Millionaire Sam Westing dies and leaves a will inviting 16 potential heirs to play a game to find the murderer. I remember loving this book as a youth, and after being reminded of it in an episode of Veronica Mars*, I revisited it. My first complaint is that it never lets you forget that it’s Young Adult fiction. The characters feel a bit too caricatured sometimes, perhaps, something of which younger readers are often more forgiving. (I was.) This stands in contrast to some young adult fiction, notably Harry Potter books, in which I managed to forget that I was reading a book for a younger audience. My second complaint is that the ending is too indulgent. Hitchcock supposedly said, Always give the audience what it wants. And normally I’m a fan of epilogues that tell me how everything has played out, but with two epilogues and endings that are – to my liking – just a bit too clean (I won’t say more in case you haven’t read it), it just felt like too much dessert, leaving me uncomfortably full.
BUT although I think I missed some clues, I was truly drawn in as we neared the climax, and I was genuinely (and pleasantly) surprised by the way the puzzle played itself out.
I would definitely recommend this to a young adult. If you’re an adult, there are probably better puzzle books. (Or read this awesome science fiction novel I finished yesterday – The Day of the Triffids. It was exceptional!)
Note on content: The book is about the solving of a murder, and there is some talk about a corpse with maggots crawling out of its sockets.