Pompeii by Robert Harris
Several books by Robert Harris have been recommended to me, and The Fear Index is reviewed on this site: https://bookreviewstoday.info/2017/07/20/the-fear-index-by-robert-harris/ . However, I the first read Pompeii when it was book of the month in our local book group. Robert Harris is a British author and previous journalist and BBC television reporter. Pompeii was originally published by Random House in 2003. The ability to disguise the outcome is held to be a vital part of the thriller writer’s art. Robert Harris, though, has built a major career in the form through open defiance of this rule. Indeed, Harris is successful in making us flinch and fear for characters who are going to a doom which we know before them.
Pompeii, although it is an ancient story, is one which still holds fascination for us. Robert Harris is an author who can comfortably shoulder the mantle of the old fashioned storyteller. Pompeii is the story of Marcus Attilius Primus, the aquarius, or chief water engineer, who is sent to the Bay of Naples to manage the water supply to all of the towns in the area.
The main artery of the supply is the aqueduct, Aqua Augusta, which Attilius’s grandfather may have built under the supervision of the great Agrippa. Water engineering has been the career path of Atillius’s family back through at least four generations. However, Attilius is up against it. His predecessor disappeared mysteriously, and neither his team of engineers and slaves nor the masters who govern Naples and the surrounding area, are inclined to trust him as the new aquarius.
From the first chapter the reader is gripped by the horrendous execution of a slave who has been held responsible for the death of one of the local lord’s prize fish. The lord’s daughter, accompanied by the unfortunate slave’s mother, urgently seek the help of Attilius. He quickly discovers that it is something in the water that has killed the precious fish. Unfortunately, it is too late to save the wretched slave.
Events unfold and develop during the two days leading up to the famous eruption which buried Pompeii. There are many dangers to overcome, and, the reader wonders who will survive and who will not: it does not become clear until the final pages.
I do not often go back to a book, but I reread this marvellous book when my husband and I recently visited the ruins of the city Pompeii. That is a sign of how well Robert Harris engages the reader with the characters in this book.
If you enjoy historical fiction, or thrillers, I highly recommend this book.