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As in the equally adroit Enigma, Harris takes a familiar historical event (there, the celebrated code-breakers at Bletchley Park, here the volcanic obliteration of an Italian city in AD79) and seamlessly weaves a characteristically labyrinthine plot in and around the existing facts. But that's not all he does here: few novelists who (unlike Harris) make a speciality of ancient history for their setting pull off the sense of period quite as impressively as the author does here. As the famous catastrophe approaches, we are pleasurably immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the Ancient World, each detail conjured with jaw-dropping verisimilitude.
Harris's protagonist is the engineer Marcus Attilius, placed in charge of the massive aqueduct that services the teeming masses living in and around the Bay of Naples. Despite the pride he takes in his job, Marcus has pressing concerns: his predecessor in the job has mysteriously vanished, and another task is handed to Marcus by the scholar Pliny: he is to undertake crucial repairs to the aqueduct near Pompeii, the city in the shadow of the restless Mount Vesuvius. And as Marcus faces several problems--all life threatening--an event approaches that will make all his concerns seem petty.
Other writers have placed narratives in the shadow of this most famous of volcanic cataclysms, but Harris triumphantly ensures that his characters' individual dramas are not dwarfed by implacable nature; Marcus is a vividly drawn hero: complex, conflicted and a canny synthesis of modern and ancient mindsets. Some may wish that Harris might return to something closer to our time in his next novel, but few who take this trip into a dangerous past will be able to resist Harris's spellbinding historical saga. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Following a visit to Italy and a tour of Pompeii I should find it very interesting when I get round to reading it.Published 7 days ago by peter twaite
Regrettably I must join the group of one star reviews for this book. I had high hopes because of the subject and the choice of Harris to choose the aqueduct as the thread of the... Read morePublished 25 days ago by Bill
We had just visited Pompeii and Herculaneum, this book brought it to life. Good adventure story, based on fact, and enjoyable for anyone interested in Roman history and their way... Read morePublished 1 month ago by peter may
Enjoyable historical novel well written strong characters throughout based on events leading up to the demise of Pompeii. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Miss Alice G Cooper
I have read many of Harris's previous novels and this is up there with the best of them. Entertaining and educational. Great read.Published 2 months ago by Keviln
A really good story that gives a great idea of what life was like around the time of the eruption. Perfect for me as I've just booked a holiday to visit Pompeii for the first time.Published 2 months ago by Peter Wintle