Review: The Reservoir by John Milliken Thompson

July 19, 2011 Historical Fiction, Mystery/Suspense, Other Press, Review 7


Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Other Press (June 21, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1590514440
Source: Publisher

One spring morning in 1885, the body of a young pregnant woman is found floating in Richmond’s city reservoir. At first glance, her death appears to be a suicide, but evidence points toward murder.

The young woman identified as Lillie, a young woman with a troubled family history.  The prime suspect in her murder is her own cousin, Tommie.

Tommie is a young lawyer, the source of pride for his family.  His brother, Willie, was his polar opposite.  A quiet farmer, he was initially the one who was courting Lillie. But Tommie & Lillie were drawn to one another, their love could not be stopped.

Despite the fact that Tommie took his love from him, and is now on trial for her murder, Willie remains by his side, doing whatever he can to make his brother’s time in prison comfortable.  This becomes more and more difficult as the evidence against his brother mounts.

The Reservoir is southern Gothic fiction at its finest; John Milliken Thompson does an outstanding job of portraying the society of Richmond post-Civil War. The setting, much as the scene of Lillie’s death, is dark, cold & dreary.

It’s more than just a murder mystery, adding compelling scenes of courtroom drama as well as psychological suspense to the mix.

Through the majority of the novel, the reader is left questioning Tommie’s guilt, or innocence.  Tommie’s own behavior doesn’t help the situation: one minute he’s proclaiming his innocence, the next he admits his guilt. It isn’t until the reader is able to remove the veil Tommie uses to shield himself from the world that they can truly see inside the mind of this seemingly perfect young man.

Thompson based The Reservoir on a true case in Richmond’s history, “T.J. Cluverius v. the Commonwealth.”  While Thompson added most of the pre-and post-courtroom drama, the actual court scenes are taken directly from the trial transcripts.  The fact that the author was able to add these details so seamlessly really indicates the talent in his writing.

The Reservoir is a book unlike any I have read in some time.  The mystery, the drama, and yes, even the love-triangle, held my attention from page one.  Fans of Southern Gothic or historical fiction will find a real winner in this one!  Highly recommended!

For more information on the author, and the story behind The Reservoir, be sure to check out his Web site.

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7 Responses to “Review: The Reservoir by John Milliken Thompson”

  1. Cassandra
    Twitter: CassandraNeace

    I’m reading this one right now, and I love it so far. I love good Southern stories. He’ll be here in Houston next week – can’t wait!

  2. Jennie

    I have this one to read but keep pushing it aside – I’m going to bump it up on my list a bit I think!