All along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman empire's richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas, enjoying the last days of summer. The world's largest navy lies peacefully at anchor in Misenum. The tourists are spending their money in the seaside resorts of Baiae, Herculaneum, and Pompeii.
But the carefree lifestyle and gorgeous weather belie an impending cataclysm, and only one man is worried. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples. His predecessor has disappeared. Springs are failing for the first time in generations. And now there is a crisis on the Augusta's sixty-mile main linesomewhere to the north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.
Attiliusdecent, practical, and incorruptiblepromises Pliny, the famous scholar who commands the navy, that he can repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry. His plan is to travel to Pompeii and put together an expedition, then head out to the place where he believes the fault lies. But Pompeii proves to be a corrupt and violent town, and Attilius soon discovers that there are powerful forces at workboth natural and man-madethreatening to destroy him.
With his trademark elegance and intelligence, Robert Harris, bestselling author of Archangel and Fatherland, re-creates a world on the brink of disaster.
Booklist - Kristine Huntley
With rich historical details and scientific minutiae, Harris vividly brings to life the ancient world on the brink of unspeakable disaster.
Library Journal - Jane Baird
Readers who like their historical fiction well grounded in fact won't be able to put this down. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries.
Fast, fact-filled, and quite fun. A blast, really.
Sunday Times (UK)
Blazingly exciting...Pompeii palpitates with sultry tension....Harris provides an awe-inspiring tour of one of the monumental engineering triumphs on which the Roman empire was based.... It is hard to imagine a more thorough goingly enjoyable thriller.
Daily Mail (UK)
Breakneck pace, constant jeopardy and subtle twists of plot...a blazing blockbuster... The depth of the research in the book is staggering.
The Sunday Telegraph (UK)
[A] stirring and absorbing novel...The final 100 pages are terrific, as good as anything Harris has done.
The Daily Telegraph (UK)
The long-drawn-out death agony of [Pompeii and Herculaneum]—a full day of falling ash, pumice stone, and then, the final catastrophe, a cloud of poisonous gas—is brilliantly done. Explosive stuff, indeed.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Alan The Lost 40 Pages Straight out of The Titanic stable (if there is chaos, go to it!). This is a cumbersome read, weighted down by a onslaught of detail ('realism') that works hard to disguise the incredible plot devices. As if that wasn't bad, there are no less than... Read More
Review (not rated)
by Jon Paul
Harris has been working the historical fiction vein for a number of years now, but only with Pompeii has he finally hit his stride. The work is a seamless blend of good plotting, excellent character writing, and exciting action. As with... Read More
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