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Summary

Gaius Petrius Ruso is a divorced and down-on-his-luck army doctor who has made the rash decision to seek his fortune in an inclement outpost of the Roman Empire, namely Britannia. His arrival in Deva (more commonly known today as Chester, England) does little to improve his mood, and after a 36-hour shift at the army hospital, he succumbs to a moment of weakness and rescues an injured slave girl, Tilla, from the hands of her abusive owner.

Now he has a new problem: a slave who won't talk and 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.

A few years earlier, after he rescued Emperor Trajan from an earthquake in Antioch, Ruso seemed headed for glory: now he's living among heathens in a vermin-infested bachelor pad and must summon all his forensic knowledge to find a killer who may be after him next.

Who are the true barbarians, the conquered or the conquerors? It's up to Ruso (certainly the most likeable sleuth to come out of the Roman Empire) to discover the truth. With a gift for comic timing and historic detail, Ruth Downie has conjured an ancient world as raucous and real as our own.

©2007 Ruth Downie (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.

Critic reviews

"Downie's auspicious debut sparkles with beguiling characters and a vividly imagined evocation of a hazy frontier." (Publishers Weekly)
"Fans of Alexander McCall Smith will delight in this series debut set in Roman-occupied Britain and featuring wry army doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso." (Booklist)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

I'm hoping a successor to Falco!

I've been a Falco fan since I first heard the dramatisations of the earlier books on Radio 4 with Anton Lesser (available on Audible, like the whole book versions with a number of narrators of varying quality!). So I've heard them all, and have been looking for another series of historical mysteries especially in Roman Empire times. I don't want just wars, armies and blokes being macho. So some series have been returned to sender!
I don't want Latin chick lit, just some continuing characters I might like or hate.
Ruso seems to fit the bill, so far, and Simon Vance reads well, with a rather neutral English accent which is easy to listen to, but has developed a recognisable accent for the British characters- - sort of mild Ulster or Ulster-Scots diffentiates locals from invaders.
The English hadn't arrived yet!!
Simon Vance has however developed some American pronunciations which come across like an obscenity in a sermon - unexpected wrong notes, like privacy- just a clunk in an otherwise good performance. There does seem to be a tendency for writers of European origin writing about European events to adopt US English, no doubt hoping for bigger sales, Martin Walker's Bruno novels being a prime example, but diversity of language is part of literature!

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Held my attention from the beginning

The narrator used a range of distinguishable voices to help keep the story clear and flowing. This is a good story enhanced by the telling

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting and informative

I am a glutton for a whodunnit! I found that I could put it down but as I listen to them to get to sleep (blocking out all other thoughts) I did keep rewinding. I found the characters well performed and enjoyed it so much that I have downloaded the second novel for my holiday. Appparently, according to reviews, it is even better.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent in all respects

I would recommend this audio story to anyone. I have read all of the Ruso series. This is the first one. The storyline of all of this series is excellent and the characters and the relationship between them so ver believable. The humor is subtle but there and well done

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Di D
  • Colchester
  • 06-06-18

Enjoyable

Rather slow and quite predictable guessed who did it within a few chapters. I do like a twist at the end and this did not provide one. It lacks the Falco factor. Nevertheless I did enjoy the story and the main character was interesting and would listen to another book to see how he develops.

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Roman intrigue <br /><br />

Excellent mix of history and intrigue. You get taken back into time with such entertainment. I enjoyed every second of it. Didn't want it to end

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Absorbing

Very well written story,characters interesting
The story teller was wonderful he made
Every part of the tale com to life and believable

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    3 out of 5 stars

good performance weighed down by poor QA

I enjoyed this book, at least... the half of it I listened to. every other chapter seemed to be missing, skipping from chapter two to four to six to eight.

one minute the main character is in the temple praying for the recovery of a patient, the next he's standing over a chap on a stretcher.

what happened in chapter 3!?!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A compelling tale

I found this story truly compelling. The narration was excellent and the story was very well written. The series has become one of my favourites.

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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent

Very good story and an awesome narration...very soothing voice to listen to and the characters are easily distinguishable between each other!thoroughly enjoyed this would highly recommend!!!

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Susan
  • 31-08-07

Great listen

Great story, good pacing. I thought it brought ancient Rome to life. Highly recommend.

35 of 35 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Lehua of Pacifica
  • 29-03-08

Took Me by Surprise

The similarities to Lindsey Davis's Falco are present and obvious, so I didn't expect much more than a takeoff. I was so wrong. There was plenty that was fresh and enjoyable. The plot is very absorbing, the hero is likable and engaging, and there's ample, if gentle, humor. Except for the unreliable best friend, none of the characters were stock, and some were very startling. Ms. Downey is less didactic than Ms. Lindsey with the historical info, and that had pluses and minuses. On the one hand, I had to do more guessing by context on terms, but it also allowed for a free flow that I enjoyed. I would definitely recommend this.

Audio: After a recent series of horrible readers, this was a great pleasure. The reader has a pleasant voice, is a good actor, and delineates the characters beautifully. And unlike most male readers, he does a good job with the females, using timbre instead of pitch, thus sounding like real women rather than impersonators or elderly aunts. He's top drawer on this one.

121 of 124 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • David
  • 09-09-07

You are there in ancient Britain

This is a thoroughly enjoyable murder mystery and imaginative recreation of ancient Britain in the early days of Roman occupation. Humorous and colorful.

39 of 40 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Jennifer
  • 06-11-09

Highly Entertaining

The first installment of a highly entertaining mystery by British writer Ruth Downie. The Medicus, Ruso, an army doctor becomes a reluctant detective who tries to solve a murder mystery in the Britannia port of Deva. Along the way, he matches wits with Tilla, his slave girl, the hospital thug, and the women of the bordello, to hilarious results. Top it off with excellent narration by the great Simon Vance, and you've got a good read.

37 of 38 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Ralph
  • 02-03-11

Medicus

As always, Simon Vances is a joy to listen to, his narration flawless, each character distinctly drawn by the voices he gives to them. After a bit of a slow start, the book picks up its pace and provides a fascinating look into Britannia under Roman rule. Most enjoyable for anyone who loves historical fiction.

31 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Rose
  • 28-03-07

Murder on the Roman Frontier

The British paperback title of this book is Medicus and the Disappearing Dancing Girls, which probably gives a better idea of the lively nature of this story about a divorced military doctor stationed in Roman Britain in 117 AD faced with the mysterious murder of local tavern girls.

The author has very good comic timing as Gaius Petreius Ruso tries to cope with all of the problems attendant on being on the edge of the civilized world, as the Romans knew it. Whether it involves buying his first pair of wool trousers or his efforts to find a good cook or dealing with hospital bureaucrats, Ruso's trials provide an entertaining diversion.

The narrator is Simon Vance who also narrated The Fourth Bear. His occasional reuse of a voice from that other book is a bit disconcerting, however, overall he does very well indeed.

63 of 66 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Catherine
  • 01-08-08

Entertaining

Entertaining--not historically accurate, but the main character is determinedly grumpy and yet a softie on the inside! I'd love to see a continuation of the series, it was worth listening to.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Sue
  • 27-04-07

Medicus

Given the setting (Roman Empire Era) I didn't expect to like it. Was surprised to throughly enjoy the book. Good character development and enough surprises to keep one interested.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Either
  • 03-04-07

All hail the power of Rome

I thought this novel to be fantastic. The storyline along with the history was brillant!!And to top it off the talents of the narrator were exceptional!! If you like Roman history or anything to do with Rome then this book is for you

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ana
  • 05-07-08

Highly recommended

This is a great book, the characters are very likable, it is interesting, humorous and credible.
It is read by Simon Vance, who is, as always, an absolute pleasure to listen.
To give you an idea of what I like, I spent 6 moths reading Patrick O'Brian (the audio books are also read by Simon Vance, by the way) and a year reading Terry Pratchett.

34 of 38 people found this review helpful