The Roman Mysteries #2: The Secret of Vesuvius

by Caroline Lawrence

Hardcover, 2002



Local notes

Fic Law





Roaring Brook Press (2002), Hardcover, 192 pages


Ten-year-old Flavia and her friends encounter the Roman admiral Pliny before making a journey to her uncle's farm near Mt. Vesuvius, where they try to solve a riddle, reunite a family, and get out of the path of a natural disaster.


Original publication date


Physical description

192 p.; 8.5 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member CaroTheLibrarian
Follow up to the Thieves of Ostia, this story sees Flavia and her friends heading for a holiday at the coast, only to get caught up in the eruption of Vesuvius. They manage to solve a few mysteries while they're there of course. Suitable for kids age 8+
LibraryThing member the_hag
In The Secret's of Vesuvius, the second in Lawrence's Roman Mysteries Series, we rejoin Flavia, Nubia, Jonathan, and Lupus as they travel from Ostia to the Bay of Naples to spend the summer with Flavia's uncle (who just happens to live near Pompeii). This volume is also set in the first century, 79
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A.D. and as the story starts, they rescue Admeral Pliny whose boat sank while he was out working on a new scroll. He gives them a "mystery riddle" to solve (which in fact is the least interesting part of the book) and then they head off to the uncle's farm (picture given of the farm grounds in the front of the book, excellent detail about life in Rome...a big plus for the book). The character lineup (outside of the main characters) include:

Uncle Gaius - Flavia's uncle and twin to her father
Aristo - Falvia's Greek Tutor
Vulcan - Roman God of the Forge (and volcano's), also character in story, traveling blacksmith whose life mirrors the story of the God, he is looking for his real parents
Miriam - Sister of Jonathan and daughter of Mordecai
Ferox - Uncle Gaius favorite dog
Clio - New friend and one of the nine (adopted) daughters (named after the 9 muses) of Titus Tascius Pomponianus of the Villa Pomponiana
Mordecai - Jonathan's father
Xanthus, the farm manager and freedman of Uncle Gaius
Rectina - Titus' wife and adoptive mother of Clio

Highlights of The Secret's of Vesuvius include a tour of the Forum, struggles and suspicion between Roman's and this book it is discussed several times about how the Christian religion is banned and illegal and we see people practicing it and meeting in secret (which readers will get to witness "first hand" later in the book; the use of Asine (jackass) a code word used by Christians to identify other Christians; and most importantly, an adventure where tremors shake the ground, animals behave strangely, and the people dream of impending doom! Our intrepid adventurers get to explore vineyards, celebrate the Roman festival of Vulcanalia, travel on a merchant ship, and try to escape the eruption of Vesuvius.

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable mystery/thriller/adventure book for young readers that is heavy on the details of Roman daily life (this time of farm and country life as opposed to city life in the last book), is highly descriptive with likable and believable characters (for the most part). This time around, the mystery is less intriguing and very easy to figure out...that is with regards to the "riddle," the larger "mystery" of the blacksmith and Titus/Rectina. My only "complaints" would be the heavy handed Christian message that comes through, while not so bad that it makes for unpleasant reading, it is something to be aware of. This combined with the forced equality between Nubia, Flavia, the beggar boy and Jonathan makes the whole thing just slightly cringe worthy...however, I still feel it's a good read and something I think most kids will get a kick out of, I certainly did. I give it four stars, The Secret's of Vesuvius strength is in details, particularly about how the farm is run and the eruption of the volcano. Overall, it is a light and entertaining read despite its flaws.
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½ (42 ratings; 3.9)
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