Thursday, April 9, 2009

Review: Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire


Like Mistress of the Art of Death, it was my husband who first picked Medicus up, before passing it to me to read.* From the publisher:
Divorced and down on his luck, Gaius Petreius Ruso has made the rash decision to seek his fortune in an inclement outpost of the Roman Empire, namely Britannia. In a moment of weakness, after a straight thirty-six-hour shift at the army hospital, he succumbs to compassion 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. Now Ruso must summon all his forensic knowledge to find a killer who may be after him next.
Even though I'm not normally interested in books about ancient Rome, I thought this was one of the better historical mystery novels I've read recently. I think that's because it was very character driven. Ruso was a really likable guy and, even though the book seems to me to be pretty historically accurate, I thought he was very relatable to the modern person. I certainly smiled at his constant plans to write a book, though maybe that's just me.

I've seen a bit of ink spilled lately lamenting that reading has become a woman's hobby and that fewer and fewer men are reading for pleasure.** This may be an odd compliment to give a book, but I think Medicus would be a prime candidate to give to a man who has stopped reading, to convince him to start reading again. Not that a woman wouldn't enjoyed this book, too, obviously, since I did. But I know a lot more men than women who are interested in the history of warfare and might like this fictional look into a Roman garrison.


In the UK, this book was published as Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls.


Ruth Downie online.
* Also like Mistress, I read this a while back but am reviewing it now, as the sequel just came out in paperback. So, stay tuned for my review of the sequel, Terra Incognita: A Novel of the Roman Empire!

** See, for example, this article in the Guardian calling for the "re-masculinization" of books in order to interest men in reading. Then, of course, you need to see Book Ninja's tongue-in-cheek contest in response.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Lorin - 'a prime candidate to give to a man who has stopped reading, to convince him to start reading again' must be one of the nicest things anybody could say about a book!

    Best wishes,

    Ruth

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