Review: “Trial by Journal” by Kate Klise

Lily Watson is only twelve years old when she is chosen to be a “juvenile juror” in a notorious murder trial in the state of Missouri.  In a series of informative journal entries addressed to her teacher as a school assignment, Lily keeps an accurate account of the trial, the jury’s sequestration, and her own investigation of the case.  Lily’s suspicions and deductive reasoning ultimately lead to a drastic change of events, making Trial by Journal a truly innovative novel featuring a fascinating cast of characters and a mystery reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes.

Two talented sisters were the creators of this unusual work of fiction, which is a combination of a journal and a scrapbook.  Kate Klise was the author with her singular writing style, while her sibling, M. Sarah Klise, was responsible for all illustrations and decorations.  Fictional newspaper clippings, stationery, notes, and drawings are presented side-by-side with Lily’s journal entries so that the mystery can unfold completely.  The heroine and her teacher, Mr. S. Holmes, are familiarly named after the two famous main characters created by Sir Doyle, only with an ingenious twist.

The rest of the characters have cleverly selected names that, when read or spoken, are “homonyms” of actual nouns or phrases.  Moreover, the noun or phrase corresponding to each character’s full name (the “homonym”) is a brilliant reflection on that character’s personality, career, etc.  An example of this is the name of the villain, “Rhett Tyle”; when read together, it is the “homonym” of the noun reptile.  Even though the story is written like a journal, the storyline maintains its excitement with intelligent suspense; the serious mood is lightened by Lily’s sense of humor and the sisters’ inventive setting.

Original review: Watson is the sleuth in ‘Trial by Journal’,


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