From Publishers Weekly
In this complex and lyrical literary thriller from Goodman (The Sonnet Lover
), University of Texas classics professor Sophie Chase, after barely surviving a gunman with ties to a sinister cult, joins an expedition to Capri. A donor has funded both the exact reconstruction of a Roman villa destroyed when Mount Vesuvius buried nearby Herculaneum in A.D. 79, and a computer system that can decipher the charred scrolls being excavated from the villa's ruins. Sophie's hopes for a recuperative idyll fade after her old boyfriend, who disappeared years before into the same cult as the campus gunman, appears in the area, implicating the cult in a criminal conspiracy. Meanwhile, extracts from the scrolls—the journals of a Roman visiting the villa just before the volcano erupted—shade toward bloodshed and betrayal. The scrolls' oddly modern tone aside, Goodman deftly mixes cultural and religious history, geography, myth, personal memory, dream and even portent without sacrificing narrative drive, against the beautiful backdrop of the locale with its echoes of unimaginable loss. 5-city author tour.(Sept.)
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Goodman has made a name for herself writing elegant literary thrillers. Her newest follows the template of The Sonnet Lover (2007), as Sophie Chase, a classics professor at the University of Texas, researches the fate of Petronia Iusta, a slave girl living in Capri in AD 79, the year Vesuvius erupted. After the boyfriend of one her students goes on a shooting rampage, leaving two dead and Sophie wounded, the handsome but rakish professor Elgin Lawrence convinces Sophie to travel to Capri to translate the scrolls of a Roman writer named Phineas Aulus. After all, evidence suggests that Petronia was at the Villa della Notte at the same time as Phineas. Upon arriving, she is soon drawn into a dangerous conspiracy when she encounters an ex-lover and learns that the Tetraktyans, a cult that worships Pythagoras, are equally interested in the scrolls—and will stop at nothing to get them. Graceful, fluid prose; an intricately plotted dual mystery set in the past and present; a strong heroine; and handsome and mysterious men—all combine to make for a thoroughly scintillating read. --Kristine Huntley