This book is so fun. It's fast, so you could probably read it in a day, but it's complicated and intricate, so you have to stay on your toes while you're reading. It reminds me of those logic puzzles where you have a certain number of people and a certain number of occupations and you have to figure out who committed the crime based off of one or two paragraphs of informative statements. You know, "The gardener works Monday through Thursday, wears brown shoes and lives next door to the jockey... etc."
In this book, there are sixteen different people named to be heirs of a millionaire's (Westing's) estate. Ah, but the catch: only one person will inherit the entire estate! And how will this person be chosen? They have to play the game that Westing set up in his will. For the first part of the game, they are paired into groups of two and given clues, scraps of paper with single words on them. Will they share or not? And what do you think will happen when home-made bombs start going off in the rival restaurants and the bottom and top floors? And who would ever suspect a quiet, kind, bride-to-be as the bomber?
Though the book never explains how such a diverse group (respected African-American judge down to batty old delivery man) is all related to the same wealthy old man, it is fairly easy to look past this quibble and assume that he picked these people because of his personal connections with them. These sixteen people make up every kind of relationship possible, because it includes so many different types of people. For example, there is a strange Polish woman, who wears bright colors and fakes a limp just so people will notice her. And there is a handicapped boy that sees everything but has a hard time communicating. There's a wife and husband that sometimes get along but often don't. There are siblings and business owners and immigrants and a college student and a regular, down-home laborer trying to provide for his family. What is Westing up to?
The way he's written his will, it's as if he's talking to everyone in the room, predicting (and answering) all of their comments and reactions. One might wonder...is Westing really dead at all?
If I were trying to make a literary analysis of the book, I would draw some kind of comparison between all the players and the pieces in a chess game. But I will refrain from attempting to draw clever parallels and simply point out that chess plays a large role in the book. Looking at the interaction between the sixteen people in Westing's game, you can see how each person's move strategically effects everyone else.
Pick it up, and enjoy a really fast, fun read. (Play the game yourself and see if you can give the correct answer in the end!)