The salacious underside of Roman-occupied Britain comes to life in Britisher Downie's debut. Gaius Petrius Ruso, a military medicus (or doctor), transfers to the 20th Legion in the remote Britannia port of Deva (now Chester) to start over after a ruinous divorce and his father's death. Things go downhill from there. His quarters are filthy and vermin-filled, and his superior at the hospital is a petty tyrant. Gaius rescues and buys an injured slave girl, Tilla, from her abusive master, but she refuses to talk, can't cook and costs more to keep than he can afford. Meanwhile, young women from the local bordello keep turning up dead, and nobody is interested in investigating. Gaius becomes a reluctant detective, but his sleuthing threatens to get him killed and leaves him scant time to work on the first-aid guide he's writing to help salvage his finances. Tilla plots her escape as she recovers from her injuries, and just when Ruso becomes attached to her, she runs away, complicating his personal life and his investigation. Downie's auspicious debut sparkles with beguiling characters and a vividly imagined evocation of a hazy frontier. (Mar.)
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*Starred Review* Fans of Alexander McCall Smith will delight in this series debut set in Roman-occupied Britain and featuring wry army doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso. Newly divorced and burdened with the debts of his late father, Ruso finds himself in a ramshackle military outpost with miserable weather and minimal supplies. Ruso's new job gets off to a rocky start when he's called upon to examine the corpse of a young woman who drowned. Then, after a long shift of tending to the sick, the cranky but charitable doctor rescues an injured slave girl from her sadistic owner. His good deed earns Ruso unwanted attention from a hospital administrator whose attempts to cover his bald spot are both desperate and hilarious. It also lands the medicus in the middle of an investigation into the deaths of two local barmaids. Through it all, Ruso wonders what has become of his life. Celebrated as a hero a few years before for rescuing Emperor Trajan from an earthquake, he's now sharing a residence with a doctor of questionable morals and a flurry of seemingly indestructible mice. A strong start for Downie, whose series joins those by Lindsay Davis and Stephen Saylor on the ancient Rome beat but adds a bit more humor to the mix of period detail and suspense. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.