In skillfully intertwined storylines from the dawn of the twentieth century and the heyday of the Roman Empire, Tasha Alexander's In the Shadow of Vesuvius, the latest installment to her bestselling series, brings Lady Emily and her husband to Pompeii, where they uncover a recent crime in the ancient city.
Some corpses lie undisturbed longer than others. But when Lady Emily discovers a body hidden in plain sight amongst the ruins of Pompeii, she sets in motion a deadly chain of events that ties her future to the fate of a woman whose story had been lost for nearly two thousand years.
Emily and her husband, Colin Hargreaves, have accompanied her dear friend Ivy Brandon on a trip to Pompeii. When they uncover a corpse and the police dismiss the murder as the work of local gangsters, Emily launches an investigation of her own. She seems to be aided by the archaeologists excavating the ruins, including a moody painter, the enigmatic site director, and a free-thinking American capable of sparring with even the Duke of Bainbridge. But each of them has secrets hiding among the ruins.
The sudden appearance of a beautiful young woman who claims a shocking relationship to the Hargreaves family throws Emily’s investigation off-course. And as she struggles to face an unsettling truth about Colin’s past, it becomes clear that someone else wants her off the case—for good. Emily’s resolve to unearth the facts is unshakable. But how far below the surface can she dig before she risks burying herself along with the truth?
In 1902, Lady Emily Hargreaves and her husband, Colin, rent a villa near Pompeii in bestseller Alexander's uneven 14th series mystery (after 2018's Uneasy Lies the Crown). Exploring the ancient ruins, Colin and Emily discover a recently strangled corpse amid those felled by the Vesuvius's 79 CE eruption. Archaeologist Callie Carter appears to have known the victim, American journalist Clarence Walker, better than she admits; Callie's brother, Benjamin, is inexplicably antagonistic; and Walker's past in Montana may offer clues as well. Meanwhile, Emily is shaken when a daughter Colin didn't know he had, Kat von Lange, shows up and moves in with the couple. Kat's over-the-top manipulations and Colin's immediate surrender to them feel implausible, and the murder investigation is too diffuse to be suspenseful, but the author does a fine job evoking the setting's rich history, particularly in the chapters written as the journal entries of Pompeian poet Quinta Flavia Kassandra. Though this is far from Alexander's strongest historical, lovers of classical culture should be pleased.