The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

The Westing Game is a short novel by Ellen Raskin.  This book has won several awards, including the Newberry Medal.  The story is about a millionaire named Samuel W. Westing.  Sam Westing was known as an eccentric man who loved games.  He left behind a very strange will.  According to the will, his vast fortune would be inherited by the person who could win a perplexing game he had devised before his death.

The will only allowed certain people to play the Westing game.  They were not the kind of heirs typically included in a will.  The game participants seemed to have no relation to each other, but they all had some kind of connection to Sam Westing.  According to the will, he had actually been murdered by one of his heirs.

The people all seem confused that they were selected to play this game, but each of them wants to win the Westing fortune.  The game involves various clues that arouse suspicion in each other.  As the game unfolds, the heirs discover many surprises, and realize that Sam Westing’s game is more dangerous than they had supposed.

I have read this book several times, even though I have already learned the surprise ending.  I still enjoy reading this book for its suspense and humor.  I also like reading about all the different characters, and their unique personalities.  The story is very clever and full of surprises.  This book is very engaging and I think you will have a hard time putting it down once you start reading it.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

The Westing Game (text only) by E. Raskin: E. Raskin: Amazon.com ...

16 heirs. 8 teams. 1 fortune ripe for the winning. The Westing Game has begun, and there is no turning back…

The glittery, glassy apartment house Sunset Towers (which, oddly enough, face east!) has been leased to tenants more different than not. However, after reclusive millionaire Samuel W. Westing dies, it is revealed that the residents of Sunset Towers are connected by far more than their new apartment homes – they have all been named as potential heirs to the Westing fortune!

In order to win the money, all the heirs have to do is find the one who murdered Westing. Paired up in accordance with Westing’s will, and armed with 10 thousand dollars and a single clue, the heirs must unveil the murderer before they can strike again…

Through blizzards and burglaries, bombings and burnings, the heirs play on, but nothing is as it seems on this hunt for a killer, and as the pairs follow the clues that Westing left for them, it may be that they themselves are in danger…

Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game is the perfect combination of mystery and adventure that allows the reader to use their wits and solve the puzzle alongside the heirs in the book. No matter what the reader’s personal preferences are, Raskin’s brilliant writing and simply complicated enigma that is Westing’s will capture their attention from the first page to the last. 

-Mahak M. 

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie

The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie - Agatha ChristieA string of Pekinese kidnappings…a romance left half-finished by the strange disappearance of a young woman…a malicious Parisian gangster fleeing to one of the most remote places on Earth…the largest political scandal in England…a stolen painting and a kidnapped schoolgirl…a series of women dying under odd circumstances, only connected by a mysterious religious sect…an innocent woman on the verge of being framed for a dastardly crime…. 

The only thing that connects these decidedly unusual yet distinctly unrelated cases is one man, and one man alone: the great Hercule Poirot (and his mustaches).

Based on the original Labours of Hercules, Poirot endeavors to act in his namesake by carefully selecting twelve special cases before his retirement from detective work in order to cultivate vegetable marrows.. From the Nemean Lion to the Erymanthian Boar, from the Flock of Geryon to the Capture of Cerberus, Poirot will stop at nothing to bring criminals to justice, and, on occasion, to take matters into his own private hands.  

While writing short stories isn’t standard fare for Agatha Christie, this collection of twelve short stories is the perfect mix of murder, intrigue, and Hercule Poirot (featuring his little grey cells) that any fan of the celebrated Queen of Mystery will surely not be disappointed.

-Mahak M. 

The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet is a unique and eccentric book about fitting in and standing out.

The whole world is in turmoil. A mysterious art scholar-turned thief is questioning whether some 37 paintings attributed to famous artist Johannes Vermeer were truly created by him. The thief has stolen Vermeer’s most famous painting, A Lady Writing, and says he will only return it when the shroud of mystery surrounding this painter’s life was eradicated. Meanwhile, Calder Pillay and Petra Andalee are regular New York sixth graders starting a new year with an eccentric teacher, Ms. Isabel Hussey, who has strange and revolutionary ideas. Soon, Calder and Petra are swept up in the rising tide of unrest and uncertainty, and they must shoulder the task of finding the missing painting and revealing the thief. Along the way, they encounter coincidence, a coincidence that may not be a coincidence, and patterns of complex kinds.

The setting of Chasing Vermeer really helped set the mood for the story. For example, the exciting and complex atmosphere of Hyde Park and New York City help set the mood for some later detective work and spying. The gloomy and oppressive, yet tense aura of Delia Dell Hall makes it a perfect location for the climax of the story.

On a scale of 1-10, I would rate this story a 9. The plot was slightly confusing, but it helped me see the world with new eyes, and understand other people better. It was also an eccentric book with a unique plot, the likes of which I have never read before.

-Vaidehi B. 

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Dawn Undercover by Anna Dale

Dawn Undercover by Anna Dale is an intriguing and fun book about the intricacies of being thrust into the spotlight.

Dawn Buckle has one of those faces that you can forget within an hour. So when the wholly unspectacular girl is recruited into S.H.H, (Strictly Hush Hush) a part of P.S.S.T, (Pursuit of Scheming Spies and Traitors) she feels a little… rushed. Soon, she finds herself in the English countryside trying to find spy-gone-bad Murdo Meek. Along with her friends Trudy and Felix, Dawn delves into a riddle far more complicated than anyone here can see at first.

This book is set in London in the twenty-first century. Some of the book is spent in Kent, Dawn’s hometown, but more than half of it is set in Murdo Meek’s village, Cherry Bentley. Some other minor locations include an old abandoned castle, where Dawn and Felix find some incriminating evidence, and Bentley Pond, the scene of the climax.

What mainly motivates Dawn to do what she does is money. She grew up in a poor family. Her mom works all day everyday to provide for her, her dad, and her grandpa. S.H.H promised her a lot of money if she could uncover Murdo Meek, and Dawn wants her family to be able to make ends meet.

On a scale of one to ten, I would rate this story a 10 out of 10. It was well-written, and it had a lot of matter-of-fact humor that I loved. Also, the book contained a lot of puns and plays on words, which also fit in with the theme well.

-Vaidehi B.

End of Watch by Stephen King

Only a mind like Stephen King could catalyze such strange, thrilling storylines and concepts as those presented in his 2016 novel, the third and final installment of the Bill Hodges trilogy, End of Watch. I admit, I began reading the novel blindly with no background on the previous two installments of the series but was appeased by the fact that King was extremely articulate in giving background on the origins of the trilogy, which easily made End of Watch a more enjoyable and smooth read.

End of Watch features a diverse array of characters, centering on retired Detective Bill Hodges as he juggles monumental health issues and an even more monumental case: a large stretch of suicides sharing a single common link, a handheld video game console with a strangely hypnotic effect. Hodges and his makeshift team — his current and former partners, Holly Gibney and Pete Huntley, and his lawnboy-turned-friend, Jerome — follow the sinister paths taken by Brady Hartsfield, the culprit of the so-called “Mercedes Massacre” that King created for the first book of the trilogy, Mr. Mercedes.

Through pages of suspense and moment after moment of action and mystery from King’s wild imagination, to the saddening farewell of the final pages, End of Watch brings the classic Stephen King “stranded in the murk” feeling, leaving us wandering stone-blind and never knowing when the next plot twist or mind-bending connection will strike. The premise made for King’s legendary style without a hitch and makes us consider the possibilities before swiping to play a video game again.

Upon closing the final curtain and concluding my journey with the characters in the book, I was struck with two very different realizations: the frightening reality of suicide cases across the globe and the authentic ties between friendships. Every character had a unique interaction with each other, which only made the story even more realistic, and consequently, all the more chilling.

So be careful next time you play a new game of Fishin’ Hole — or read a Stephen King novel — you might find it hypnotizing.

—Keira D.

End of Watch by Stephen King is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

“Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!” With these ominous words begins one of the most celebrated murder mysteries of all time: The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Powerful and prosperous, the Baskervilles had always enjoyed a pleasant life, until a horrifying event results in Sir Charles Baskerville dying mysteriously, and his heir, Sir Henry, left to tend for land rumored to be haunted by an enormous, ferocious hound!!!

Naturally, such a extraordinary case can only be solved by an extraordinary detective, and one has to look no farther than Mr. Sherlock Holmes, the world’s only consulting detective. With his faithful companion Dr. Watson by his side, Holmes attempts to untangle the inexplicable circumstances surrounding the Baskerville household and the creepy Grimpen moor.

Packed full of horror, fear, and a touch of dark humor, The Hound of the Baskervilles is an intriguing novella that even the most mystery-averse readers will find irresistible. It has everything that makes a book timeless, with an unforgettable plot, fascinating characters, and a surprise ending that will startle even the most complacent of people.

Any and all fans of Sherlock Holmes, mysteries, crime, adventure, or all of the above should most definitely check out The Hound of the Baskervilles this summer – you will not regret it!

– Mahak M.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library