Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Reviews of Medicus by Ruth Downie

Medicus

A Novel of the Roman Empire

by Ruth Downie

Medicus by Ruth Downie X
Medicus by Ruth Downie
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2007, 400 pages

    Paperback:
    Mar 2008, 416 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Murder in Roman-occupied Britain sets the scene for the most original and compelling novel of the ancient world since I, Claudius.

Gaius Petrius Ruso is a divorced and down-on his luck army doctor who has made the rash decision to seek his fortune in an inclement outpost of the Roman Empire, namely Britannia. His arrival in Deva (more commonly known as Chester, England) does little to improve his mood, and after a straight thirty six hour shift at the army hospital, he succumbs to a moment of weakness and rescues an injured slave girl, Tilla, from the hands of her abusive owner.

Now he has a new problem: a slave who won’t talk and can’t cook, and drags trouble in her wake. Before he knows it, Ruso is caught in the middle of an investigation into the deaths of prostitutes working out of the local bar. A few years earlier, after he rescued Emperor Trajan from an earthquake in Antioch, Ruso seemed headed for glory: now he’s living among heathens in a vermin-infested bachelor pad and must summon all his forensic knowledge to find a killer who may be after him next.

Who are the true barbarians, the conquered or the conquerors? It’s up to Ruso—certainly the most likeable sleuth to come out of the Roman Empire—to discover the truth. With a gift for comic timing and historic detail, Ruth Downie has conjured an ancient world as raucous and real as our own.

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.

...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Medicus is a light-hearted read with a strong contemporary feel. Although almost 2000 years separates us from Ruso, his problems are familiar: The bitchy ex-wife who never thought he'd amount to much; a lifestyle lived paycheck to paycheck while all the time wondering where his life went off track; squalid quarters and a roommate who's a slob; and endless bureaucratic infighting...continued

Full Review (717 words)

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Media Reviews

Booklist - Allison Block
Starred Review. 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.

Kirkus Reviews
But the real achievement here is the lavishly, often hilariously detailed portrayal of the world that absorbs Ruso's exhausted wits and energies (Downie even manages a few good jokes about English cuisine). And in cheerful mutual insults exchanged between Ruso and his colleague and rival Valens, we hear again the effervescent voices of M*A*S*H's Hawkeye and Trapper John. And Ruso is a wonderful character, fueled by a dyspeptic machismo and sullen charm reminiscent of Harrison Ford in his heyday. A charming novel.

Library Journal
The plot is suspenseful and fluidly told, but the evolving bond between master and servant is at the heart of this excellent first work, as Downie carefully details the pained conscience of the former and the latter's sorrow that both her family and her country have been ravaged. Highly recommended.

Publishers Weekly
Downie's auspicious debut sparkles with beguiling characters and a vividly imagined evocation of a hazy frontier.

Reader Reviews

Jim Coffee

"Medicus" by Ruth Downey
Wonderful historical fiction, and a good mystery.
Joe Gangemi

Medicus
An excellent historical novel. Humor, mystery and historical facts blended into a very well written story.

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

In 2004, Ruth Downie, a librarian from Milton Keynes, won the Fay Weldon section of BBC3’s End of Story competition;

Medicus, her first novel, was first published in Britain as Medicus and the Disappearing Dancing Girls, but simply as Medicus in the USA. The second in the series, Terra Incognita, was published in the USA and UK last month.

Interesting Links:

Pictures of the Roman settlement of Deva (now known as Chester).

An ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Medicus, try these:

  • The Confessions of Young Nero jacket

    The Confessions of Young Nero

    by Margaret George

    Published 2018

    About this book

    More by this author

    The New York Times bestselling and legendary author of Helen of Troy and Elizabeth I now turns her gaze on Emperor Nero, one of the most notorious and misunderstood figures in history.

  • The Killing Way jacket

    The Killing Way

    by Tony Hays

    Published 2010

    About this book

    More by this author

    When a young woman is brutally murdered and the blame is placed at Merlin’s feet, Arthur’s reputation is at stake and his enemies are poised to strike. Arthur turns to Malgwyn ap Cuneglas, a man whose knowledge of battle and keen insight into how the human mind works has helped Arthur come to the brink of kingship.

We have 8 read-alikes for Medicus, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
More books by Ruth Downie
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Song of the Six Realms
    Song of the Six Realms
    by Judy I. Lin
    Xue'er has no place in the kingdom of Qi or any of the Six Realms. Her name means "Solitary Snow" ...
  • Book Jacket: The Demon of Unrest
    The Demon of Unrest
    by Erik Larson
    In the aftermath of the 1860 presidential election, the divided United States began to collapse as ...
  • Book Jacket: Daughters of Shandong
    Daughters of Shandong
    by Eve J. Chung
    Daughters of Shandong is the debut novel of Eve J. Chung, a human rights lawyer living in New York. ...
  • Book Jacket: Anita de Monte Laughs Last
    Anita de Monte Laughs Last
    by Xochitl Gonzalez
    Brooklyn-based novelist Xochitl Gonzalez is an inspiring writer to follow. At forty, she decided to ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Long After We Are Gone
by Terah Shelton Harris
After their father's death, four siblings rally to save their family home in this gripping and hopeful tale.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Stolen Child
    by Ann Hood

    An unlikely duo ventures through France and Italy to solve the mystery of a child’s fate.

  • Book Jacket

    Daughters of Shandong
    by Eve J. Chung

    Eve J. Chung's debut novel recounts a family's flight to Taiwan during China's Communist revolution.

Win This Book
Win Only the Brave

Only the Brave by Danielle Steel

A powerful, sweeping historical novel about a courageous woman in World War II Germany.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

F T a T

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.