Young Detectives: R is for . . . Restoration?
Believe it or not, it has been over two years since the last Young Detectives post. How am I so pathetic? =P
I actually found my "D" book immediately after publishing C is for Clements and started reading it soon after that. But it just didn't inspire me to blog, and the last time I tried working on my draft was January of this year. I gave up then, figuring that the Young Detectives project was a cold case that I'd never crack. O me of little faith . . .
Last week, I finished rereading an "R" book I had promised some friends I'd discuss with them, and realised that although it threw off the project's alphabetical order, it would possibly make a good post. Which is more than I've had in a while.
(Besides you were probably wondering what it feels like
to have me look down my nose at you,
and I thought I'd oblige . . .)
Dear Ellen Raskin,
Did anyone ever tell you that The Westing Game has too many characters? If so, send the whiners to me and I'll deal with them for you! If anything, your book has too few. It did take me a while to see what you were doing, but as soon as I got it, I was floored.
Pretty much everyone I know who has read this novel has said that keeping track of the characters was well-nigh impossible. I wonder if the first person to think that was you. I mean, having sixteen detectives, even working in pairs, is bound to be confusing. Heck, the characters all live or work in the same building and even they can barely keep track of each other!
It would have helped if you had revealed the identity of your "official" Young Detective early on: the protagonist doubles as pole star, after all, and lets us orient ourselves with the clues he or she has gathered. But you chose not to reveal, until the last possible moment, who the winner of The Westing Game would be--not because you were being indulgent or wanting to confuse us, but because you had a really great point.
Make that two really great points. I don't know how I failed to see, until this rereading, that you wanted your cast to be a microcosm of the United States. "Uncle Sam" Westing wasn't just bringing together random people who happened to have personal connections to him; he was also bringing together people who would never be neighbours anywhere in the world but America: people named Amber, Baumbach, Crow, Ford, Hoo, Pulaski, McSouthers, Theodorakis, and Wexler. In this light, we see a moral and not just a handy hint in Sam Westing's cryptic clue about how to win the game: It's not what you have, it's what you don't have that counts.
This was also the reason you didn't want us to be totally dependent on any detective, young or otherwise, to gather the clues for us. You wanted us to work for them, too, if only by writing notes on the characters, the way two of them started creating dossiers on the others. Granted, it's an extra load of work for those who just want to relax with a book--and who don't have the promise of a $200 million prize for solving the puzzle ahead of everyone else--but it's all part of the game's design, isn't it?
And that's the other thing it took me ages to notice: the second really great point about your Mystery novel. The "official" Young Detective isn't actually one of the characters, is it? It is the reader. Thanks for letting me play the Westing Game along with them!
With this, I guess we can consider the Young Detectives project officially restored. =) I just have no idea which letter of the alphabet I'll be featuring next. Come back in two years and we'll find out together. LOL!