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The Reservoir ~ John Milliken Thompson

July 27, 2011


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Genre: Adult Fiction/Historical Fiction/Mystery
Publisher: Other Press
369 pages
ISBN: 9781590514443
Source: Publisher via Book Club

Our story dawns on an 1880’s Virginia, as a reservoir eployee discovers a gruesomely displayed young woman in the water. Lacking any form of identity, her case hits the papers as a tragedy but not one with sinister ties. Assumed an accident and then a suicide, the death is, at first, not the subject of foul play.

Soon, though, between the meddling media and the word of a few questionable souls, blame is turned upon the victim’s cousin, Tommie, a bright and rising lawyer. We are given the story through his eyes which, at first, gives a feeling of comraderie  and trust. Soon, though, trust  becomes something a bit grayer as distrust and wavering beliefe set in. The distrust comes largely in part from Tommie’s possible misrepresentation of the story from his perspective for even though he has a showman’s way with words and fanfare, he is not altogether airtight in many of his arguments, even the ones in his own head.  The mystery becomes not one of who, but if, as the town works against scandal and Tommie works against the clock.

Though he is of questionable honesty and innocence, Tommie is a lovable character and I found him much more endearing than many of the other, more two dimensional players on the stage. As many noted in our discussion, yesterday, much of my positive outlook on Tommie, my have come from his cold-blooded, albeit charismatic, portrayal of the events.

The story is told moving forward with big leaps backward to explain just how everyone got into this mess. In another setting, this may have ended up confusing the plot but, I think it worked perfectly, illuminating details as they needed to be revealed.  The story, itself, is written well and never falls victim to campy “period” speak. It also, though, comes through with enough legitimate authenticity to stay believable.

I’m not a huge true-crime gal so I was relying on the historical fiction aspect of the story to carry me through.  I did find this whole trial and case to be incredibly interesting and well done, though, much to my pleasant surprise. I think that one detail swaying my sympathy for Tommie, can be grounded in my huge distaste for modern media frenzies surrounding trials. There was a huge element of that phenomenon in the book even though the whole story fell over a century before what we think of as media hype, today.

Overall, a fabulously fun drama and one that I think is worth reading for crime and history fans alike.

Thank you to Jen (from Devourer of Books) and Nicole (from Linus’s Blanket) for hosting the discussion, yesterday. This was, for sure, a book worth getting into with other readers!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 27, 2011 11:44 am

    I have been reading a lot about this book, and though I am also not a true crime fan, I think that the historical bits might also win me over. It sounds like it’s a very interesting book, and has a lot of good things going for it. Yours is the first review that has made me seriously consider reading this one, so thanks for the very enticing review!

  2. July 27, 2011 3:44 pm

    I do love true crime, so I’d probably like this even more than you did.

  3. Chelsea permalink
    July 27, 2011 9:34 pm

    Sounds like a pretty great read – I can’t help but love true crime (blame CSI and Criminal Minds!) and possibly faulty narrators just intrigue the dickens out of me. Thanks for a great review!

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