to kick people and play the stock market and Chris a teenager who suffers from a medical condition that keeps him trapped in a wheelchair, unable to talk clearly or avoid what seem to be seizures. But regardless of how they are linked to Sam Westing, he has chosen them to compete in a game, the object is to uncover which of them is responsible for his death, the reward is the title of heir to Samuel W. Westing and two million dollars. When the game begins the sixteen people are put onto teams of two and handed an envelope containing clues in the form of 4 words. The only additional instruction is “It’s not what you have, it’s what you don’t have.”

The mystery, clues, crazy happenings and hidden secrets are all well and good in this book. But, they all take a backseat to the awesome array of characters. Since childhood I’ve been a fan of the movie Clue, and the board game it was based on. What made Clue work was the mixture of personalities and the linking histories behind them. In The Westing House, the reader is swept up in the fast-paced action, as the heirs discover things about themselves and others that they never knew. I think it’s most important to emphasize how they change their own opinions of themselves. For this being written as a children’s book, there is quite a depth of meaning behind the various characters development. It may seem at times that Sam Westing was just a rich old man who wanted to play mind-games with people, but he actually ends up teaching them quite a bit about themselves and their lives. And in the process helping them to become better people, or maybe just guiding them to being the people they were always meant to be.

This is a book that I regret having not read sooner. I chose to read this book as part of the Dewey’s Books Reading Challenge. Dewey stated in her review that she caught on to the mystery of the will early in the story, but then she wrote this:

“I loved the format of the novel, the interesting characters and the sub-plots enough to make up for knowing the mystery of the will, though, and I definitely recommend this for kids, especially those who like mysteries. Or, you know, adults reading all the Newbery books or adults who just like kitdlit.”

That was why I decided to read this book, knowing that Dewey enjoyed and recommended The Westing Game even with the mystery being obvious, was enough to make me realize it would be a terrific book.


About The Author
Ellen Raskin (1928 – 1984) was an American writer, illustrator and fashion designer. She was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and grew up during the Great Depression. She married Dennis Flanagan, editor of Scientific American, in 1965. Raskin was also an accomplished graphic artist. She designed dozens of dust jackets for books for 15 years including the first edition of Madeleine L'Engle's classic A Wrinkle in Time. Primarily a children's author, she received the 1979 Newbery Medal for her 1978 book, The Westing Game.


Title: The Westing Game
Author: Ellen Raskin
Book Genre: Children's Fiction – Mystery
Book Type: Paperback 185 pages
Publisher: Puffin Books
Publication Date: 1978
Alternate Covers
Westing Game 4westWesting Game 3Westing Game 2

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


Belle @ MsBookish said...

I loved this book, too - now that I've read your review, I have this huge urge to rummage around my shelves and find my copy for a re-read.

jessi said...

For some reason, I never knew that The Westing Game was a mystery - I always thought it was a YA book. Don't know why, because it sounds awesome! I also loved Clue (the movie and the board game), so now I really want to read this.

Shelley/Chain Reader said...

It's been quite a few years since I've read this one, but I remember really liking it. I think they made a movie loosely based on it called Get a Clue.

Dreamybee said...

This is definitely a book that I want to go back and reread as an adult. I remember thinking it was ok in grade school, but I wonder if I might like it more now.

bermudaonion said...

I love Clue too, so I think this book looks good.

Nymeth said...

This sounds so good! I don't read mysteries very often, but I do enjoy a good one...especially with great characters. I had missed Dewey's review of this book, so thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Also, I just love that cover! It looks so vintage.

grayskyeyes said...

I think I read this book when I was a kid -- the name sounds really familiar. I want to read it again though, it sounds great!


Zibilee said...

I read this a couple of years ago, and passed it on to my kids, who also loved it. I like the point you hit on in your review about the character development. That was the best thing about the book, in my opinion. Thanks for reminding me of this book.

Fyrefly said...

I love this book! I can't even count how many times I checked it out of my grade school library, and then I got my own copy... look out! I've always had a little crush on Theo, too. :)

I'll have to get this off the shelf for (yet another) re-read sometime soon. Glad you liked it!

Carrie Harris said...

This was my favorite book as a kid, and I still love it now as much as I did then.

naida said...

this sounds great, and how cool that you found it through dewey's blog :o)

Amy said...

I so totally loved this book when I was a kid! :)

Lenore said...

I read this as a child with my brothers and we had a lot of fun with it.

Stephanie said...

OH...I've never heard of this book!! Sounds like tons of fun though. And I loved Clue the movie (I played the game all the time). Gotta love anything with Tim Curry in it!!

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