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Medicus Paperback – Feb 2 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury US; Reprint edition (Feb. 2 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596914270
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596914278
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 15.7 x 2.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #227,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Prairie Pal TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 29 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Historical mysteries are a popular subgenre and rightly so. Readers are introduced to interesting places and times while they wrangle with solving the puzzle that the author has placed before them. Numberless authors have tried their hands at the game but few really succeed.

There seem to be two basic approaches: either attempt to create a world that is exotic and alien or make a distant historical period seem modern. Writers like Paul Doherty and C.J. Sansom opt for the former route and populate their pages with strange customs, offensive smells and formal pseudo-historical speech patterns -- "God's wounds! What do you here, mistress goodwife?", etc. Lindsey Davis takes the latter approach in her series centering on a Roman public informer: the hero is a wise-cracking investigator who would not be out of place in Los Angeles or New York. Ruth Downie is also of this ilk and we soon feel at home on the fringes of the 2nd-century Roman empire.

Her hero Ruso, a surgeon with the Roman army occupying Britain, is not terribly quick with his wit or his sword; he is rather a lovable loser. He is in debt, maladroit in his relations with his superiors and plagued by writer's block -- he will never finish his masterpiece on military medicine. But he does have a good heart and his essentially kind nature gets him into trouble with murderous thugs, corrupt officials, unreliable room-mates and a beautiful slave. I very much enjoyed "Medicus" and am glad to see that there are successors to Ruso's adventures.
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By Karoline TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 17 2009
Format: Paperback
Medicus is a mystery taking place in Ancient Rome (to be specific, Britannia). It features Gaius Petreius Ruso, a doctor working at the army hospital. He's i Britannia for a reason; to run away from several personal issues and to fix some (ie; family debt). Throughout the novel he's constantly plagued with a lot of misfortune and a lot of bad luck. He just happens to be at the wrong places at the wrong times. Ruso comes across and unwillingly takes a slave named Tilla who has her own plans up her sleeve (which I won't reveal, read the book!). Overall, there's been two women who were murdered and Ruso reluctantly takes the case even though he didn't want to be involved but since no one seems very interested in two dead dancing girls, someone's got to do it right?

I like Ruso. Mostly because I find his misfortunes really funny and the way it's written it's as if he has a dark cloud hanging over his head for most of his days. There's comedy mixed into this mystery so it's not a heavy historical fiction. I would call it "lite" not in a negative sense, but rather, although the history is there, it's not so involved like in some historical mysteries I've read where there's heavy plotting, a lot of politics, and a lot of intrigue. Which is why Medicus makes for a good "lite" history read. I especially like the inner thoughts that run through Ruso's head. Throughout the novel, he says little tidbits in his inner voice that makes you want to snicker and laugh.

He also has his friend Valens who is sort of like his sidekick/dumb friend which also adds to the comedy factor. If you place both of them together in a mouse infested dirty dwelling, you get "The Odd Couple" in Ancient Rome. It's a great laugh and a great read.
Overall the characters are all right and agreeable.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By microfiche TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 6 2008
Format: Paperback
I correctly guessed the villian on first appearance, so I can't call it a good mystery.

Doctors Russo ("the grumpy one") and Valens ("the handsome one") bear some resemblance to Hawkeye and Trapper John (their situations and housing accomodations are certainly comparable) and the hospital administrator is a bit of a cross between Frank Burns and Major Winchester, and Marula is almost as cheeky a bar manager as Rosie was; but there is only a vague resemblance to the characters of the television series M*A*S*H*. Both groups of doctors are sweating and freezing it out in a country their country is occupying - a country very different and "uncivilized" compared to home, and that seems to be the strongest connection I can make to the blurb touting the resemblance.
Tilla is a determined girl who can take care of herself - even with a broken arm - because she must. She wants to die, but for some reason she can't fathom, her goddess keeps putting rescuers (such as Russo), captors (such as Roman patrols) and people in distress she must help(such as a friend about to give birth) in her way.
I felt interested in these three characters; but I did not feel much drive in the plot. When Tilla escapes, Russo is concerned, but does not make much push to find her. He doesn't make much push to find out why his bed caught fire or why Tilla thinks another near fatal accident was no accident. He seems to avoid thinking about that mystery or the one about the dead brothel girls until nearly the end of the book, when Tilla might become the next victim and he wakes up and starts to do something - and even then Tilla ... well, you'll find out when you read the book. And there was no surgical details.
Lindsay Davis's Falco stories have much more punch and a much more pro-active protagonist.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 201 reviews
115 of 121 people found the following review helpful
Fresh and Funny April 9 2007
By Douglas S. Wood - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed Ruth Downie's debut novel about a Roman doctor on the edges of the Empire in Roman Brittania. The book is the first in a promised series. Our doc, Ruso, who's really from Gaul, not Rome, finds life away from the imperial center to be difficult in every regard - bad food, bad clothes, and bad wine - not to mention the weather and the natives. He went to Brittania to get a fresh start after a divorce and the death of his father, but Ruso's halting good intentions keep dragging him into deeper trouble as women from a local bar/brothel keep disappearing - or worse.

The Romans did indeed have a well-developed bureaucracy and they brought it with them, including its myriad regulations and record-keeping. With bureaucracy comes bureaucrats and his problems with his chief administrator are nonstop.

Fresh and wryly funny; Downie wields a lighter touch than Steven Saylor, not as polished, but not as worn either. Highly recommended.
45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
An Auspicious Start April 19 2007
By Dennis J. Buckley - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This reviewer, for one, hopes to hear more from Ruth Downie. Her first novel, "Medicus," is a pleasing tale set in Britain during the heyday of Roman occupation.

The plot, itself, is a bit predictable but workmanlike. Character delineation is strong, particularly in the persona of her protagonist, the ever-harried medicus of the XX Legion, Gaius Petreius Ruso. Downie is a perceptive observor (and chronicler) of male perspectives. Her artistry is in conveying through Ruso some male traits and thoughts that are universal and timeless.

Where Downie also shines is in her uncanny ability to evoke the atmosphere of an era and place that we really know relatively little about. She uses the facts that we do know about Britain in the second century to bring us the "feel" of the time and place.

Overall, an elegant and pleasing novel.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
A close-up view of Roman Britain April 7 2007
By R. Burrows - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is an absorbing story with a good basis in historical fact. The central mystery -- who is killing native Briton bar girls in a rough garrison town -- is well plotted, and though we suspect the villain early on, the working out of how and why is interesting.

The book's real strength, though, is that the mystery is interwoven with a good deal of information about clothing, food, urban architecture, military organization and the relation between Roman masters and native Britons. Downie is very skilled at describing how the town looked, its dirt and smells, the variety of trades, what people wore and what they ate and drank. She also creates a plausible picture of the relationship between the Romans and their subjects -- what slavery meant to individual Britons and the variety of personal relationships among slaves, free subjects and Romans. If you are at all interested in Roman Britain, this book is an entertaining, easy way to learn more about colonial society.
47 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Okay, but needs spice June 27 2007
By Bruce Trinque - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Like Tilla the slave's cooking, "Medicus" could use some spice. The basic story, involving a Roman army doctor newly assigned in 117 AD to a legion in Deva (Chester), Britain, who unwillingly gets involved in the investigation of the murder of a tavern prostitute, is competent and the protagonist is reasonably likable, but there seems to be an absence of zest to the secondary characters and setting. Comparison with Steven Saylor's "Gordianus the Finder" novels and Lindsey Davis's "Marcus Didius Falco" tales are inevitable. I would characterize "Mediucus" as being less thoughtful and serious than the former and less brash and sassy than the latter. If "Medicus" should prove to be the first volume of a series, I think I would bypass the hardcover editions and wait for the paperbacks, but it is possible that with experience the author may cook up a more satisfying entree next time. "Medicus" is not a bad debut, but neither is it wholly exciting.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
An atmospheric debut May 4 2007
By Lynn Harnett - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Divorced, preoccupied by his dead father's bequest of debt, serious about his medical profession, Gaius Petrius Ruso, an officer in the Roman army, newly posted to the Empire hinterland - Britain - gets off to a rough start in British author Downie's first.

Overworked and squalidly housed, Ruso finds his carefully constructed plans disintegrating under new debts and distractions when he rescues a British slave girl with a broken arm and asks a few too many questions about a dead prostitute.

All Ruso wants to do is pay his father's debt and write a groundbreaking medical guide but events and his kind heart conspire as another prostitute turns up dead and his newly acquired slave girl is more burden than asset.

Ruso does more stumbling than sleuthing as his martinet boss, his vermin infested house, his wily, ambitious roommate, and the strange ways of the barbarian Brits trip him up.

The remote military outpost is a vivid and brutal place and the gulf between conqueror and conquered is full of misunderstanding and bigotry. Downie's writing is witty and humorous and although the story sags a bit in the middle, the mystery solution is satisfying, the unusual setting is rich and detailed, and the hero is engaging.

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