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:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2007, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2008, 416 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Excerpt
Medicus

SOMEONE HAD WASHED the mud off the body, but as Gaius Petreius Ruso unwrapped the sheet, there was still a distinct smell of river water. The assistant wrinkled his nose as he approached with the record tablet and the measuring stick he had been sent to fetch.

“So,” said Ruso, flipping the tablet open. “What’s the usual procedure here for unidentified bodies?”

The man hesitated. “I don’t know, sir. The mortuary assistant’s on leave.”

“So who are you?”

“The assistant’s assistant, sir.” The man was staring at the corpse.

“But you have attended a postmortem before?”

Without taking his eyes off the body, the man shook his head. “Are they all like that, sir?”

Ruso, who had started work before it was light, stifled a yawn. “Not where I come from.”

The description should come first. Facts before speculation. Except that in this case much of the description was speculation as well.

Female, aged . . . He spent some time frowning over that one. Finally he settled on approximately 18—25 years. Average weight. Height . . . five feet one inch. At least that was fairly accurate. Hair: red, scant. That too, although it might not be very helpful if no one had ever seen her before without a wig. Clothing: none found. So no help there, then. Three teeth missing, but not in places that were obvious. Someone would need to know her very well indeed to give a positive identification from that.

Ruso glanced up. “Did you go over to HQ for me?”

“I told them we’d got a body and you’d send the details over later, sir.”

“Did you ask about missing persons?”

“Yes, sir. There aren’t any.”

“Hm.” This did not bode well. Ruso continued working his way down the body, making notes as he went. Moments later his search was rewarded. “Ah. Good!”

“Sir?”

Ruso pointed to what he had found. “If somebody turns up looking for her in a month’s time,” he explained, “we’ll be able to tell them who we buried.” He recorded Strawberry birthmark approximately half an inch long on inside of upper right thigh, eight inches above the knee, and sketched the shape.

When he had completed the description, Ruso scratched one ear and gazed down at the pale figure laid out on the table. He was better acquainted than he wished to be with the dead, but this one was difficult.

The water had interfered with all the signals he had learned to look for. There was no settling of the blood to indicate the position in which the body had been left, presumably because it had rolled over on the current. The limbs were flexible, so that meant . . . what? Men who died in the stress of battle often froze and then relaxed again much faster than was normal. So if the woman had been frightened or struggling . . . On the other hand, how would the aftermath of death be affected by cold water? He scratched his ear again and yawned, trying to think what he could usefully write on the report that would not cause more distress and confusion to the relatives.

Finally he settled on Time of death: uncertain, estimated at least 2 days before discovery and gave his reasons.

He glanced up at the assistant’s assistant again. “Can you write legibly?”

“Yes, sir.”

He handed the tablet and stylus across the body.

“Place of death,” he dictated, then corrected himself. “No, put Location of body.”

The man laid the tablet on the end of the table, hunched over it, and repeated, “Location . . . of . . . body” as he scraped with awkward but determined obedience.

“Found five hundred paces downstream from the pier, in marshes on the north bank,” said Ruso,wishing he had carried on writing himself.

© 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: A Certain Age
    A Certain Age
    by Beatriz Williams
    Lovers of high-society gossip, there's a new set of players in town. A good 20 out of 23 of our...
  • Book Jacket: The Romanovs
    The Romanovs
    by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    The Romanovs chronicles the reigns of the 20 individuals who were considered members of that dynasty...
  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Falling
    by Jane Green

    "Readers who enjoy a love story with heart will adore this tale of homecoming and transformation." - LJ

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Secret Language of Stones
    by M. J. Rose

    "A fantastic historical tale of war, love, loss and intrigue."
    – Melanie Benjamin

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Sweet Caress
by William Boyd

William Boyd's Sweet Caress captures an entire lifetime unforgettably within its pages. It captivates.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!