Summary of "The Westing Game" by Ellen Raskin

by Mary Barton

Ellen Raskin, an American illustrator and author, did illustrations for "The Saturday Evening Post" and more than 1,000 book covers as a commercial artist. During her highly successful career, she was the recipient of a Newbery Honor Book award for her book, "Figgs & Phantoms" (Dutton, 1974). She also received the 1979 Newbery Medal for distinguished writing for "The Westing Game." Born March 13, 1928 during the Great Depression, she passed away at the age of 56 on Aug. 8, 1984.

The Westing Game

"The Westing Game" is a young-adult mystery story about 16 strangers who are invited to live in a new, exclusive apartment building. When their neighbor, Westing Paper Products millionaire Sam Westing, dies, the residents of the Sunset Towers are called to the reading of his will. There they discover that Westing believed he was killed by one of them and his fortune will go to whomever figures out the culprit.

The Characters

The Sunset Tower residents are paired into teams, given $10,000 each and five clues. Unappreciated 13-year-old Turtle Wexler and dressmaker Flora Baumbach compose one team. Christos Theodorakis, the son of a coffee shop owner, and D. Denton Deere, Angela Wexler's fiancé, are another. Doorman Sandy McSouthers and Judge Josie Jo Ford are teamed up, as is the wife of the podiatrist and mother of Angela and Turtle, Grace Wexler, and restaurant owner James Hoo. Cleaning lady Berthe Crow and delivery boy Otis Amber comprise another team; and secretary Sydelle Pulaski and soon-to-be-married Angela Wexler the last. Podiatrist Jake Wexler and Madame Sun Lin Hoo, second wife of restaurant owner James Shin, do not attend the reading of the will and forfeit their money.

The Puzzle

The fun begins as the unique pairs, including an athlete, a chess player, a socialite and a bird watcher, try to decipher their clues to win the $2 million. The pairings lead to hilarious conclusions in their attempts to find the murderer, with those who cooperate in the end solving the puzzle. The personalities, motives and past histories of each character are engagingly defined, and discovered to have had some relationship to the eccentric Sam Westing.


The Sunset Tower residents learn that Sam Westing's daughter committed suicide rather than be forced by her mother to marry a politician. Her true love had been George Theodorakis, the coffee shop owner, and her wedding dress had been made by the dressmaker Flora. Berthe Crow turns out to be the former Mrs. Westing, who had a mental breakdown and disappeared after her daughter's death. The doorman dies in the end and Turtle discovers that Sandy was the real Sam Westing in disguise and wins the inheritance for her team.

About the Author

Based in the Pacific Northwest, Mary Barton has been writing professionally since 1990. She has written two nonfiction books, worked as the product manager for a publishing company, an editor for two newspapers and was the content manager for various Microsoft websites. Barton has a Bachelor of Science in computer science from the University of Texas at El Paso.

Photo Credits

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