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The Reservoir

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On an early spring morning in Richmond, Virginia, in the year 1885, a young pregnant woman is found floating in the city reservoir. It appears that she has committed suicide, but there are curious clues at the scene that suggest foul play. The case attracts local attention, and an eccentric group of men collaborate to solve the crime. Detective Jack Wren lurks in the shadows, weaseling his way into the investigation and intimidating witnesses. Policeman Daniel Cincinnatus Richardson, on the brink of retirement, catches the case and relentlessly pursues it to its sorrowful conclusion. As the identity of the girl, Lillie, is revealed, her dark family history comes to light, and the investigation focuses on her tumultuous affair with Tommie Cluverius.
   Tommie, an ambitious young lawyer, is the pride and joy of his family and the polar opposite of his brother Willie, a quiet, humble farmer. Though both men loved Lillie, it’s Tommie’s reckless affair that thrusts his family into the spotlight. With Lillie dead, Willie must decide how far to trust Tommie, and whether he ever understood him at all. Told through accumulating revelations, Tommie’s story finally ends in a riveting courtroom
climax.
   Based on a true story, The Reservoir centers on a guilty and passionate love triangle composed of two very different brothers and one young, naive girl hiding an unspeakable secret. A novel of lust, betrayal, justice, and revenge, The Reservoir ultimately probes the question of whether we can really know the hearts and minds of others, even of those closest to us.

368 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

John Milliken Thompson

3 books20 followers
John Milliken Thompson is the author of America’s Historic Trails and Wildlands of the Upper South, and coauthor of The National Geographic Almanac of American History. His articles have appeared in Smithsonian, Washington Post, Islands,and other publications, and his short stories have been published in Louisiana Literature, South Dakota Review, and many other literary journals. He has lived in the South all his life. The Reservoir is his first novel.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 201 reviews
Profile Image for Lou.
879 reviews852 followers
August 3, 2011
There is is a noose waiting, waiting to tighten on a neck. That neck better be the killer of one stirred heart of a girl an expectant mother.
Stirred hearts, love and friendship. Many hearts wavered by one rather beautiful empty Heart, a web of family intrigue.
Justice is the key, the good should rise above the evil ideally as the common rule.
This story is one to be talked about for many years to come one I hold it highly up there with the greats of Human struggle, greats like 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' I think you feel the essence of what kind of story we are dealing with here soak it up and savor this delightful poignant true story presented in an exemplary fashion of storytelling of the joys and the losses in life. The bliss of youth and friendship and the grimness and loneliness of the loss of love and life.


Excerpts

"The contrast between the two girls seemed to give him a window into the nature of his soul; he thought he must be in love with Lillie, but it disturbed him that the way he felt about her was passionate and physical, almost violent in its ability to take over his entire body and mind. It would be so much more pleasant if he were in love with Nola."



" You couldn’t just Walk into a saloon on Main Street in the middle of the day, and into house of bad repute at night. People had morals then. Now it’s

just sin everywhere you go. People smoking, spitting, gambling, cussing. Nossir, in my day, people didn’t act thataway. They behaved theirselves, and people got along just fine, even if they didn’t like each other.”



"Reservoir’s the end of the line. I been twenty years driving this route, ever since the war ended, and Reservoir’s always been the end of the line.”



"is beauty all around. When you're out there trying to make your mark on the world, don't ever forget how beautiful it already is."




Visit my web blog for Video of author taking you behind the true story.

http://more2read.com/?review=the-reservo...





Once you finish the story visit the authors website here http://johnmillikenthompson.com/resources/spoilers1 for some images of real letters sent.
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,879 followers
May 14, 2011
We'll never know if the real Tommie Cluverius killed his cousin Lillie. Available records make convincing arguments for both guilt and innocence. John Milliken Thompson has taken the bare bones of a real case from 1885 and filled in the meat of the story using his imagination and thorough research.

The body of a pregnant girl is found floating in a reservoir in Richmond, Virginia. The immediate assumption is suicide by a girl in trouble. But when the girl is identified as Lillian Madison, people come forward with information leading to the arrest of Lillian's cousin Tommie Cluverius on suspicion of murder.

Tommie is a 23-year-old lawyer with a bright future. He's likeable, if a bit of a rogue, two-timing the girls who love him and making regular brothel visits. The case against him seems weak at first, and his Aunt Jane and brother Willie believe firmly in his innocence. But Tommie seems to be the only suspect in Lillian's death, and the evidence mounts.

The author weaves together the present and the past, bringing in Lillie and Tommie's shared history since childhood. He shows how that history might have given Tommie a motive for murder.
You'll change your mind several times throughout the story. Sometimes you'll be absolutely certain Tommie did it. Then you'll be equally sure he didn't, and you'll wonder when the real culprit will surface. Still other times, you'll be convinced that Lillie really did commit suicide, or maybe it was even an accident. We'll never know for sure, but Thompson brings the story to a convincing conclusion. Convincing enough that it made me cry, because guilty or not, Tommie's really still just a boy, and he's so fearful of the unknown. His brother Willie's unwavering loyalty is especially touching.

This is a well-written, carefully researched novel, full of the period detail we historical fiction fans love to savor. Post-Civil War Richmond, Virginia and its environs really come alive with the sights, sounds, and sentiments of the era. The pace is a little slower and the prose more literary than the average contemporary mystery, but that extra attention is what makes it so rich and satisfying. I recommend it for history buffs and those who love literary mysteries.

Profile Image for Carol.
822 reviews477 followers
April 19, 2011
Recently I attended The BooksontheNightstand Reading Retreat in Manchester, Vermont where I had the opportunity to meet and listen to author John Milliken Thompson talk about his forthcoming book, The Reservoir. If I hadn't heard John speak, The Reservoir might not have made it into my hands nor onto to our book shelves. What's the word? fate, serendipity, what ever you call it...I'm pleased I had the opportunity to read this excellent novel.

The Reservoir is being pitched as a mystery and that it may be but I'm fearful by calling it this, it will not make it's way to other readers who might think it less than it is. The Reservoir does center around a murder and a trial and we, the reader, must put on our caps and use our critical thinking skills to deduce the who, what, and why. What shines in Thompson's story is his skill in telling the tale. From it's spark of an idea taken from an actual court case , Cluverius v. Commonwealth and a paragraph in a book on Richmond, Virginia history, Thompson is able to fill in the gaps and construct the scenes into a believable rendering of the course of these events. Thompson is a master at setting, character, plot and voice. His descriptive passages were breath catching, powerful and evocative of time and place. His use of language is a vivid portrait of what words can do in skilled hands.

I loved this book and hated to see it end. I loved how it got me thinking about the morals and mores of a time and place I know little about. I loved this story with its love triangle and its minute examination of a brother's loyalty. I loved each character, their strengths and flaws, and I loved the slow, tense filled journey from the beginning to the end.

If most good writers can only write a book in one to tow years, my only wonder then, is when I might expect another from John Milliken Thompson.

ARC provided by editor, Katie Henderson, on sale 6/21/2011

Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,394 followers
July 12, 2011
The Reservoir is a debut novel and mystery drawn from a true story that was the sensation of 1885 in Richmond, VA. A young, unmarried, pregnant woman is drowned in the city reservoir, presumably by her paramour: a young lawyer on his way up who also happens to be her cousin. Newspaper records of the time whipped up a frenzied appreciation of the scandal among townspeople, who flocked to attend the trial. The accused was gifted in many ways…he could write well and spoke with conviction; he kept his head under crushing pressures; he was not unpleasant to look upon, and dressed soberly but well. He was an ideal defendant in many ways. This novel is what might have been the backstory to the trial, richly imagined by a man 125 years later. Court documents and evidence of the trial are still available: letters, photographs, a watch key.

Just as townspeople were riveted a century ago, we read the story of this ill-begotten romance, not knowing if the defendant should be accused of murder. The length of the trial and the sensationalism of the evidence kept it in the news for some time, and the author does a good job of revealing outcomes slowly, just as if we are hearing the outcome anew. We are as unsure what burdened the hearts of the victim and her cousin. Some readers have pointed out that the courts have changed so much that it doesn’t seem possible we are talking about the same legal system. While I cannot speak to this, I can say that the death penalty was still in vogue, and I could hardly wait to hear what the defendant would reveal in his own defense…and sucked in my breath when yet another piece of crucial evidence succumbed to flames by well-meaning relatives. It was hard to remember this is fiction, until we realize once again that it was not.

So what was fiction and what was fact? A reader will be able to discern the outlines of the case easily and can spend hours ruminating over what was known, by whom, and when. It is a story that stays with one, and is a cautionary tale as well. What comes across loud and clear is that the family of the defendant was also victim to the crime, for it was badly torn by the allegations. I can’t help but think this would make a marvelous film. All the material could be portrayed through edited scenes and pictures and would be a great vehicle for actors able to confuse us viewers as jurors. The ending is unknowable until the very end. Kudos go to the author, John Milliken Thompson, for recognizing a story when he saw it.
Profile Image for Lou.
879 reviews852 followers
July 31, 2011
There is is a noose waiting, waiting to tighten on a neck. That neck better be the killer of one stirred heart of a girl an expectant mother.

Stirred hearts, love and friendship.

Many hearts wavered by one rather beautiful empty Heart, a web of family intrigue.

Justice is the key, the good should rise above the evil ideally as the common rule.

This story is one to be talked about for many years to come one I hold it highly up there with the greats of Human struggle, greats like 'To Kill a Mockingbird.'

I think you feel the essence of what kind of story we are dealing with here soak it up and savor this delightful poignant true story presented in an exemplary fashion of storytelling of the joys and the losses in life.

The bliss of youth and friendship and the grimness and loneliness of the loss of love and life.

Excerpts

"The contrast between the two girls seemed to give him a window into the nature of his soul; he thought he must be in love with Lillie, but it disturbed him that the way he felt about her was passionate and physical, almost violent in its ability to take over his entire body and mind. It would be so much more pleasant if he were in love with Nola."



" You couldn’t just Walk into a saloon on Main Street in the middle of the day, and into house of bad repute at night. People had morals then. Now it’s

just sin everywhere you go. People smoking, spitting, gambling, cussing. Nossir, in my day, people didn’t act thataway. They behaved theirselves, and people got along just fine, even if they didn’t like each other.”



"Reservoir’s the end of the line. I been twenty years driving this route, ever since the war ended, and Reservoir’s always been the end of the line.”



"is beauty all around. When you're out there trying to make your mark on the world, don't ever forget how beautiful it already is."




Visit my web blog for Video of author taking you behind the true story.

http://more2read.com/?review=the-reservo...





Once you finish the story visit the authors website here http://johnmillikenthompson.com/resources/spoilers1 for some images of real letters sent.
Profile Image for Erin Forson.
506 reviews4 followers
December 12, 2011
The Reservoir
John N. Thompson
Released June 21, 2011
The Story Line
Lillian Madison, a young, beautiful, unwed, and pregnant woman is found dead and floating in the reservoir. From the opening pages of the novel, the reader witnesses Thomas Cluverius stealing away from the scene of Lillian’s death, and thus begins the drama. At first, the reader may think they are to embark on a journey into the mind of a killer. Not so. Instead, this post-civil war drama is set mostly in the jailhouse and the courtroom where Thomas is held and tried for Lillian’s murder. Cluverius is tight-lipped throughout; even his attorneys fail to persuade Thomas to share every detail of his involvement in this case. Is he guilty of Lillian’s murder or just an innocent bystander? Perhaps he is neither.
Critique
The setting of the story is true to post-civil war Virginia and gives a wonderful flavor of the period; yet for the non-historical book lover the descriptions may come off as old-fashioned or dry. The dialect is a bit over-done in parts of the novel; a flavor of the accents of the characters would be much better than each line being peppered with oddly spelled words meant to represent the sounds altered words. Sometimes the narrator jumps from inside the mind of one character to the mind of another with very little transition which is jarring—the reader thinks they are listening to the thoughts of Tommie, when in fact they are actually listening to his brother, Willie’s thoughts. Lastly, the narrator sometimes jumps in and tells about an event, rather than showing the action more naturally through the eyes of a character.
This book left me feeling:
Bored (see above)
The Author
Thompson is a first-time novelist with a background in history. In fact, most of his previous writing has been non-fiction and has appeared in many well-respected publications like Smithsonian and National Geographic Traveler. This book is loosely based on an actual court case that took place in Richmond, Virginia shortly after The American Civil War.
Profile Image for Marie desJardins.
316 reviews
October 1, 2012
I really did not like this book. I didn't particularly enjoy it as I was reading it, but I stuck it out because I wanted to know what had really happened and why Tommie didn't want to talk about it. The main character is genuinely unlikeable -- he treats Lillie poorly, can't make up his mind what to do, doesn't have any particular goal in life, just generally isn't a very nice person. So who cares if he is convicted or not?

The writing is OK but a bit meandering and there are a lot of side trails and anecdotes that don't seem to build any character development or lend any insight into the events or people in the story. I found myself just sort of getting through it to see what happened, and then I was disappointed by that too. Life is too short to read books that don't live up to their promise.
Profile Image for Mary Ronan Drew.
872 reviews99 followers
July 16, 2011
I no longer remember where I heard about this novel or what it was that made me want to read it. In any case, I requested it from the library and today I sat down to give it the Nancy Pearl treatment, reading the first 35 pages or so and expecting to then make a note in my database as to why I didn’t want to bother reading the whole book.

But it caught me. The story is based on the death of a young woman in Richmond, Virginia, in 1885. The author has researched the case in newspapers and other material at the Virginia Library and fleshed out the various characters. He has the trial transcript and made the most of the more than 75 witnesses the prosecution called, some of them very colorful characters, some of them so obviously lying through whatever of their teeth remained in those days of hit or miss dentistry.

The body of a young woman is found floating in the city reservoir and it is discovered that she suffered a blow to her head, probably before she went into the water, but possibly after. She was pregnant and unmarried. Could this have been suicide? Her cousin was arrested and tried for first degree murder and . . .

It wouldn’t be fair to tell you any more except to say that this is a fascinating take on the lives of young southerners who were children during the Civil War and who were making their way in the New South of Reconstruction when the city of Richmond was a boom town and there was money to made if you were willing to work hard.

2011 No 106
Profile Image for Paul.
122 reviews6 followers
May 13, 2011
The body of a young pregnant woman is found floating in a reservoir in 1885 Richmond, Virginia. At first thought to be a suicide, the local police along with the coroner soon decide that this case did involve murder. Soon, a young man is charged and the action proceeds from this decision through a courtroom trial. Hmmm . . . a typical courtroom procedural, you say? Well, no. The thrust of this novelized version of an actual case is really to portray the country (and especially the South) twenty years after the completion of the Civil War. The novel encapsulates various aspects of the culture of the country – racial prejudice, importance of family bonds, sexual promiscuity, educational opportunities (or lack thereof), rich vs. poor, etc. It also throws a light on the process of bringing a suspect to trial for such a serious crime while lacking the protections that we have today (which are often taken for granted) – DNA testing, rules against self-incrimination, inability to receive important information in a timely manner, fingerprinting, access to troves of information via computer, etc.

Nicely written and researched by author Thompson, this first novel kept me reading and thinking – and most of all wondering.

Grade: A-
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,668 followers
October 28, 2011
"On March 14, 1885, a body is floating in the old Marshall Reservoir, in a light snow, and then under a waxing moon." From its opening sentence, The Reservoir draws in the reader with harsh details rendered in shapely language. This is historical fiction at its entertaining, dramatic, and authentic best.

Historian and short story writer John Milliken Thompson read a paragraph in a history of Richmond, VA that sparked his curiosity. His research took him deep into 1880's Virginia, into the death of a single, pregnant woman and the sensational trial of a promising young lawyer. He emerged with a classical Greek tragedy that is rich with period detail and crime noir suspense. It's all here: passion and lust, brotherly love and rivalry, trust and betrayal, tenderness and violence. But murder? You be the judge...

This is not a page-burner. The suspense builds slowly, as the story winds back and forth in time and the details of the dead woman's final days, as well as her childhood, are reconstructed. It's like sipping a few fingers of small batch bourbon, not tossing back a belt of Wild Turkey. You'll want to savor the nuance and the smoldering tension as the characters' true natures emerge and you piece together the clues. Milliken Thompson does a masterful job of giving his characters multiple dimensions. No one wears shining armor or angel's wings, but neither is anyone completely black of heart. Well, almost no one...

I was also impressed by the way the author shows the South struggling to adapt in this generation after the Civil War. The societal contrasts are striking: Slavery may be abolished but racial oppression is deeply rooted; cities are rapidly modernizing, but the South is still an agrarian region; most women have little say in their social or economic futures, but some are finding their way into higher education and white collar employment.

The latter third of the book is a gripping courtroom drama that will have you racing to the end. What you discover in the final pages may not be at all what you'd expected. It is not an easy ending, but it is perfectly executed. What you can be certain of is a brilliantly written drama that brings immediate life to a long-ago tragedy.
Profile Image for Blair.
1,084 reviews
February 7, 2012
I was really excited about this book (setting in Richmond, mystery based on fact) and the first 1/4 of it seemed to live up to my mind's hype. There was just something lacking in it - character development maybe? You would read a page and feel like you knew who you were reading about and then the next page would throw you off. It was slow-moving, not a whole lot happened and I was left feeling unsettled and like I'd only read half a story. Maybe that was the author's intention, I don't know. It was a decent book to read on a lazy/sick Sunday afternoon, but it wasn't something I'd recommend to anyone or keep on my shelf to read again.
Profile Image for Tj.
19 reviews12 followers
June 24, 2011
*Review first appeared at Skull Salad Reviews*

John Milliken Thompson’s debut historical mystery novel, The Reservoir (Other Press, 2011), starts off very promising. We are introduced to a pair of workers at a reservoir who find the body of a young pregnant woman floating lifeless in the water. This is a great set-up for a moody, atmospheric story. We have one character – one of the workers who found the body – fall into infatuation with this young lifeless woman. He takes some items from her that come back as evidence later in the novel. Too bad we never really come back to this character. He was fascinating. This reservoir worker is one of many minor characters in the novel. Unfortunately for the novel, there are many secondary characters within the text that tend to be more interesting than the main protagonist.




Based on the synopsis and cover, I was expecting a tale of lust and mystery. I was expecting a moody historical piece of southern literature, perhaps something along the lines of Faulkner’s Sanctuary. Thompson, a historian, does a great job recreating Richmond, Virginia, circa 1885. He also did a great job researching his story – the book is based on an actual case – and filling in some blanks where the historical documents left off. What I did not expect from this novel was a courtroom drama. I tend to not like courtroom dramas as fiction, to be honest. I read many, many of them as a young man (everything from the Grisham books to To Kill A Mockingbird), became a little burned out on them, and a novel set in a courtroom is going to have to be extremely compelling and have some measure of novelty to keep me involved. In fact, I would rather read true-life transcripts such as those coming out of the current Casey Anthony Trial than another court case in novel form. In fact, the Anthony case, in a way I won’t go into because of possible spoilers, parallels this case nicely. Unfortunately, for me, the court case was the centerpiece of the novel, and I felt it dragged on. I just could not get into that section of the book, and it was a very long section.




Where this novel worked best was in the flashbacks, in the descriptions of minor characters, and in the recreation of a time now long gone. The author deftly handles matters of real-world theology. Once the narration moves past the courtroom drama, the novel became extremely interesting once again. This last act of the novel is a wonderful examination of truth, religion, and resignation. I finally kind of cared about the main protagonist.




The Reservoir is a good, but not great, debut novel. The beginning and ending were well done, the historical details are engrossing, but the middle section of the text was kind of a slog. I see promise for Thompson and would pick up another book by him. There’s ample evidence of a good writer here. I just hope in the future, he dwells on his strengths as a writer (characterization, descriptions) and learns how to make the more interesting characters the primary focus of his stories instead of relegating them to the background. I find myself wondering what this novel might have looked like if written from the perspective of the reservoir worker who was the focus of the first section of the novel, the one who falls in love with the corpse? I believe his would have been an interesting world view to filter this unfolding story through.




My six-pack rating: 3 out of 6 Legend Brown Ales





*Legal Notification: Free electronic copy received from publisher via NetGalley.com.
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,988 reviews231 followers
Read
July 27, 2011
The Reservoir is one of those fascinating true-life mysteries that is fleshed out through fiction. A woman named Lillian was truly found dead in a reservoir in Richmond, Virigina and Tommie Cluverius did stand trial for her murder. Yet, the truth is stranger than fiction, as Mr. Thompson shares with his readers through this intriguing look at 1885 Richmond and a city that was struggling to recover its dignity after the end of the Civil War.

The key to the success behind The Reservoir is the meticulous research that oozes from every page. The reader has no problems picturing the town through which Tommie and Lillian ultimately meet their fates or the various scenes of society life portrayed. The glorification of the dead Confederacy and romanticising of its heroes plays a role in each of the character's backgrounds and in the characters that have the most impact upon them; while Mr. Thompson could have made a mockery of a society that is stuck in the glory days, he handles this tricky scenario with delicacy and feeling. In addition, the truth behind the murder remains as murky at the ending of the novel as at the beginning. While this could be construed as frustrating to some, it is a testament to the messiness of life and the difficulties behind discerning the truth from lies. Like real life, The Reservoir has no clear-cut answers or definitive solutions to a problem. The authenticity of the times and of life in general helps to create a strong narrative.

Unfortunately, where The Reservoir struggles is with its characters. The narration flips back and forth between points of view as well as past and present. This keeps the reader from sympathizing too much with any one character, or even from forming a connection with one or the other. Instead, the reader stays impartial, and therefore unengaged, in Lillian's emotional outbursts or Tommie's conniving ways. Mr. Thompson does not attempt to hide the flaws in his characters, but this also detracts from the narration because the reader cannot discern the truth from the fiction, even when one character is telling his or her side of the story. Since the reader does not truly care about the characters, it is difficult to feel the tension behind the proceedings, thereby minimizing the suspense or even interest.

The pacing is another weak point with The Reservoir . The switching between narrators and time periods is uneven and somewhat jarring in spots. The story itself speeds up and slows down at an unsteady pace. The reader will be struggling to get through a section, will all but speed-read through another, only to get bogged down again into another slow and somewhat boring section. There is no rhyme or reason for this unevenness, as it occurs with all narrators, in the past as well as in the present. In a mystery, this is a fundamental flaw.

The Reservoir is not a novel for those who like their stories tied up with tidy endings. It is for those who appreciate the darker, more complicated mysteries, as well as those who can appreciate the depth of research required to take the skeleton of a story idea and flesh it out to create a fully-realized hypothesis of an event that occurred over 100 years ago.

Thank you to Other Press and Nicole from Linus's Blanket for my reading copy!
Profile Image for Barb.
1,157 reviews126 followers
May 13, 2011
This is a bit of a twist on the murder mystery. The first chapter opens on a pregnant Lillie Walker's dead body floating in the reservoir, then a few pages later we are taken back to the previous evening. Tommie Culverius is looking down on her in the water trying to puzzle out what to do with her hat and gloves.

I thought I knew what happened, it seemed obvious, but then John Milliken Thompson made the straight-forward a bit more complicated and gave Tommie Culverius a voice to tell the reader exactly what happened when he and Lillie went to the reservoir.

There were several things that made this story compelling, the first being the relationships between Tommie, Lillie and Tommie's older brother, Willie. Even while I thought I knew what happened to Lillie I still wanted to know why? What happened between Tommie and Lillie that resulted in her dead body being dragged from the reservoir? What were their true feelings for each other? Were Tommie and Willie both guilty of Lillie's death? Once Tommie was taken into questioning the story took on another level of suspense and uncertainty and the question became, not only was he guilty but would he be found guilty? Then other questions followed, Would he be sentenced to death? What if he was innocent? Was there evidence out there or an eye witness who could exonerate him? All of those questions kept me reading, as did my concern for these characters, even more so because they were based on real people.

I want to quote a favorite passage from the book, forgive me if it's overly long.
(Charles was Tommie and Willie's brother who drowned when they were young.)

"On another dreamy afternoon by the river, a somnolent breeze to cool them, Willie was fanning Nola with her folding Chinese fan, its mythical river and green mountains swishing up and down, up and down. Tommie was toying with Lillie's tight sausage curls, and nobody cared because they were under the spell of "Lycidas" from Nola's reading: "He must not float upon his watery bier unwept." Then somebody brought up Charles, and Tommie told how he imagined him going under - drawn to his own image on the dark surface of the water. He talked as they sat by the river, and it was easy, Tommie felt, for in that moment they were all in love. With each other? With life? It didn't matter. They were so young and ripe and filled with passion they could bring the dead into their sacred unity. It was as though they were drunk without drinking anything stronger than lemonade."

Thompson did an excellent job of creating likeable and realistic characters with believable relationships and realistic dialog. For me this achievement is one of the most important measures of a successful novel and in that, as well as the quality of the writing, I give him high marks.
Profile Image for Caitlin.
385 reviews12 followers
August 30, 2011
[Note: I'd give this one 3.5 stars if I could.] The Reservoir took me a while to read...I found the beginning very slow. But overall, I wound up enjoying the story as a detailed and intriguing blend of historical fiction, crime, and courtroom drama. In Richmond, Virginia in the year 1885, a young pregnant woman is discovered floating in the city reservoir one morning. Investigators soon uncover the woman, Lillie's, past, including her stormy affair with Tommie Cluverius, who becomes the primary suspect. Tommie is put on trial, and the case of Cluverius v. Commonwealth plays out through most of the novel.

At first, I did not think I was going to like this one. Though the book opens with the discovery of a murder scene, the beginning chapters felt stilted and uneven. But as soon as the author delves into Tommie's and Lillie's backstories, it became much more of an interesting character study. I thought the author did a wonderful job of blending the true story of the trial with fictional backgrounds and happenings for all the primary characters. These imagined flashbacks explaining Tommie's past and his relationship with Lillie are some of the better-written and more interesting parts of the book. The play-by-play of the trial against Tommie is very well done, and author Thompson really does a nice job merging facts with imagination in these scenes. As a history buff, I was slightly disappointed that there was not more description of the setting (post-Civil War Virginia). And the last 50 pages (after the verdict) or so seemed to drag on endlessly. I would recommend this book to fans of crime and courtroom mysteries, and to readers who enjoy historical fiction firmly based in facts. Worth the read if you fall into either of those categories!
Profile Image for Amy.
1,569 reviews132 followers
September 25, 2011
The Reservoir is a historical novel that is built around a true story that took place in Richmond, Virginia in 1885. It is obvious that the author has done exhaustive research into the original case and into Richmond, VA in 1885. He brings both alive in vivid detail! Goodreads describes this book as "a novel of lust, betrayal, justice, and revenge, The Reservoir ultimately probes the question of whether we can really know the hearts and minds of others, even of those closest to us." This is a really good description of the novel as a whole ... law, lust and deception are at the center of the story.

My feelings about this novel are a bit jumbled. I enjoyed it. I felt it was a good, solid read. But, it didn't capture my imagination in the way that I'd hoped. It was good but not great. Perhaps this is partly because the novel is loaded with ambiguity. by the way, if you’re looking for a mystery with solid resolution, then this book is not for you. You are not given answers, you are left with a lot of ways to look at the situations in the novel.

The writing is superb. John Milliken Thompson puts words together in ways that I found enchanting. I loved how the book felt like a mix of historical fiction and psychological thriller.

Given all of the things that I liked about this book, I haven't been able to pinpoint what it is that didn't take it from a good novel to a great one. I can't seem to put my finger on why it didn't completely wow me.

I definitely recommend this novel if you love well written historical fiction. And if Richmond, VA is a city that you care about at all, this is an excellent way to see the Richmond of 1855 come alive!
Profile Image for Chris.
557 reviews
September 13, 2011
Fingers crossed that GR doesn't crash again as I'm writing this review!

First off, thank you to Katie Henderson of Other Press for handing me an uncorrected proof of this book at the BOTNS retreat. (She heard me whisper during Thompson’s talk that the book sounded really good!) And it was. Thompson is a gifted Southern writer and old fashioned, too. Slowly and methodically, he wove a story of guilt and innocence of a young attorney and left the reader wondering.

But this reader wasn’t buying Tommie’s story! I thought from the first pages that he was guilty despite his innocent pleas, and although I wavered just once, I believed he was trying to dupe everyone around him, including his loving family. I felt so badly for Willie and Jane, who did everything in their power to bring justice to Tommie, who I thought told them whatever they wanted to hear to get out of jail, including his “confession.” But then, maybe I was the one who was duped!

I rarely read uncorrected proofs, but as an editor and writer, I find grammatical and spelling errors more and more frequently in actual published books. In this uncorrected proof, I found none! Yay!

I’m sure I’ve said this in other reviews before, but for me, writing has to be head and shoulders above a story in order for me to go forward. While this was slow in parts, Thompson had both, great writing and a compelling tale. I can’t wait to see what else he has in store for us!
Profile Image for Sara.
555 reviews15 followers
January 29, 2011
I was able to get this book through netgalley. Based on a true story.

One early Spring morning in Richmond, VA, in the year of 1885, a body of a young pregnant woman was found in the reservoir. The police believe she committed suicide but curious clues at the scene start to make them think otherwise.

I had a hard time putting this book down. It was so interesting and it made me want to read the court case that the book was based on. The author wrote the book beautifully. It's a amazing to see how different the police proceedings and trial rulings are so different from today. The characters are easy to follow and understand. You'll either hate them or love them. I truly enjoyed the book.
Profile Image for Sherri.
325 reviews2 followers
August 31, 2011
Guilty or Innocent? Which version is the truth? Who is the liar? The author takes a real case from the 1800s and turns it into a novel. I hesitate to call it a mystery because it is never fully solved.

The basic parameters of the story are that a woman is found drowned in a reservoir in Richmond, Virginia. What initially appeared to be a suicide, quickly turned to a murder investigation. The woman, Lily, is 8 months pregnant. Her cousin, Thomas is eventually charged with murder. The book delves between the history and budding attraction between Lily and Thomas, and ultimately the murder trial.

It is a slow moving tale, and no real suspense moments. What it is, however, is a very interesting story, and trial, that would be great for discussing at a book club.
Profile Image for Becky.
666 reviews1 follower
August 26, 2011
Based a real 1880's court case, a pregnant woman is found dead in a reservoir outside of Richmond, Virginia. From the start, the finger is pointed at her cousin Tommie, with whom she was romantically interested. The first half of the novel is interesting, but as the novel continues, the trial becomes dull - and no new information is given to the reader. It is basically like reading the same novel twice, once from the character's point of view and then hearing it all again in court. When the novel was finished I was disappointed that some characters that received pages of development in the exposition ended up being totally pointless to the story in the end. This is clearly a first novel. It started strong, but fell apart.
611 reviews20 followers
November 9, 2011
This is a very haunting book. It doesn't leave you. You keep thinking about it. It begins with a body of a young, pregnant girl found floating in a resevoir near Richmond, Virginia. Tommie, a distant relative, is quickly apprehended. From there we enter his mind and feel his anxieties, his deliberations, his excuses, his thoughts. The evidence points to him, but did he do it? This is the question that is asked from the beginning. This book is written in a gentle, southerly, simplistic way but packs a wallop. The book is fiction but is based on an actual event. You are compelled to read it even though at first you may not think you want to.
Profile Image for Darcia Helle.
Author 30 books691 followers
June 16, 2011
The Reservoir is a well researched, intriguing story based on a real crime back in the late 1800s. I found the story interesting but I just couldn't get lost in it. The writing kept me slightly removed. I felt like I was being told a great story, rather than experiencing one. Also, the author jumps back and forth in time without any clear indication. I often found myself reading a scene I thought to be in the present, only to realize several paragraphs later that we'd jumped back into the past.
Profile Image for Laureen Hyman.
257 reviews4 followers
September 27, 2013
It kept my interest and it was entertaining to read about Richmond, VA, when it was still a new city, but the last half of the book dragged a bit and it was pure speculation about what happened with the crime itself.
Profile Image for Patricia Kitto.
281 reviews11 followers
January 31, 2014
This is a good one. Very well written and keeps you thinking. And in the end, you're not sure what to think! It works some brain cells and provokes a lot of discussion about who, what, and why! A quick read.
Profile Image for Amy Meyer.
78 reviews17 followers
September 2, 2011
The Reservoir by John Milliken Thompson


ISBN: 978-159051444-3
Pages: 368
Release Date: June 21, 2011
Publisher: Other Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction; Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5


Book Summary: On an early spring morning in Richmond, Virginia, in the year 1885, a young pregnant woman is found floating in the city reservoir. It appears that she has committed suicide, but there are curious clues at the scene that suggest foul play. The case attracts local attention, and an eccentric group of men collaborate to solve the crime. Detective Jack Wren lurks in the shadows, weaseling his way into the investigation and intimidating witnesses. Policeman Daniel Cincinnatus Richardson, on the brink of retirement, catches the case and relentlessly pursues it to its sorrowful conclusion. As the identity of the girl, Lillie, is revealed, her dark family history comes to light, and the investigation focuses on her tumultuous affair with Tommie Cluverius.


Tommie, an ambitious young lawyer, is the pride and joy of his family and the polar opposite of his brother Willie, a quiet, humble farmer. Though both men loved Lillie, it’s Tommie’s reckless affair that thrusts his family into the spotlight. With Lillie dead, Willie must decide how far to trust Tommie, and whether he ever understood him at all. Told through accumulating revelations, Tommie’s story finally ends in a riveting courtroom climax.


Based on a true story, The Reservoir centers on a guilty and passionate love triangle composed of two very different brothers and one young, naive girl hiding an unspeakable secret. A novel of lust, betrayal, justice, and revenge, The Reservoir ultimately probes the question of whether we can really know the hearts and minds of others, even of those closest to


My Thoughts: I have always been fascinated by court rooms, criminal cases and trials in particular. In some respects, jury trials aren't that different from writing a story. A trial offers the prosecutor and the defense attorney the opportunity to weave a story for the jury, to put the facts presented in the best light possible for their side and then relay their story to the jury in order to influence them to deliver the verdict the prosecutor or defense attorney fervently hopes to hear. I decided to go to law school, for better or worse, when I was young but it wasn't until law school, when I took a Trial Advocacy class that I understood how trials really worked and what fun, albeit nerve-wracking at first, it was to go in front of a jury. Those career aspirations may have ended early for me, but I'm still and always will be an avid fan of books of criminal cases particularly when they are brought before a jury and a trial ensues. When I read the premise of The Reservoir on Devourer of Books blog I was thrilled that it was the next Book Club pick and eagerly signed up to receive a copy.


The Reservoir is based on a real criminal case John Milliken Thompson read about while doing some research. Fortunately for us it caught his attention and, while writing and researching further, he realized the case would make a riveting fictional story. Hence, The Reservoir, an absorbing story about two brothers, the woman they both loved and the investigation into her disturbing death. Themes of lust, betrayal, jealousy and deceit are explored as the relationships between the brothers and between each brother and the deceased young woman are examined. The story is set in and around Richmond, VA and a map of the area is included but I found it unnecessary to refer to it because Mr. Thompson describes the landscape, the towns and the city of Richmond beautifully including gothic elements in scenes involving the reservoir. Although this isn't really a mystery, at times it has that same delicious creepy atmosphere.


The book opens with the discovery on March 14, 1885 of the dead, pregnant, young woman, Lillie, but within a few pages the narrative moves to the actual night of her death, moments after it happens. The story is relayed by a third-person narrator and is so effectively detailed I had chills and felt like I was standing in the shadows watching Tommie. Yes, we meet Tommie in the first few pages because he's in the area of the reservoir in compromising circumstances. It quickly becomes apparent Tommie's an intriguing, puzzling and beguiling character. Whether or not he's likable is questionable. The same goes for whether or not he can be trusted. Sometimes I was convinced he was absolutely trustworthy but then he would do something despicable and underhanded. He's slick, quite a charmer and can sweet-talk anyone. Of course he's an attorney and for part of the narrative he's in law school where he learns a lot more than the law. It was clear to me that Tommie displayed a facade of the smart, well-mannered, proper young man to the world but he has a much darker side that very few people are aware of. Mr. Thompson created a fascinating character in Tommie. The more I read about him the more I wanted to know until I started to recognize in him a few of the guys I knew in law school but didn't really care for.


Thompson's writing flows smoothly and the pages almost turn by themselves in this captivating story, especially when the trial begins. I read a few reviews that found the beginning of the book slow. That wasn't my experience. Before the investigation gets underway and the trial begins, we get to know Tommie, his brother Willie, their cousin, Lillie and some of the other characters like Tommie's fiance, Nola Bray. The chapters jump around from the various characters and their lives and relationships to the investigation of the dead young woman. I liked the way Thompson did this because I thought it made Lillie's death feel very real and quite shocking. One minute we're reading about her life, her conversations, her behavior and the next she's lying on a cement slab while people pass by viewing her body. The chapters about Tommie, Willie and Lillie and others also felt like preparation for the trial: we're learning about the various people in the deceased's life as well as who she spent time with and how she spent her days. One thing that becomes abundantly clear as the novel progresses is how little we really know and understand some of the people in our life, those we're closest to. Willie really struggles with this more and more, reluctantly realizing he doesn't really know Tommie and, what's more, he's not sure he can trust him.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Reservoir although, ultimately, it's a sad and poignant tale. I'm not going to give away the ending but, for what it's worth, I completely agreed with the trial's outcome. I think that Tommie's a very troubled soul and deceived many people including himself. Mr. Thompson has written a compelling and thoroughly satisfying story of a criminal case. Anyone who enjoys detective fiction and criminal investigations doesn't want to pass up The Reservoir.


Profile Image for Susan.
2,281 reviews64 followers
March 7, 2021
No. Just no.

1) the book is a tedious read
-it is mind-numbingly boring to read the same thoughts over and over and over...-breathe - and over, and over, and over again
-it is mind-numbingly boring to read regurgitated chunks of trial dialogue
-it is mind-numbingly boring to read discussions and inner dialogues someone else's religious views on someone else's religion

2) there is no real character- nor plot-development
-the plot starts with a foregone conclusion, but many a story does but can still be written in an engaging way. This book. alas, was not.
-the characters were flat and, again, unengaging
-adding in the 'does Tommie know something that no one else does' device just bogged the book down more rather than doing anything to save the plot
--the 'big reveal' was ridiculous

3) seriously?!?
-the point of the book is to what? To try to make a privileged, self-serving sociopath seem sympathetic and hard-done-by?!?
-because hey, the real problem is one of people taking violence against women far too seriously so we need more books explaining why the perpetrators of the violence, when caught, and convicted multiple times by overwhelming evidence, are truly the ones who suffer the most due to their very own violent actions?!?
(^sarcasm^)
-let me guess: Thompson is the type of guy who takes over and derails discussions at parties and social media boards and the like stridently screeching "pithy" comments like 'all lives matter!', 'not all men!' and 'wuddabout??'

I'm really glad I can return this book back to the library and not waste any more time or energy on it (and admit to skimming large chunks since it was so repetitive that I missed nothing in the process). I will not be looking up any more work by this author.

Profile Image for Thereadingbell.
1,167 reviews27 followers
September 22, 2019
John Milliken Thompson took the bare bones information from a real case from 1885. A pregnant girl is found floating in the water in Richmond Virginia. The girl is Lillian Madison and her cousin Tommy Cluverious is accused of the murder after people come forward with information. John did a great job researching this book and filling in the pieces to bring this case alive and fill in the pieces of what happened to Lillian. You wax and wane between Tommy's innocence and guilt. He is a likeable guy and a lawyer but he also has a side of him that makes him look very guilty. This was a well written story. If you love literary mysteries this book is for you. It fit the time period and rich with literary prose.
Profile Image for Bayneeta.
2,190 reviews10 followers
October 20, 2017
Came across this book as a recommendation at the end of another audio book. Both are part of Recorded Books' Southern Voices series, and this one is narrated by Tom Stechschulte, a favorite of mine. Virginia, 1885. A young woman drowns in the reservoir and in pretty short order her cousin is arrested and tried for her murder. I really did get caught up in the story and the characters. The audio was not available within my library system, but it was well worth it to me to pay the small ILL fee to borrow from outside the system.
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