I am asked frequently to recommend a book that may encourage young readers to try reading the kind of traditional mysteries we enjoy so much.
My favorite such mystery apparently is back in print. "The Westing Game," by Ellen Raskin, works on many levels as an introduction to complex, fairly-clued, puzzle-type mysteries. The book won the Newbery Medal for children's literature in 1979, and it is generally recommended for readers over the age of 9, though adults will enjoy it as well.
I wrote a fairly lengthy blog post nearly two years ago, laying out the story, and I invite you to visit that post for a more complete review and plot rundown. Basically, it's about a group of sixteen people, including four children, who are called to a mysterious old house to hear the reading of the last will of multi-millionaire Samuel Westing. According to that will, those sixteen are invited to follow a trail of clues in a kind of difficult and sometimes dangerous game to determine who killed Westing - for, again according to that will, he did not die a natural death. The one who succeeds will inherit the bulk of Westing's $200 million estate.
How they react, what each of them does - and how they find and handle the clues all of which are fairly given to the reader, all these things should fascinate the new mystery reader. Only one person in the book will follow the clues and interpret them correctly to reach the surprising conclusion. And - when all is revealed - the reader can look back at the clues and see how cleverly he or she was misdirected by the author. If you are trying to explain to a new mystery reader why, as experienced readers, we so love this kind of mystery puzzle- this book should make it very clear.
I am delighted to see that the book is available again in paperback as well as in electronic formats. I think it makes a great stocking stuffer for any young readers on your gift list - and I hope that they will become as fascinated as we are with this kind of mystery.