Mixed double

Nottingham Evening Post, October 9 2004

Monstrous Regiment, by Terry Pratchett, Corgi, £6.99
There was a time when Pratchett was so overrun by jokes, it was all he could do to reach the end of a sentence. Not any more. But slackening gagflow does give him more time to think; and in this case, it's produced one of his best adult books for years. We are in the war-obsessed country of Borogravia, which is running out of young men to die for it. Women are volunteering for the job instead, with unpredictable results.

Pompeii, by Robert Harris, Arrow, £6.99
When an engineer in ancient Pompeii sniffs sulphur in his aqueduct, you know what's coming. And Harris delivers: a multi-chapter volcanic eruption, raining ash, fire and echoes of September 11. Before then, though, our water guy must fix pipes, face down a millionaire ex-slave, romance the millionaire's rebel daughter - oh, and move in and out of blast range often enough to keep things suspenseful. An expert piece of thriller engineering.