In late August, 79 AD. Attilius, age 27, is the new water engineer for Acqua Augusta, the great acqueduct that brings water from the mountains along the north edge of the great Mount Vesuvius to the towns of Neapolis and Baiae. The previous "aquarius" walked away from the job mysteriously, with no explanation, two weeks before.
Attilius is partly answerable to Ampliatus, the millionaire owner of Villa Hortensia on the northern outskirts of Misenum, the tip of land that looks across the Bay of Naples to Pompeii and the volcano. Ampliatus is preparing to marry off his beautiful daughter Corelia to one of his old, fat business associates. Attilius is attracted to Corelia, but witnesses one of her father's gory amusements -- feeding a slave to his moray eels -- and realizes the water smells of sulphur and the town's reservoir is dropping suddenly.
Attilius tries to figure out what is happening by studying and repairing the water system as well as consulting the eminent historian and admiral Pliny. Pliny guesses that the great volcano, Vesuvius, is about to erupt, and wants nothing more than to sail a ship over to Pompeii for a closer look. Attilius has to go to Pompeii, too, to organize an expedition up the mountain to repair the broken water system. On the mountain he learns what happened to his predecessor. But can he get back to town soon enough to warn the inhabitants and save his beloved Corelia? This British bestseller is a fast and gripping read.
This report prepared by David Loftus