Lovely cover, yes? It suits the mood of the book perfectly--Italy, the sea, history, beauty.
Here's a brief plot summary, mostly courtesy of Amazon: University of Texas classics professor Sophie Chase, after barely surviving a gunman with ties to a sinister cult, joins an expedition to Capri. A donor has funded both the exact reconstruction of a Roman villa destroyed when Mount Vesuvius buried nearby Herculaneum in A.D. 79, and a computer system that can decipher the charred scrolls being excavated from the villa's ruins. Her trip takes a different spiral when she starts seeing ghosts of her ex-boyfriend--one who fell prey to that same cult...
I was actually surprised by how much I really, really like this book. Goodman is a literary writer; her prose is gorgeous. Her settings were vivid and I often felt like I was reading a Mary Stewart novel. (It was so bizarre; the authors' styles are so different, but I kept on thinking "this book is Mary Stewart-esque; wait, no it's not, why am I thinking this?") I was worried it was going to be a super serious, "I AM A LITERARY WORK" sort of book but it's not--it's a perfect example of what a quality modern novel can be.
The different threads of the story pulled together beautifully and although I'm not a huge fan of dual story/timelines, even in small doses, it worked for this story. I found myself actually interested in and wanting to know more about the characters from 79 A.D.
Basically, Carol Goodman has a new fan and I want to read more of her work. The Chicago Tribune quote on the cover sums her style up: "light enough for a weekend on the beach but literary enough for a weekend in the Hamptons."