The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Winner, 1979 Newbery Award
Sixteen heirs living in a luxury apartment building on the shores of Lake Michigan must solve the mystery of their benefactor's death before they can claim their sizable inheritance.
And, oh yes, one was a bookie, one was a burglar, one was a bomber, and one was a mistake. Barney Northrup had rented one of the apartments to the wrong person.
About the Author
Early in her career, Ellen Raskin was known primarily as an artist, designing more than 1,000 book covers including the first edition of Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. After fifteen years of illustrating other author's books, she published her own, Nothing Ever Happens on My Block in 1966. The Westing Game was her last book; she died in 1984. She was heavily involved in the design aspect of the book.
I began with a background of miniature green painted $100 bills to symbolize all the money at stake in this book. I added a 4x4 checkered square to represent the chess board in the book and the 16 main characters. I included the pewter handcuffs and gift charms, in part because they reminded me a bit of Monopoly game pieces and this book does have a puzzle or game feeling to it. (Of course, the gift charm represents the inheritance and the handcuffs represent the crime.) I wrote the date on a tiny envelope, since the clues came presented that way.
This book felt like a mix of a game of Clue and an Agatha Christie novel with many twists. It was much more complicated than most mystery books that I remember reading as a child. In fact, it seems like it violated the norms of many books for children, including having lots of adult characters, lots of main characters (16!), episodes of mild violence, and little mention of school. The epilogue-type ending gives the whereabouts of all the characters many years later. In the introduction to the book's twenty-fifth anniversary, Ellen's editor wrote, "She said that she wrote for the child in herself, but for once I think she was wrong. I think she wrote for the adult in children. She never disrespected them or 'wrote down,' because she didn't know how."
If you read this book, I'd love to hear what you think in the comments.