Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire

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by Ruth Downie

Gaius Petreius Ruso is a much put-upon doctor with Rome’s 20th Legion, stationed in the city of Deva in Britannia.

Daily he works to patch up soldiers, their families, Britons who can pay, builders and camp followers.

While doing so, he must battle hospital administrators more concerned with records and audits than saving lives and the manipulations of his colleague and roommate Valens.

But the biggest burden of all is supporting his bankrupt family back in Gaul.

Ruso has been in Deva only four days when he finds himself with the bodies of two dead women, one fished from the river and the other burned beyond recognition in a building slated for demolition, and saving an injured slave girl, Tilla.

The girl faints on the street. When Ruso pushes through the crowd he sees that she’s been beaten and has a broken arm. Her owner, Claudius Innocens, a slave trader, claims she fell down some steps. Ruso realizes that her arm was broken when she tried to protect her head from blows.

In attempting to persuade Innocens to get her treatment at the fort hospital, Ruso finds himself buying her.

Buying the girl puts him deeper in debt, so he takes out a loan from a Legion fund. In no time at all, Priscus, the hospital administrator, is pressuring him to sign over the new slave girl as collateral for his loans.

Ruso is irreverent, world-weary and rebellious when it comes to senseless bureaucracy. But at heart, he’s a caring man whose compassion often gets him involved in lost causes. The two murdered women worked at a local brothel. The Legion has limited interest in finding their killers. Tilla is spirited, courageous and intelligent.

This is a great mystery with engaging characters. It’s both fun to read and funny where the mighty Romans and the wily Britons clash.

MEDICUS (2008) is the first book of the series. It was followed by:

  • CAVEAT EMPTOR (2010)
  • TABULA RASA (2014)
  • VITA BREVIS (2016)
  • MEMENTO MORI (2018)

About the Author: Ruth Downie (1955 – )

Although Ruth Downie left university with an English degree, she had no aspirations to be a writer. She worked as a secretary until technology and workplace restructuring led her to leave to work on her own material.

On a trip to Hadrian’s Wall, which she and her husband had planned as an educational outing for the kids on a school holiday, Downie discovered the Romans in Britannia.

She and her husband have two grown sons. When she’s not researching and writing the Ruso novels, she spend s the occasional week on an archaeological dig uncovering the remains of Roman Britain.



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