- Series: Novels of the Roman Empire
- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (December 21, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1596916087
- ISBN-13: 978-1596916081
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #564,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Caveat Emptor: A Novel of the Roman Empire (Novels of the Roman Empire) Hardcover – December 21, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. When tax collector Julius Asper goes missing, physician Gaius Petreius Ruso, who'd rather get medical work, reluctantly investigates in Downie's superb fourth historical set in second-century Roman Britain (after Persona Non Grata). Since Asper's brother and assistant, Julius Bericus, has also disappeared, some suspect the two men have run off with the emperor's tax money, but Ruso considers it more likely that robbers attacked the brothers on the road from the provincial town of Veralamium to Londinium. When the body of a man who fits Asper's description turns up in a Londinium alley, Ruso has a murder case on his hands, and must journey to Veralamium for answers. Downie excels in bringing the ancient world to life as well as making the attitudes and customs of its inhabitants accessible to a modern audience. She also succeeds at leavening the whodunit plot with flashes of humor, many stemming from her hero's British wife, Tilla. (Jan.)
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“The characters are vividly drawn.” ―Historical Novel Society
“Downie remains a peerless storyteller and a master entertainer. BBC's Masterpiece should take a long look at this series. It's a winner.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Supurb … Downie excels in bringing the ancient world to life as well as making the attitudes and customs of its inhabitants accessible to a modern audience.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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Top Customer Reviews
Author Downie has crafted a very clever plot that is slowly revealed through Ruso's investigation in classic police procedural fashion albeit in the historic context in which the mystery is set. The conclusion is never predictable and is revealed only in the last few pages of the book.
While the plot is clever and skillfully spun out, what I liked even more about "Caveat Emptor" was the growing complexity of the characters. The relationship between Ruso and his Briton wife Tilla is extremely complicated. To be sure, there are masculine/feminine differences at work, but this is also a pairing of two extremely different people, coming from two very different cultures (cosmopolitan vs. tribal). The two are shown to be strongly committed to each other, but they are rarely in agreement about anything--their lives together, relationships with others, how to investigate a crime, etc. That personal tension is consistently written into the entire run of the story and, for the most part, strengthens it and brings a sense of historic reality to the tale.
I also thought that Downie provided a good balance of mystery story vs. historic detail in "Caveat Emptor". The plot had a modern feel to it, with its emphasis on human relationships, greed, petty power struggles, and bureaucratic bad behavior. But there is enough historic material here--living conditions, Roman medicine, transportation, burial rites, tribal relationships, etc.--to make the story original and entertaining for the reader who chooses this genre for those qualities.
A very fine book in a good series that gets more interesting with each successive episode. Recommended.
The wonderful thing about Ruth Downie's series isn't all the twist and turns as the story moves forward, often with a few surprises thrown in right at the end. Nor is it the skillful way she brings to light the culture and mores of ancient Rome. Rather, it's the richness of her characters as they blunder about, each in their own self serving ways, that appeals to me most. They make for great tongue-in-cheek irony and a super fun read.