FICTION

The Winterton Deception: Final Word

Pixel+Ink. Oct. 2023. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781645951964.
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Gr 5-8–A storied spelling bee meets Knives Out for the middle grade set in this twisty puzzle mystery. Thirteen-year-old twins Hope and Gordon live in a motel room with their single mom, on the brink of eviction. Since discovering that their deceased father was Brandon Winterton, son of uber-wealthy dictionary magnate Jane Winterton, Hope and Gordon have been divided. Gordon longs to connect with the Winterton clan, who don’t know they exist, but Hope’s mistreatment at the hands of private school classmates makes her suspicious of all rich people. Cue the annual Winterton Spelling Bee, into which Gordon secretly enters the family for a chance to win $500,000. The competition is held in private at the sprawling Winterton Chalet, against the wishes of the disinherited Winterton family members. No sooner has the bee started than mysterious letters appear, guiding the participants on a separate treasure hunt that also unravels the circumstances of Brandon’s death. The first installment in a presumed series will engage readers with its compelling premise, high stakes, and atmospheric setting, despite an overly large cast of secondary characters and occasional plot elements that feel out of place in a middle grade book (e.g., the missing treasure is a Jane Austen manuscript). Hope’s grudging journey to accept and trust her newfound extended family rings true, and the enticing combination of spelling bee drama, treasure hunt puzzles, family secrets, and a stunning final twist will keep readers enthralled. Most characters are cued white.
VERDICT A recommended purchase and strong The Westing Game read-alike.

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