John Milliken Thompson
It is 1885 in Richmond, Virginia when Lillie Madison shows up dead in the local reservoir. Add to that the fact that the victim is very pregnant. And unmarried. Put that all together and you have one hell of a story.
The Reservoir is told from the viewpoint of Lillie’s cousin, Tommie Cluverius. He is a young attorney in Richmond and it becomes apparent from the start that he knows something of the circumstances surrounding Lillie’s death. He has been in love with Lillie for years, but how that ties into Lillie’s death isn’t immediately obvious.
It was difficult throughout the book to determine whether Tommie was being truthful about Lillie’s death and what role he played in it, and there is definitely not complete resolution even in the end. It all made sense when I discovered that the murder of Lillie Madison was a true story, and that Lillie’s cousin Tommie Cluverius was tried for the murder.
I wanted Tommie to man up from the very beginning. He was unwilling to take responsibility for his role in Lillie’s death. And yet, I felt a lot of sympathy towards him. It was strange, because I began to question whether or not he deserved to be punished if he did murder Lillie. The way he acted towards her at times was deplorable, but at the same time, it seemed that he just got caught up in society’s expectations, and in the end he let down both Lillie and himself.
It is really difficult for an author to spin such a story in a way that it elicits sympathy towards someone who probably didn’t deserve it, so I thought Thompson did an excellent job. I read an interview with the author and, if I am not mistaken, this is his first work of fiction. In that respect, he really hit it out of the park. The decision to turn this story into a novel was a great one, and I would read more from this author without hesitation.
I received a digital copy of this book via Netgalley.