The Secrets of Vesuvius
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Cover of first edition, 2001
|Cover artist||Peter Sutton
Fred van Deelan (mosaic)
|Series||The Roman Mysteries|
|15 November 2001|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Pages||224 pp (first edition, hardback)|
|Preceded by||The Thieves of Ostia|
|Followed by||The Pirates of Pompeii|
The Secrets of Vesuvius is a children's historical novel set in Roman times by Caroline Lawrence. The novel is the second in the Roman Mysteries series; sequel to The Thieves of Ostia and prequel to The Pirates of Pompeii novels. The Secrets of Vesuvius was the basis for the first episode of the BBC television adaption of the books, which was broadcast on BBC1 on May 8, 2007 at 16:30 local time.
The story begins as Flavia, Jonathan, Nubia, and Lupus are playing in the Tyrrhenian sea, Flavia sets out to find Vulcan, who told Pliny of the riddle pointing to great treasure. Eventually, she and her friends solve the riddle, making out the word Asine, Latin for 'jackass'. She tried to find Vulcan from a local blacksmith, and used the codeword 'Asine', but to little avail. Meanwhile, Aristo gives Miriam a sparrow, the traditional symbol of love. Soon, Flavia finds Vulcan, and tried calling him a jackass while he was drinking water. She finds out Vulcan is a clubfoot orphan, and feels horrible. Vulcan gives Miriam, who is in love, a bracelet.
At the forum, a Christian warns everyone of doom and desolation. The children find out that Clio, a girl, had been following them. Her parents, Tascius and Rectina, had adopted her and many other girls, after losing their own son. They all go to the Vulcanalia, but everything goes wrong, and Flavia fails to tell Clio's parents that Vulcan may be their lost son. Flavia finds out that 'Asine' is really a codeword for their illegal faith, Christianity. Tascius thinks Vulcan is really Pliny's son.
Soon, the sparrow dies and birds rain from the air. Everyone finds out that Miriam is in love with Flavia's uncle, Gaius. Everyone is surprised except Nubia, who figured it out earlier. Jonathan's father, Mordecai, fears that his son's dreams of Jerusalem, the strange events, and everything going wrong, all point to the fact that the Christian was right, him being one also. They figure that a volcano is going to erupt, and they figure it is Vesuvius. They call over Pliny for a meal, and Flavia figures that Vulcan is really Tascius' son. Pliny did not know that Vesuvius was a volcano. Mordecai proposes that everyone leave, but his daughter Miriam objects. They warn everyone of the volcano.
While Rectina and Clio are in Herculaneum, and everyone else is in Stabia, it erupts. Miriam's hair is set on fire by the ashes from the volcano, but Mordecai puts it out. They find Gaius half-dead buried under ash, but Ferox, a wolf, saves him. Meanwhile, Moredecai, a doctor, tries to save everyone. Pliny sets out to save Rectina, but fails. Tascius confesses how he had abandoned Vulcan. Lupus warns Pliny of Vulcan in a boat. Pliny dies near Pompeii due to sulphur. Water is scarce, and pyroclastic flows bury cities, but the children survive the volcano.