Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Medicus, A Novel of the Roman Empire by Ruth Downie

Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire

Ruth Downie has set Medicus in England during the time of the Roman’s.  As she says in the Author’s Note, “accounts of Roman Britain are tantalizingly patchy”.  Much that is written was not recorded until long after the Roman’s had left but “many of the gaps are still being filled by archaeology”.   Deva, the setting for Medicus is where modern Chester is today and there are remains from Roman times that can be seen today.  That being said she had to invent much of the daily life but not the medical treatments used in Medicus.

I loved how Medicus starts.  Before you read the first chapter you see a list that starts:

A Novel In Which our hero will be…

Baffled by
            Tilla, a slave
            Merula, a bar owner
            Quinus Antonious Vindex, a recruit
            A family of native Britons”

The list goes on to include alarmed by, assaulted by, amused by, followed by, surrounded by, tempted by, sworn at, avoided by, harangued by, annoyed by, ignored by, informed by, mothered by, moved to sympathy by, and ruled by.

Our hero is Gaius Petreius Ruso, a Roman physician who has just arrived in Deva.  As the story develops we find out money is a big issue with Ruso.  His Father died leaving no money and many debts.  Ruso and his brother are trying to save the family farm; Ruso by working in England and sending the money home and his bother by living on the farm and keeping everything going.   Ruso is also newly divorced and soured on marriage.  Ruso just wants to do his job and be left alone.  That does not happen.  He purchases a slave girl that he cannot afford to rescue her from further harm.  Then he is in danger when he finds himself involved in solving the murders of prostitutes who worked at a local tavern.  While all of this is going on he must also try to outwit the hospital administer who tries to keep costs to a minimum impacting the medical treating at the hospital.

Ruth Downie has put together a great setting for the first book in this mystery series.  Ruso and Tilla are wonderful main characters.  The secondary characters are well developed and add depth to the story. The pacing of the story moved in a way that kept me reading.    Other books in the series are already available and I am looking forward to continuing my reading about Ruso and Tilla.

Ruth Downie lives in England where the book was first published.  Every book in the series has one title here in the US and another title in England.  To make it even more confusing Medicus was not the original title here in the US.

Bloomsburg published Medicus, A Novel of the Roman Empire by Ruth Downie in 2006.

I checked Medicus out from the Rogers, AR Public Library.

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