Chapters 1-3 Summary

On the Fourth of July, a sixty-two-year-old delivery boy distributes six letters to a group of hand-picked “tenants-to-be” at Sunset Towers, an empty, five-story, “glittery” apartment house on the shore of Lake Michigan. The letters are signed by Barney Northrup; in reality, there is no such person by that name.

The Wexlers are the first to respond to their invitation. Grace Wexler is enchanted by the floor-to-ceiling glass in the living room and the lush carpeting throughout. She looks forward to showing off the new apartment to her “so-called friends...with their classy houses.” Her unimpressed husband, Jake, says the third bedroom is the size of a closet, but Grace thinks it will do “just fine” for their younger daughter, Turtle.

The slick, buck-toothed salesman who masquerades as Barney Northrup manages to rent all the apartments in just one day. In addition to the Wexlers, the tenants include the Theodorakis and Hoo families, Flora Baumbach, Sydelle Pulaski, and Judge J. J. Ford. Dr. Wexler will have his office on the first floor, alongside a coffee shop run by the Theodorakises. Mr. James Shin Hoo will open a restaurant on the fifth floor.

In early September, the residents of Sunset Towers move in. A few weeks later, on Halloween, Otis Amber, the sixty-two-year-old delivery boy, meets a group that includes two high school seniors, Theo Theodorakis, Doug Hoo, and the apartment doorman, Sandy McSouthers. He points out that smoke is coming from the chimney of the nearby, supposedly unoccupied Westing mansion. Sam Westing, who owns the mansion, the apartment building, and the town’s paper mill, has not been seen for years, and rumor has it that his dead body is rotting away in the old house. Sandy feels bitter about having been fired from his job at the mill and says this “serves [Westing] right.” As the group standing on the driveway discusses the situation, junior-high student Turtle Wexler comes riding up on her bike. Turtle is known...

(The entire section is 816 words.)