THE WESTING GAME

A supersharp mystery, more a puzzle than a novel, but endowed with a vivid and extensive cast. In the Christie tradition, Raskin isolates a divers group of strangers—the mysteriously hand-picked tenants of a new apartment building within sight of the old Westing mansion—and presents them with the information that one of them is the murderer. Actually, it turns out that there is no corpse, but no one is aware of that when they are all assembled for a reading of old Westing's fiendish will, which pairs them all off and allots each pair four one-word clues to the murderer's identity. As the winning pair is to inherit Westing's fortune, there is much secret conferring, private investigating, far-out scheming, and snitching and scrambling of the teasing, enigmatic clues. (For example, those of black judge Josie Jo Ford, which she takes for a racial insult, read SKIES AM SHINING BROTHER.) As a result of the pairings, alliances are made and suspended, and though there is no murderer there is a secret winner—the pigtailed youngest of the "heirs"—plus extravagant happy endings for all. As Westing had warned, all are not what they seem, and you the reader end up liking them better than you expected to. If Raskin's crazy ingenuity has threatened to run away with her on previous occasions, here the complicated game is always perfectly meshed with character and story. Confoundingly clever, and very funny.

Pub Date: May 1, 1978

ISBN: 978-0-525-47137-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1978

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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A story of fierce friendship, bravery, loyalty, and finding—or making—a place to belong.

THE MIDNIGHT CHILDREN

Ravani Foster and the whole town of Slaughterville are changed by the arrival of seven unusual children.

Skinny, lonely Ravani is the only one who sees the children arrive and move into the house across the street, and he soon finds a comrade in tough, golden-haired Virginia. Despite the local newspaper owner’s assertion that Slaughterville is not the kind of town where exciting things happen, Ravani’s life changes dramatically as Virginia and her chosen family of parentless kids calling themselves the Ragabonds let him in on their secret: They are on the run. When vicious bully Donnie learns that the Ragabonds are being pursued, he blackmails Ravani, who is desperate to protect them and equally desperate for Virginia, his first friend, to stay. She introduces him to the quietly revolutionary idea that things don’t have to be the way they’ve always been. The omniscient narrative voice is a strong presence throughout, drawing readers’ attention to themes including choices that make a difference, connections between people (“Sometimes, when two souls find each other in the darkness, the darkness goes away”), deciding who you want to be and not letting others define you, and the importance of home and family. Brief chapters from the perspective of the man hunting the Ragabonds ratchet up the suspense, culminating in an exciting sequence of events followed by a heartwarming ending. All main characters are coded White.

A story of fierce friendship, bravery, loyalty, and finding—or making—a place to belong. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-19672-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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