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Vita Brevis: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire

Medicus, Book 7
Narrated by: Simon Vance
Series: The Roman Empire, Book 7
Length: 9 hrs and 20 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (77 ratings)

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Summary

Ruso and Tilla's excitement at arriving in Rome with their new baby daughter is soon dulled by their discovery that the grand facades of polished marble mask an underworld of corrupt landlords and vermin-infested tenements. There are also far too many doctors - some skilled - but others positively dangerous.

Ruso thinks that he has been offered a reputable medical practice only to find that his predecessor, Doctor Kleitos, has fled, leaving a dead man in a barrel on the doorstep and the warning "be careful who you trust." Distracted by the body and his efforts to help a friend win the hand of a rich young heiress, Ruso makes a grave mistake, causing him to question both his competence and his integrity.

With Ruso's reputation under threat, he and Tilla must protect their small family from Doctor Kleitos' debt collectors and find allies in their new home while they track down the vanished doctor and find out the truth about the heiress' dead father - Ruso's patient - and the unfortunate man in the barrel.

©2016 Ruth Downie (P)2016 Tantor
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    4 out of 5 stars
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Same high level of quality of writing.

If you could sum up Vita Brevis: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire in three words, what would they be?
Atmospheric, endearing & intriguing

What did you like best about this story?
The meeting of an old enemy. The extremes of wealth and poverty in Rome and how the glamour and glitz of the city did not fool anybody.

Which character – as performed by Simon Vance – was your favourite?
Russo and his arch enemy (don't ask me to spell his name, please). Never been keen on Tilla, she's a tad too whiney and stubborn for my taste.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Yes but it was too long for that. However, the story line made it easy to follow up after breaks.

Any additional comments?
I really hope this isn't the last Russo book.

1 person found this helpful

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All Roads Lead to Rome

It’s always a pleasure to spend time with Ruso and Tilla. Downie’s portrayal of their relationship seems very honest to me. I enjoyed Tilla’s attempt to be a good Roman wife just as I enjoyed Ruso’s gradually increasing attachment to their adopted baby daughter. In particular I liked the scene where Ruso explains his feelings to a potential adoptive father:

“It’s like any other sort of parenting, I suppose. Although not having tried the other sort, I don’t really know. Sometimes, it’s exhausting. Most of the time, it’s—well, I can’t imagine being without her now.” He suspected there was a silly grin on his face as he added, “She had another tooth come through this morning. And I’m almost sure she said Pa.”

One of my favorite moments was when the followers of Christos, who were having a service in the apartment above Ruso and Tilla’s, arrive in time to frighten away some thugs. Another favorite moment is when Tilla and two accomplices attempt to rescue Ruso by setting fire to a door. Finally, I enjoyed the scene where watching Tilla curse someone in her native tongue, Ruso speculates that if “the followers of Christos ever decided to expand into Britannia, they were going to find it an interesting challenge.”

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Another great story from Ruth Downie<br />

I think these books just get better and better, can't wait for the next one now

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Passably good continuation of the Medicus series

I felt the storyline in this book was a little weaker than the previous books in this series. The sooner the medicus and his family get back to Britain, where the author can be a little more inventive, the better. This book had something of a feel of Didius Falco books, but without the same level of humor.

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  • JP
  • 05-05-19

A big improvement in narration...

...Tilla finally sounds like a person and not a parody. Best story so far in my opinion too!

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Brilliant Who Done it Roman Style

This is my last book to read in the series and I have enjoyed everyone of them immensely. The characters are well defined and each catches you attention immediately. I have come to love the characters and feel like a visit with old friend. You can jump in anywhere, but I would suggest following them in order. I have also learned much about Ancient Rome and the many inventions by Rome that we are still using. Ever time I stem on my underfloor heating I think of Russo and Tilla. Great series.

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  • Jean
  • 19-10-16

Life in Ancient Rome

This is book seven of the series. In this story Gaius Petraeus Ruso, his wife Tila and baby daughter Mara, have arrived in Rome from Britain. Former Tribune Accius has offered Ruso the home and medical practice of a Doctor Kleitos. Kleitos has vanished. Horiatis Balbo, a patron of Kleitos’s is convinced someone is trying to poison him and only Kleitos’s mysterious medial prescription will protect him. Balbo suddenly dies. Ruso and Tila are trying to solve the mystery of Kleitos and Balbo.

The book is well written and the move to Rome adds a new excitement to the story. Downie, as always, provides a realistic view of ancient Rome and provides historical insight to the story. The characters feel real, the plot is complex and the suspense builds throughout the story. As with all Downie books there is a subtle dry humor which I enjoy. I am always amazed at the detail of Roman life that Downie works into her story. The squalid conditions and corruption that was Rome is vividly portrayed by Downie.

Simon Vance does an excellent job narrating the story. Vance is a British actor and award winning audiobook narrator.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Patricia
  • 14-08-16

Thank you for another completely wonderful listen!

I love these books so much I will listen to them again. They transport me to another time as an observer in the midst of the action so clear and colourful is the description of the scenes.
As always, the writing is witty, the characters are now my friends, and the narration is superb! Thank you!

5 people found this helpful

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  • Joyce Eriksen
  • 30-07-16

Never disappoints

Downie has been right on since her first Russo. He and his sassy wife are good every time out. Simon Vance is the best narrator on audible books.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Gr
  • 17-01-17

A HERO IS NOT ALWAYS THE WARRIOR

Ruth Downie’s seventh novel Vita Brevis brings a glimpse of Hadrianic Rome and is a wonderful addition to the Medicus series. Ruso and Tilla make great and likeable hero's worth revisiting. Simon Vance is an outstanding narrator. Ruth Downie does a great job mixing her stories with historical events making them real for the reader. If you have enjoyed the previous stories in the series, this one is worth the credit. If you have not tried any of these books, and like believable period historical fiction, with a bit of mystery and detective work, try reading Medicus.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Jamie Dodson
  • 02-08-16

Another great Roman murder mystery.

Ms. Downie just keeps getting better. What a wild ride through the eternal city of Rome. she brings the ancients to life.

2 people found this helpful

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  • justthisonce
  • 10-01-17

The series gets better and better.

Set in Rome this time around, it seemed it would be difficult to be as good as all the stories set in Britannia. As good or better. If you haven't read any of this series, you probably could start with this one or any other and enjoy it but you may as well go back to the first book and start there. If you enjoy that one, you'll enjoy them all and each will be that much better for the back story. And then, like me, you'll get to the point I'm at now; trying to be patient as Ms. Downie works her charm and skill into the next book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 13-01-20

Thoroughly enjoyable

This latest entry in the Medicus series was a very enjoyable read. And Simon Vance, as the narrator did a sterling job.
This time both Ruso and his British wife, Tilla are struggling badly to find a place in Rome, and when his ex-commander finds him a fill-in position as a doctor, nothing goes right from the very start. As usual, they're both very quickly involved in a number of mysteries.
It's great watching the growing strength of their relationship and poor Tilla, struggling in vain, to be a "proper" Roman wife.
Great fun to read.

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  • DFK
  • 27-12-18

Sheer delight

I don’t think I can add anything to the other rave reviews for this book and the series. I just love them and am already trying to figure out how to deal with the “withdrawal symptoms” after I listen to Book 8, the last one, hopefully a temporary situation. This episode was even better than some of the others, and I loved every one.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • J. B. Taylor
  • 18-10-18

Vita Brevis - excellent, a must listen

As always, Russo and Tilla are involved in well described surroundings with believable characters and dialogue, involved with a plot with more twists and turns than a goat trail in mountainous terrain. The narrator is excellent with voice characterizations, and maintains individual voices audio book after audio book.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 22-03-18

I love this series!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This series gets better and better and I love the contrast between the City/Rome and the small people who inhabit it.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Vita Brevis: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire?

I loved it when Russo was stoned out of his mind!