I’m not really sure why. It was certainly around when I was a kid, and I remember others reading it, but somehow in between finding out what wacky hijinks the Babysitter’s Club was going to get into next and reading every book in our town’s library about Pocahontas (it was a thing for a while), I just never picked it up. And so last weekend, my thirty-two year old self made her way to the children’s section of my local library and took the residents of Sunset Towers for a spin.
Two months after moving into the new, modern apartment building of Sunset Towers (which doesn’t really face the sunset or have any towers), sixteen of the building’s residents are called to the estate of the late Sam Westing, town millionaire and owner of the Westing Paper Company. There, the hodgepodge group finds out that not only are they all potential heirs to the Westing fortune, but that only one will claim the inheritance – the one who wins the Westing game and discovers the killer of Sam Westing. Teams are formed, clues are uncovered, and the game is on!
As the story unfolds, secrets are discovered about each of the potential heirs, and their stories begin to weave together into an intricate tapestry that connects the group of seemingly unrelated people. The more that is discovered about each of the players, the more it becomes apparent – both to the characters and the reader – that no one is who they seem, and that the biggest mystery of all could be Westing himself.
This is the sort of book I think I would have loved as a kid. It’s a puzzle to figure out as you are reading. As an adult, it was a fun read, but I didn’t love it the way I know many people do. But I found myself absorbed in it, particularly the last half, when all the pieces started to fall into place and I felt invested in the characters. I like the way Raskin connected everyone in the story without the connections seeming too trite or unrealistic. It was easy to believe that Sam Westing had been a part of the lives of all of these people, and through them, it was fascinating to uncover who the man himself had been.
Will it goes down as one of my favorite books? No, but I see why it is for those who were lucky enough to read it when they were a kid. And for those of us who weren’t, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend spending an afternoon getting to know Turtle Wexler and her fellow heirs.