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Terra Incognita: A Novel of the Roman Empire (Novels of the Roman Empire) Paperback – March 3, 2009


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Terra Incognita: A Novel of the Roman Empire (Novels of the Roman Empire) + Persona Non Grata: A Novel of the Roman Empire (Novels of the Roman Empire) + Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire (Novels of the Roman Empire)
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Product Details

  • Series: Novels of the Roman Empire
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596915188
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596915183
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #695,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A judicious use of humor and a memorable protagonist lift Downie's sequel to her bestselling debut, Medicus (2007). Toward the beginning of Hadrian's reign in A.D. 118, Gaius Petreius Ruso, a doctor originally from Gaul, has attached himself to a contingent of the Roman army, the 10th Batavians, en route to the northern edge of the Roman Empire in Britannia. When Felix, a soldier, is found beheaded, the prefect of the 10th Batavians, Decianus, assigns Ruso to investigate, despite a confession to the murder by Thessalus, retiring medic to the Tenth Batavians Bedbugs. Decianus is concerned that the attack presages further unrest from the locals, who ascribe the killing to their antlered god, Cernunnos. Reluctantly, Ruso probes Thessalus's motives for admitting the crime and finds that many others also had an interest in seeing Felix dead. This well-researched novel places Downie alongside such established masters of the Roman historical as Steven Saylor and Rosemary Rowe. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“In Downie's second mystery featuring Roman-era army doc Gaius Ruso, the sawbones is now stationed on the outskirts of Britain and investigating the ritualistic beheading of a soldier. But is the knife-wielding killer a local or a comrade?

Movie Pitch                                                                                                                                 Prime Suspect meets Rome.

Lowdown                                                                                                                             Downie's attention to day-in-the-life period details, judiciously doled-out twists, and dry British humor make Incognita one hell of a toga party. B+”—Entertainment Weekly

 "a lively sequel...Ruso rocks. Let’s hear it for those Romans.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)  "This well-researched novel places Downie alongside such established masters of the Roman historical as Steven Saylor and Rosemary Rowe.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“If you missed Downie's debut novel, Medicus, which introduced regimental doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso and his slave/housekeeper Tilla, you'll want to get caught up. This book, which is even better than the first, opens with the pair headed to northern outposts, where Ruso hopes to gain some advancement...This is a terrific series that historical mystery fans shouldn't miss - Downie's knowledge of Roman military medicine is phenomenal - but you do need the background of the first book.”—Margaret Cannon, Globe and Mail

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Ruth (RS) Downie graduated from university with an English degree and a plan to get married and live happily ever after. She is still working on it. In the meantime she is also the New York Times bestselling author of a mystery series featuring Roman doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso.

The latest book is Tabula Rasa, set during the building of Hadrian's Wall.

The previous five are:

Medicus (the first story, published as 'Medicus/Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls' in the UK and Australia)

Terra Incognita ('Ruso and the Demented Doctor')

Persona non Grata ('Ruso and the Root of All Evils')

Caveat Emptor ('Ruso and the River of Darkness')

Semper Fidelis (at last, only one title everywhere!)

Ruth is not the RS Downie who writes real medical textbooks. Absolutely none of the medical advice in the Ruso books should be followed. Roman and Greek doctors were very wise about many things but they were also known to prescribe donkey dung and boiled cockroaches.

Find out more at www.ruthdownie.com

Customer Reviews

I am looking forward to a third book in the series.
musdent
She has fine characters, an extremely likeable protagonist, a good sense of historical place, and a good sense of plotting.
Suzanne Cross
Terra Incognita: A Novel of the Roman Empire by Ruth Downie is a very funny and interesting murder mystery set in AD 128.
Sam Muscare

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Cross on March 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed the first venture in this series, Medicus (2006), and was delighted to get this second entry in the series. There is nothing but good news for those who enjoy well-plotted Roman mysteries, although I do have a suggestion or two for the author as she continues in what I hope will become an established and popular foray into the ancient Roman army and murder mysteries. She has fine characters, an extremely likeable protagonist, a good sense of historical place, and a good sense of plotting. I must admit, I haven't been close to guessing "whodunnit" and I usually can. She also has none of that "how on earth did she pick HIM for the killer" syndrome, which drives me nuts when the killer turns out to be someone totally unlikely.

This is a fun read; the author was a wonderful dry sense of the ridiculous that will keep you laughing aloud more than once. I had only two small concerns after its enjoyable and satisfying conclusion. Our hero, Gaius Petreius Ruso, a doctor to the legions, is in this novel so overwhelmed with difficulties in the far north of Britain that at points I got a tad impatient with him. Ruso is a great character, ironic, self-effacing, modest, likeable and decent, and the characters that surround him have an almost Dickenesque eccentricity: their personal pecadilloes are not only funny but firmly contrast to our hero's. The dialogue is rapid fire and a rather modern sense of wry angst adds its own flavor to the brew. One certainly feels that bureaucrats in 2008 and AD 128 were largely similar. However, I wanted poor Ruso do to a little better SOMEWHERE . . . he appeared confused to the point of ineptness at several places in the plot, and we need to retain both our affection for him, and our respect. He began to seem like a well-meaning dweeb.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Story Circle Book Reviews on April 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Sounds familiar. It's a wild border tale, like the ones I read growing up out on the high plains of Texas.

All is well. The natives are happy, tranquil--almost. Okay, sometimes they fight among themselves, but overall it's the good, unspoiled life--until the intruders appear. Their army takes over, builds a wooden fort, messes with the local girls, skirmishes with the guys.

Sounds familiar, yes, except that the border is in Britannia and the time is almost 2,000 years ago when Emperor Hadrian was just coming to power. (Hadrian ruled the Roman Empire from 117 to 138.)

The medico Doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso leaves the relative safety of the more established South to travel with the army alleviating pain, sawing off limbs, and doing what he can. They are headed to Coria where a few years later Hardrian's Wall will rise in a Roman attempt to exclude the unwanted Northerners from Rome's civilized ways. (Talk about contemporary parallels!)

The good doctor does not travel alone, although sometimes he wishes he were. Tilla, his native slave-turned-companion (in her language her name is Darlugdacha) seems to seek out trouble. By being in the wrong place at the wrong time (or was she?) she leads Ruso into this adventure.

Felix the trumpeter has been brutally murdered. Who did it? Tilla's former intended, Rianorix the baker, or was it Thesssalus, the fort medico who has taken leave of his senses and is confessing? Confusion abounds.

An impending visit from the Governor of Britannia looms over all decisions. "We've got to look good" is a truth through all ages. Ruso is persuaded to take over the infirmary from the ailing Tessalus (and to tend to him).
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Douglas S. Wood on May 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Gaius Petreius Ruso, doctor of the Roman 20th Legion, reprises his role as a part-time decidedly amateur criminal investigator (after the surprise hit Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire). Set in 2nd century Britain, Ruso has moved farther north with Tilla, who is either his slave (legally), his housekeeper (not too often), or his lover depending on the situation and their respective moods.

Ruso has volunteered to go north so that Tilla can visit the area where she grew up on the very edge of the Roman Empire (Hadrian's Wall would later be built in this area). Some Britons are straining under Roman rule, a mysterious Stag Man is trying to lead a rebellion of sorts. A worker had been injured in what appears at least to have been an accident. A Roman soldier has died in a clearly non-accidental murder - and his head is literally lost in the taking. A Roman doctor has gone off his head. Ruso tries to get to the bottom of it all.

The story is an enjoyable, mostly light tale, but Downie puts too many moving parts in play that merely serve to confuse the reader rather than entice them into solving the mystery. The developing relationship between Ruso and Tilla is central to the enjoyment of the story. Terra Incognita has less detail about the Roman army and almost anything written about the native tribes is pure speculation. Recommended.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Judith A. Weller on April 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
I found this book rather disappointing. I am getting rather sick of Tilla and wish she would get written out of the book. She is a distraction. While she was fun in the first volume, she is a dead bore in this one. I find her dialog and behaviour terrible and wish she would be treated more like a typical Roman slave. The mystery is good and Ruso is execellent and I like him as a character, but I find Tilla a useless adjunct as a love interest and fail to see why Ruso even cares about her. Her presence it what makes me only give this 3 stars. I fear the author will not write her out which is unfortunate for the series.
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