I read and enjoyed several of the early Lady Emily books many years ago, and then lost track of the series over the years. So I was happy to get an advance copy of In the Shadow of Vesuvius from the publisher to review. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, with a couple of minor caveats…
I loved the descriptions of Pompeii and its environs. I’m a fan of archaeological mysteries, and this delivered nicely, both in terms of the setting/descriptions, and in the way the main mystery tied into the archaeology.
I also liked the two threads to the story, the secondary one set in the time just before the big eruption, and the main one set in Lady Emily’s time. It was interesting to try to imagine how these would eventually come together, and in the end, author Tasha Alexander does tie everything up nicely. I had a bit of trouble completely enjoying the secondary thread, though, because it seemed pretty clear these characters were doomed. Please note that this is not a spoiler – if you live in Pompeii in the days just before the eruption, it’s not a secret to modern-day readers that you’re almost certainly going to die! I’m sort of a wuss, though, and have never liked reading stories about doomed characters, either real or fictional. However, there was a bit of redemption (??? not sure of the exact right word ???) at the end that made me feel better about things in hindsight.
When an author has two very clear, distinct threads to a story, I often find I will like one a lot more than the other, and in this case, because of the eruption hanging over the head of the secondary characters, I liked the Lady Emily thread better. In terms of that plot, it was nice to see Lady Emily and Colin many years after the time that I had last caught up with them, and to see that things seemed to be working out well. There was a little surprise in the middle though, and although I could totally relate to Lady Emily’s reaction, I did have trouble imagining that Colin would have reacted the way he did – I would have expected his reaction to be more nuanced. That was a minor irritant, but not enough to spoil my enjoyment of the book.
All-in-all, though, I liked this book a lot, and will try to go back and pick up some of the intermediate titles in the series that I haven’t read yet. I did think it helped to be generally familiar with some of the characters from my (much) earlier forays into this series, but I don’t think it would be absolutely necessary to have this background to enjoy this book.
My thanks again to Minotaur Books for the review copy. And also please keep in mind that I try to fight “star-inflation” a little bit. I reserve 5 stars for a very few books, maybe one in thirty or forty that I read. So 4 stars is a great rating from me, and is a solid recommendation to read this book!