Books: Blast from the Past

Robert Harris' new thriller is set in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. It ends with a bang

The last days of Pompeii has been the title of, among other things, a historical romance by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, a mini-series featuring Lesley-Anne Down and a porn flick starring one Candy Samples. It's hard to beat the location: the playground of the Roman aristocracy, a town swollen and oozing with corruption and decadence, conveniently located near a large, picturesque source of divine retribution. First sex, then violence--what's not to like?

In Pompeii (Random House; 278 pages), Robert Harris, author of the thrillers Fatherland and Archangel, makes the most of it. He takes us into the life of the city by...

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