Tag Archives: Richmond

The Reservoir by John Milliken Thompson

14th June 2011

*You can preorder this book from Indiebound. Pub date is 06/21/11.

John Milliken Thompson’s The Reservoir sounds like a mystery: one cold morning in 1885, the body of Lillie Madison is found floating in the reservoir in Richmond, Virginia. The coroner is called. Evidence is gathered.

However, if you pass this book by because you don’t read mysteries, you’re doing yourself – and this book – a disservice. Similarly to In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, the murder of Lillie Madison is based on real-life events (though unlike In Cold Blood, it is fiction), and while the murder is part of the story, it isn’t the whole story.

Lillie is dead, yes, but she was also pregnant, which originally makes police believe her death was a suicide. However, when she is linked, intimately, with her cousin Tommie Cleverius, the police are confident they have Lillie’s killer, and the couple’s background is told in flashbacks.

Tommie Cleverius is a young, up-and-coming attorney. Engaged to a wealthy woman and painted by Thompson as an ambitious and sometimes dishonest man, he is as wily as his brother Willie is salt of the earth. Raised by an aunt, Tommie and Willie have wanted for nothing. Lillie has problems at home, and she, too, comes to live with her aunt. Both boys fall for Lillie, but she leaves for school and the competition dies down.

When Lillie moves to live and care for her uncle, Tommie visits her there, several times overnight. Tommie very well could be the father of her unborn child. Even though the only evidence is circumstantial at best, once the police latch onto the idea that Lillie was murdered, Tommie is swiftly arrested and tried, but everyone, including his own brother, wants to know: did Tommie kill Lillie?

With extensive research, Thompson crafts the tale of Lillie, her life, her lovers, her family, and finally, the circumstances of her death, leaving the reader to wonder alternately if Tommie was a narcissist ridding himself of a demanding lover and unwanted child or a mostly-innocent bystander, guilty only of loving and lusting after a woman.

Though the trial and ending ran a little long for me, The Reservoir was an absorbing read, and I’m curious which group you’ll fall into if you read it. Personally, I thought Tommie was guilty as charged. However, I don’t necessarily think there was enough evidence to convict him.

Has anyone seen this book and been intrigued? Courtroom dramas are also high on my list – anyone else out there enjoy the tension of a well-written courtroom scene?

jenn aka the picky girl

*Thanks to Other Press who allowed me to review an advance ebook copy through NetGalley.

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