Janet Sumner Johnson
About Author Visits Blog Books Events Contact Press Kit

The Winterton Deception 1: Final Word

Pixel + InkISBN: 978-1645951964October 2023

In this twisty middle grade mystery for fans of Knives Out, The Inheritance Game, and The Westing Game, thirteen-year-old twins Hope and Gordon enter a spelling bee in a last-ditch effort to save their family from financial ruin, only to find themselves in a cut-throat competition to uncover a fortune and dark secrets about the wealthy relations they’ve never known.

Hope Smith can’t stand rich people—the dictionary magnate family the Wintertons most of all. Not since she and her twin brother, Gordon, learned that their dad was one. So when Gordon enters the family into the Winterton’s charity spelling bee, Hope wants nothing to do with it. But with their mom losing her job and the family facing eviction from the motel where they live, they desperately need the money, and it looks like Hope doesn’t have much of a choice.

After winning the preliminary round, the Smiths are whisked to Winterton Chalet to compete in the official Winterton Bee against their long-lost relatives. Hope wants to get in and out, beat the snobbish family at their own game, and never see them again. But deceased matriarch Jane Winterton had other plans for this final family showdown. Before her death, she set up a clue hunt throughout the manor—an alternate way for Hope and Gordon to get the money that could change their lives.

Still, others are on the trail, too. With tensions at an all-time high, a fortune at stake, and long-simmering family secrets about to boil to the surface, anything could happen.

A tense, clever clue hunt unafraid to tackle the challenges and secrets often kept behind closed doors, Final Word is a gripping series starter sure to satisfy even the most voracious armchair detectives.

A Kirkus Reviews’ Best Middle Grade Book of the Year
A Whitney Award Finalist

Buy Now:

Activities & Extras


Read an excerpt HERE.

Listen to the author read the prologue HERE.


Pine Reads Review: Author Interview (October 2023)

Book Q&A with Deborah Kalb (October 2023)

Praise for The Winterton Deception 1: Final Word

★ “A pleasing smash-up of middle-grade mysteries with several meaty loose ends and a surprising final reveal, the true mystery here is how you’ll appease readers while they await the sequel.” Booklist, Starred Review

★ “[O]vertones of Agatha Christie. . . . Intelligent, intricately plotted, and ultimately moving.” Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

★ “In this nuanced first-person narrative, clever riddles, high-stakes competition, and fraught family drama keep the pages turning, while keenly rendered characters . . . discover the value of kindness, the harm of preconceived notions, and the folly of equating wealth with happiness.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“The enticing combination of spelling bee drama, treasure hunt puzzles, family secrets, and a stunning final twist will keep readers enthralled.” School Library Journal

“I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough—The Winterton Deception had me hooked!” —Jennifer A. Nielsen, #1 New York Times bestselling author


More in

The Winterton Deception 2: Fault Lines

View all books