Excerpt from Medicus by Ruth Downie, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Medicus

A Novel of the Roman Empire

By Ruth Downie

Medicus
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Mar 2007,
    400 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2008,
    416 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


“F . . . found . . . five hundred . . .” muttered the man, suddenly breaking off in midsentence to look up and say, “She could have drowned a long way upstream and come down the river, sir. But then, she might have gone in farther along and come up on the tide.”

“Pardon?” Ruso blinked, taken aback by this sudden display of initiative.

Moments later it was apparent that although this soldier knew nothing about hospital administration and very little about writing, he had devoted his spare time to learning everything there was to know about the local fishing. The assistant’s assistant’s detailed description of all possible points of waterborne departure that could end in an arrival in the marshes on the north bank of the River Dee left Ruso baffled, but one thing was clear. In a land where coastlines shifted in and out and rivers flowed backward twice a day, anything that floated could end up a very long way from where it fell into the water.

“Point of entry into water unknown,” he dictated.

The man paused. “I didn’t get the bit before that, sir.”

Ruso repeated the location of the body. The man wiped a scrape of wax off the end of the stylus with his forefinger, flicked it away, and began to write. There was a bird chirping in the hospital garden and a murmur of voices. Ruso glanced out the window. On the far side of the herb beds an amputee practiced with his crutches while orderlies hovered at each elbow, ready to catch him. A soft breeze wafted in, fluttering the lamps that had been placed on slender black stands around the table, burning for the soul of the unknown figure laid out beneath them.

The lamps lurched wildly as the door was flung open. The assistant’s assistant looked up and said, “It’s not her, Decimus,” but the intruder still hurried to the table to look for himself.

Ruso frowned. “Who are you?”

The man clasped both hands together and continued staring at the body.

“Have you lost someone?”

The man swallowed. “No. Not like this, no, sir.”

“Then you’d better leave, hadn’t you?”

The man backed toward the door. “Right away, sir. Sorry to interrupt, sir. My mistake.”

Ruso followed him across the room and barred the door before turning to the assistant. “Is there a missing person that HQ doesn’t know about?”

The man shook his head. “Take no notice of Decimus, sir. He’s just one of the porters. He’s looking for his girlfriend.”

“In the mortuary?”

“She ran off with a sailor, sir. Months ago.”

“Why look in here, then?”

The man shrugged. “I don’t know, sir. Perhaps he’s hoping she’s come back.”

Ruso, not sure if this was an attempt at humor, tried to look the man in the eye, but the attention of the assistant’s assistant remained firmly on the writing tablet.

Ruso looked down at the body. “Write, Cause of death.”

The stylus began to scratch again. “Cause of . . .”

“We’ll start from the head down.”

“We will start . . .”

“No, don’t write that.”

“Sir?”

“Just write Cause of death. Nothing else yet.”

He frowned at the girl’s head. The fishermen who brought the body in had sworn that they had done nothing to it, but Ruso was at a loss to explain the girl’s hair. At first he had thought she was simply unfortunate.

Now, on closer examination, he realized the patchy baldness was not natural. He ran one finger across the bristly scalp.

“Is this some sort of a punishment, do you think?”

“Perhaps she cut it off to sell it, sir,” suggested the orderly.

“This isn’t cut, this is practically shaved.”

© Ruth Downie. Reporduced with permission of the publisher, Bloomsbury Group.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...
  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  254Cartwheel:
    Jennifer duBois
  2.  143Happier at Home:
    Gretchen Rubin

All Discussions

Who Said...

Good as it is to inherit a library, it is better to collect one.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.