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Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire (The Medicus Series) Paperback – March 4, 2008
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I love mystery novels of all types but Roman Britain especially appeals to me. Ruth Downie has given the character of Ruso just enough of everything I like: intelligence, morality, inquisitiveness, kindness and humor. I liked Tilla too, but I'm going to need to read more books in the series in order to have her personality unfold more for me. Ruso's roommate, Valens, another doctor, is a wonderful character who helps get Ruso in and out of trouble while keeping any of the damage from sticking to his reputation. Together the three of them promise to provide me with many hours of entertaining reading. I'm off to put the second book on my e-reader.
Ruth Downie's characters are delightfully flawed and her ability to create a world that resonates as real on all levels (whether invented or not) makes for a particularly satisfying read. The only thing missing for those of you who look for it, are graphic sex scenes. If that's a 'must have' in your book choices, then this one will disappoint you. If you simply like a good historical / whodunnit / and why? story, then go ahead and treat yourself. I enjoyed this book when it was first published in hardback and my re-run read on Kindle was just as satisfying.
Gaius Petreius Ruso is a doctor who has joined the Roman army after a nasty divorce and the death of his father, who left the family in debt. Ruso is the main support of his stepmother, two half-sisters, a younger brother, his brother's wife, and their two children. Ruso transfers to the 20th Legion in the British port of Deva (present-day Chester). Ruso has to deal with the Roman bureaucracy, filthy and noisy living quarters, and an endless number of dogs (they seem to be more numerous than the mice!). Then there is the injured and possibly dying slave girl, Tilla, that he buys to rescue her from her abusive master. To further complicate matters, he is called upon to examine the body of a young woman who is believed to have drowned. However, Ruso discovers that her neck was broken and there is bruising on her throat. This was definitely not an accidental or natural death. Ruso becomes a reluctant detective, all the while trying to do his job, send money home, and tend to Tilla, who is not the most cooperative or grateful patient.
This reads more like a historical novel with a touch of mystery than a historical mystery novel. The characters and the background are well drawn and interesting. Downie does an excellent job of portraying Roman Britain. She really makes it come to life. My father retired from the Air Force, so the military bureaucracy in "Medicus" is very familiar to me. Some things never change. Ruso is world weary with a dry sense of humor. I found myself laughing several times. The book has its serious moments, though. Downie doesn't flinch from showing how brutal life could be back then, especially for young women without protectors.
This is definitely a series worth checking out. I've already started the second book, "Terra Incognita: A Novel of the Roman Empire," and it's promising to be just as good as this one.
Most recent customer reviews
In this novel Ms. Downie provides plenty of rich detail to give some insight into life of this imaginary army doctor of with Hadrian’s Roman Legions stationed in...Read more