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Medicus by Ruth Downie

Medicus (2006)

by Ruth Downie

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Medicus Ruso (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,0735111,249 (3.62)112
  1. 20
    The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis (ianturton)
    ianturton: If you like roman detective stories like this one you'll love this one too.
  2. 32
    Roman Blood by Steven Saylor (bookfitz)
    bookfitz: Readers of books by Ruth Downie may also enjoy Steven Saylor's Roman Blood, which is another historical novel that takes place in Ancient Rome. Roman Blood and the subsequent novels in the Sub Rosa series are set in Rome during the final days of the Roman Republic and follow the character Gordianus the Finder as he solves politically charged mysteries. Saylor's novels have been critically acclaimed for their historical details.… (more)

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Gaius Petrius Ruso is doctor serving with a Roman legion in Britain. Not very long ago, he was married, a hero (he had saved the Emperor Trajan's life), and the elder son of a prosperous family in southern Gaul. Now he's divorced, his father has died leaving behind a mountain of debt, his brief notoriety is forgotten, and Trajan is dead. He's struggling to pay off his father's debts, with his brother at home in Gaul working to keep the real state of their finances quiet so that their efforts have time to work.

In the meantime, he's sharing a mouse-infested with another army doctor and the previous owner's former dog, who has produced a litter of puppies. They have no servant to clean and cook for them, and their lodgings show it. Ruso has spent an unpleasant night examining the body of a dead woman fished out of the harbor, and then a long day on medical rounds. He doesn't need to buy an injured slave girl to rescue her from her sadistic owner, especially when she's too injured to work, won't talk, and will cost more to feed than she's worth.

So of course he does.
While he's treating the girl and coaxing her to talk, he becomes not so much interested in as worried about the deaths of two bar girls, and the lack of any investigation into their deaths. He keeps hearing more than he wants to because, to get her out of the military hospital, he rents a room for the slave girl, who finally speaks enough to decide to go by the name Tilla, upstairs in the bar. Ruso starts asking questions, and things start to happen--a burning brand through the window of his house, a trowel dropped from a rooftop and missing him only because Tilla saw it and pushed him out of the way--and his financial situation gets more and more complicated. His life is further enlivened when the hospital administrator, who has been away, returns, and demands that Tilla be pledged as collateral for the large loan he's taken out from the thanksgiving fund, to help stave of bankruptcy at home.

Ruso is cranky, impatient, and kind and generous despite himself and despite his circumstances. He keeps asking questions even when it's hurting his chances for promotion and making his working life more difficult. Tilla is proud, independent, and has every intention of killing herself rather than working as a whore in a bar (her previous owner's plan for her). As they slowly learn to trust each other, Ruso learns more about the workings of this Roman British town than he wants to know, or is safe to know.

This is a fascinating look at Roman Britain, with engaging characters and a good mystery at the core of it. The solution manages to be both fair and unexpected. This is the first of a series, and I'll be reading more of them.


I borrowed this book from a friend. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |

Loved it....very entertaining. Loved Ruso and Tilla....funny and clever writing. On to the next one in the series. ( )
  almin | Jul 29, 2018 |
3.5 Stars

Gaius Petrius Ruso, a medicus (doctor) with the 20th Roman Legion stationed in Britannia, finds himself investigating the deaths of two prostitutes working out of a local bar.

While the book is heavy on establishing the setting and developing the characters, it is light on the plot and investigation of the crimes.

Much of the story involves the day to day activities of the main character as he treats patients at the legion hospital, and becomes involved in the lives of the people of Deva (modern day Chester) due to his inadvertent rescue of a slave girl, Tilla.

Although the information on the Roman occupation of Britain is well-researched and interesting, and the characters are fully fleshed out and appealing, it is exactly this development and attention to detail that slows the pacing of the mystery.

Ruso's reluctant involvement in the murder is merely a secondary consequence of his relationship with Tilla, and he more or less stumbles across the culprit without any real investigation. Nevertheless, the resolution is satisfying as everyone gets their just desserts.

All in all, a good premise, solid writing and a likable protagonist make this a decent read. I will probably continue with the series if and when I need a book set in the Roman Empire for a challenge. ( )
  Lauren2013 | May 24, 2018 |
Just wasn't feeling the time period in this book. Tried for 115 pages before giving up.
  dorie.craig | Jun 22, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ruth Downieprimary authorall editionscalculated
King, Amy C.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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O diva ... / serves iturum Caesarem in ultimos / orbis Britannos // Oh, Goddess, / safeguard Caesar as he sets off for the remotest / regions of the Earth--Britain. --Horace
To Andy, with love
First words
Someone had washed the mud off the body, but as Gaius Petreius Ruso unwrapped the sheet, there was still a distinct smell of river water.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Published under the names "Medicus" (US) and "Medicus and the Disappearing Dancing Girls" and "Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls" (UK)
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Divorced and down on his luck, Gaius Petreius Ruso has made the rash decision to seek his fortune in an inclement outpost of the Roman Empire, namely Britannia. In a moment of weakness, after a straight thirty-six hour sift at the army hospital, he succumbs to compassion and rescues an injured slave girl, Tilla, from the hands of her abusive owner. Now he has a new problem: a slave that won't talk, can't cook, and drags trouble in her wake. Before he knows it, Ruso is caught in the middle of an investigation into the deaths of prostitutes working out of the local bar. Now Ruso must summon all his forensic knowledge to find a killer who may be after him next.… (more)

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