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Persona Non Grata: A Novel of the Roman Empire (The Medicus Series) Hardcover – July 7, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
The third installment to Downie's Roman Empire series—the second-century saga of a witty and courageous army surgeon, Gaius Ruso, and his smart and loyal lover, Tilla, a barbarian woman from Britannia—continues in gripping fashion. Ruso returns to his family home in southern Gaul, summoned by a forged letter pleading for his immediate return. Once Ruso and Tilla return, Ruso is thrust into a dangerous quagmire involving a missing ship, huge family debts and, before long, the murder of the family's principal creditor—a crafty phony named Severus—who is poisoned in Ruso's home. While Ruso and his family are quickly suspected of the murder, Ruso and Tilla's attempts to solve the crime are hampered by interfering family members, a lying politician, a greedy banker and a pair of too-eager investigators sent from Rome. Ruso and Tilla must also deal with prejudice, envy and a new religion, Christianity. The plotting is clever and suspenseful, with subtle clues and lots of action, while the setting and supporting cast are vividly drawn. This is solid entertainment, nicely done. (July)
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"Persona Non Grata brims with the complex characters and rich detail that have made this series a must for period mystery buffs." ---Booklist --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
As usual, Gaius finds himself trying to control Tilla and, in this case, finds himself beset by several other women--his stepmother, who will not accept that the family is debt-ridden and has no spare money for her many home improvements; his two younger sisters, primarily 16 year old, Marcia, who demands her dowry and who is in love with a gladiator!; his ex-wife Claudia, whose present husband visits Gaius in order to work out the debt owed him and who proceeds to drop dead, apparently poisoned, in the study without witnesses. Each of these women are distinctively portrayed both physically and emotionally, with several humorous situations breaking up the really serious mystery of the neighbor's death. Add to this, Cass, his sister-in-law, Galla the nursemaid, Lucius, his brother and five toddling nieces and nephews and one can easily see why Gaius frequently searches out the peace and quiet of an empty bathouse, with the doors securely bolted.
There are various Roman neighbors, workmen, slave, murderers and, oh, yes, the lovely widow next door. Tilla finds herself surrounded by family and acquaintances who aren't quite sure where she fits in the scheme of things and worries about the fetching neighbor and ex-wife. She is also overwhelmed by the treatment of foreigners by the Romans, either as slaves or as players in the deadly games in the local amphitheatre. Add to these oddities she is also taken my the nursemaid to a meeting of the followers of Christos and finds their beliefs and practices quite puzzling.
The family dynamics are amusing as well as realistic--two teenage girls and an unmarried uncle trying to set them up for marriage!! The solving of two murders, the description of the masses cheering the death of gladiators at the attack by wild animals, the birth of a new religion and the telling of the story matter of factly as a Roman and simultaneously through the eyes of the so called barbarian, Tilla, are all threads that keep the reader involved and interested until the very last clasp of Tilla's and Ruso's hands as it appears they are preparing for a lifetime commitment
At the end, Persona non Grata and his barbarian woman have saved the day.
In this book, Ruso brings Tilla to his homeland to set the family accounts in order. As usual, Ruso is surrounded by a cast of outrageous characters and he's firmly set inside a story line that, once again, has him solving a murder in his own bumbling way. The added treat to this book is we get to see Tilla bloom as a character and view ancient Roman ways through her eyes as we follow Ruso in his search to clear his name. Well done Ruth Downie, well done!