Tag Archives: Ellen Raskin

Mondays are murder!

This week?  Something old and something new.

Not too long ago, I was purging my home library (oh the pain that makes one balance the needs of space against the love of books – who needs sunlight actually coming IN the windows?!), and I came across a stack of books I had rescued from a library book sale eons ago.  Each of them was a Newbery medal-winner or Newbery Honor Book.  As I was moving them to the “didn’t make the cut” pile, I noticed the tag-line across the top of Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game – “Whodunit? To find out you’ll have to play… The Westing Game.”

Who could resist such a succinct and deliciously intriguing invitation?  Certainly not myself.  So I granted this little gem a temporary reprieve to allow me to read it before it moves on to its new home.

The Westing Game is a classic whodunit.   Ellen Raskin was awarded the Newbery Medal for her tale in 1979.  Samuel Westing is a reclusive and very rich man – a captain of industry and alleged to be very crotchety.  Sixteen people gather for the reading of his will only to find out that they are Westing’s heirs, he’s been murdered, one of them did it, and they will have to identify the murderer in their midst in order to inherit.  Westing provides his heirs with partners and clues, then allows the real fun to begin.

This is certainly a children’s book, but it is no less delightful to watch the ensuing drama and chaos – the conclusion-jumping, the alliances, the betrayals and the emergence of long-held secrets.  Westing knew what he was doing when he established his final chess-game, with the 16 heirs as pawns.  If you are looking for a quick weekend read, a classic-style detecting game you can share with the whole family, take a long hard look at The Westing Game!  (The libraries’ single copy is missing – you can look for mine on the book sale shelf at the Pierre Berton Resource Library.)

Another quick read is Hannah Berry’s debut graphic novel Britten and Brülightly.  Fernández Britten is a private investigator.  He has earned himself the moniker “The Heartbreaker” for all the damage his findings do to the relationships of those who seek his assistance.  But Britten holds fast to the idea that just once, he will be able to reveal a truth that will be to the benefit of all involved.

With this hope at the forefront of his mind, he takes an assignment from the fiancée of Berni Kudos, a man whose hanging death has been declared suicide by the police investigation.  Britten doesn’t have to scratch the surface very hard to some up with some darkly wiggling allegations of blackmail.  This prize in hand, he immediately runs into trouble.  Berry’s artwork is dark and almost liquid – nothing conveys the atmosphere of rain and damp more than her amazing range of greys.  With its noir tendencies (both in story and art) and the most innovative sidekick I have ever encountered, Britten and Brülightly is a superb achievement.  I don’t think this book reads like the first in a series, but I would not mind at all if Hannah Berry were to write another book featuring her duo – perhaps a prequel?