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Medicus (Medicus Investigation #1)

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  4,215 ratings  ·  591 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2006)
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Medicus is what I call a 'popcorn' book: a book to pick up and settle in with for an evening's cozy reading. Entertainment value: 5 stars, but several months from now I'll have a hard time remembering much beyond the main characters: Gaius Petrius Ruso, a physician stationed in Brittania with the Roman army, and Tilla, the slave girl he reluctantly purchases from an abusive master. Ruso, long suffering, wry, and a humanist doomed to be forever caught up in other people's suffering despite his at ...more
Reading Medicus I’m put in mind of Colin Cotterill's Siri Paiboun series. In both two men more devoted to their jobs than anything else find themselves reluctantly involved in murder investigations. In both we have a comedic more than tragic writing style that still manages to inject notes of seriousness along the way – in Medicus, it’s a reflection on slavery and sex trafficking.

Medicus is not a “heavy” read, however. It’s a very nicely written, moderately complex murder mystery set in the Roma
Carre Gardner
Five stars, five, and again five! Hurray for Medicus: it's the page-turner I've been looking for for a long time. I read it in an entire day because I couldn't put it down.

Set in Roman Empire-era Brittania, this is the story of reluctant hero , Gaius Petrius Ruso, a doctor in the local army hospital, who turns detective very much against his will. Humorous, lighthearted, colorful... This is Downie's first novel, and I hope she's planning a whole series of Ruso mysteries!
...The back cover made it sound so interesting and original - like a historical fiction mystery with men in short tunics with great senses of humor. It's really about a lonely, rather boring medicus (doctor) for the Roman Empire stationed overseas who stumbles upon a whorehouse, a couple of missing girls, and some bad oysters. Of course in the mix there is a beautiful, resilient, implausible slave girl - who was possibly once royalty or a healer or ???. Did I mention the doctor is in debt trying ...more
The mysteries in this series are all set in the time of Trajan/Hadrian, in Roman Britain (Britannia). I loved the characters of Ruso, the overworked, compassionate Roman military doctor and Tilla, his British housekeeper. Some of the dry humor is laugh-out-loud; this book is a fast read, but bears rereading to wallow in the characters' interplay. I loved Ruso's interior thoughts. The mystery was a perhaps secondary, but necessary plot device.
Ruso's personality seems to me like a cross between t
Laura McLean
I loved this book! Our hero, Medicus, a doctor in ancient Roman-occupied Britain, is a fascinating and totally lovable guy. The book jacket compares him to young Harrison Ford, and I think that's perfect--surly, oblivious to his own charm, professional, and totally adorable underneath a mildly prickly exterior. The writing somehow makes it easy to imagine living in Deva, Brittania (an area in a period I know nothing about) and all the characters are well-written and very engaging. I am really lo ...more
A nice historical mystery set in Roman Britain. It has a lighthearted, anachronistic tone similar to that of Lindsey Davis's Falco books - it even begins with an amusing dramatis personae. There isn't a comparable wealth of historical detail, but I liked the protagonist, a gruff army doctor who is not eager to play the role of detective.

The book is well written, and I very much enjoyed the setting. The mystery plot was okay, while the romance didn't really work for me. Still, this was a quick an
Gaius Petreius Ruso has recently arrived in a cold and rainy Britannia. He is recently divorced and has suffered bad news about the death of his father, which has left him with a great deal of debt and an extended family to support. However, despite his new good intentions to obtain promotion and, hopefully, some wealthy paying patients, things do not seem to be starting well. Although he has pledged to live frugally, he somehow ends up buying a young slave girl, whose arm is badly injured and w ...more
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Upon examining a drowned corpse, military Medicus (doctor), Gaius Petrius Ruso, finds himself reluctantly investigating the deaths of young women who are employed at the local bordello. On his way home from the crime scene, he ends up rescuing and ultimately purchasing Tilla, an injured slave from her abusive master. As his finances quickly become depleted, and the tyrannical administrator returns to rule the hospital with an iron fist, Ruso must uncover the shady dealings that have been going o ...more
Janet Richards
I read along with a group on the knitting site Ravelry. I found the book an unexpected enjoyable read. More so the slowly developing story about the main character (Ruso) and his slave, Tilla - than the "mystery" which was not compelling alone to hold my attention. But I like grumpy Ruso and will eventually read more in the series.

It was my first book set in Roman ruled Britton. The dialog seemed surprisingly modern, so that was a bit jarring. I kept picturing modern structures and buildings, b
Historical mystery set in Britain during the Roman occupation. Gaius Petreius Ruso is a "medicus" for the 20th regiment, stationed in Deva (now Chester, England). Upon his arrival, he has to deal with the body of a young woman found floating in the river, and then manages to become the accidental owner of a young female slave who he rescues from a disreputable slave trader.

This was interesting and I enjoyed getting to know Ruso and his slave girl, Tilla. I will definitely look for the next in th
Jun 22, 2008 Susan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Mystery buffs, historical mystery fans
Recommended to Susan by: Saw the sequel at library, decided to read in order
I finished this late last week - it seemed slow to start, but it was a good read. I just had a hard time getting into it, as I'm currently reading a few books. I saw the sequel at the library, and the comments on the back about the first book made me want to give it a try - I'm glad I did. Interesting characters and great dialogue, LOL at times. I realize from the author's afterword that not much is known about Roman Britain, so I feel it's a bit unfair to criticize her historical accuracy as so ...more
I read, intermittently, historical fiction, and I also read, intermittently, mystery books. While some of my very favorite authors cross both genres (Laurie R. King being the premier examples), I am fussy about both, and so tend to be leery of historical mysteries—most fail to work for me, as mysteries or as historical novels. This book is one of those rare examples of an excellent historical novel wrapped around an excellent mystery. It is fairly unconventional as a mystery, as it never actuall ...more
Mar 17, 2010 K rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to K by: Mintzis
“Medicus” is both historical fiction and a mystery, but it’s anomalous for both genres – purists, beware. Although the story takes place in the time of the Roman empire, except for occasional references to slaves, scrolls, and centurions it reads like a contemporary novel, something I appreciated but avid historical fiction fans may not. And while there’s technically a mystery here, the plotting is rather slow; we mostly watch our Harrison Ford-esque hero deal with all sorts of unfortunate (and ...more
#1 in the Gaius Petreius Ruso historical mystery series set in Roman-occupied Britannia. Ruso, a recently-divorced doctor who has moved from his family home in Gaul to an army outpost in Deva (modern-day Chester, UK) and stumbles immediately into a mystery, with the dead, naked body of a young woman brought into his surgery. Most of her red hair has been lopped off, and he's curious not only about her, but about her killer. When he discovers that she was a "dancing girl" from one of the local ba ...more
Ben Kane
Given that this book is about Rome, or at least Romans in Britain, it is a no-brainer that I would want to read it. However, the reason it has passed me by until now is that it is a crime novel. This genre is not my favourite, it has to be said. I ended up buying a copy in June when I had the good fortune to meet Ruth Downie at the Roman Festival in Chester. I started reading it a few weeks ago, and was instantly engaged and delighted by its central character, the hapless, kind, curious surgeon ...more
Curmudgeon & army doctor Gaius Ruso has just been stationed in Brittania, the back of beyond & far from civilization. His living quarters are filthy, his finances poor, the hospital administrator a petty tyrant, and his finances are stretched further when he rescues an injured young woman slave from an abusive owner. When young women from the local bar aka whorehouse start turning up murdered, he is reluctantly drawn by the locals into investigating it. In the meantime he grows attached ...more
What's a doc to do?

Father has died leaving debts. Brother has a very fertile wife. Stepmother is a bit of a over shopper. The less said about the ex-wife the better. And now, here he is at the end of the world.

Okay, Roman Britian.

But they dress werid.

Oh, and dead girls seem to like him.

Is this the best mystery I've ever read? No. But it's not the worst either. There are some wonderful touches of humor and the world feels real. It's a nice diverting read.
Rebecca Huston
A very enjoyable first book in a mystery series set in the Roman Empire. The setting is unusual -- a backwater in Britannia -- and the characters of Ruso and Tilla very appealling. The villain is a bit predictable, but what sets this one apart is the use of humour, which is muchly needed. Four stars overall, recommended.

For the longer review, please go here:
I love period books, and while I thought Medicus was a nice and readable book, it could've been set in any country in any era. I never got the feel that I was reading a book set in ancient Britain. While the character talks a lot about the Celts, they are mostly just boring tribespeople with funny mannerisms.

The hero himself is quite modern. He buys a slave out of sympathy, beggaring himself. He is concerned about the plight of prostitutes. He frets about whether his slave Tilla has someone to t
Hazel West
Thoughts on the Overall Book: I'm really glad I gave this book a go, because now I have found another historical series that I really love! "Medicus" is a somewhat quirky, easy to read historical fiction novel, and just the kind of book I love to sit down with before bed. I never thought I would enjoy a 'hospital drama' so much, but I really wouldn't put it in that category at all anyway. Number one, Ruso is an army surgeon who I always have much more respect for and can usually like, and two, i ...more
Apr 21, 2012 Stina rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stina by: Jacqie Hasan
Shelves: finished-in-2012
I really enjoyed this introduction to Gaius Petreius Ruso, his new slave Tilla, and all of his other woes. Ruso is an army medicus in Brittania, which is under Roman rule, and I liked that this put me in mind of a sort of ancient Roman M*A*S*H. The details of daily living are interesting, and the characters are great. I like Tilla, but I think Albanus, who is Ruso's scribe, is my favorite. Everybody should have an Albanus.

The mystery plot itself was a little off in its pacing, but I was having t
Set in Britain under Roman rule, circa 1st century, AD, "Medicus" follows Gaius Ruso - legionnaire, doctor and reluctant detective. Divorced with a lot of family money problems, Ruso becomes the unwilling owner of an injured slave. This gets him wrapped up in a lot of intrigue at a local pub.

While I set out to enjoy the historical setting, the story took only superficial cues from it. This murder/mystery could have been told in any other time period or location with only minor changes. I always
Kathy Trueman
I stumbled across this book in, and in a fit of boredom, decided to give it a try. Am I ever glad I did! I was so hooked that I had bought all the other books in the series before I even finished this one. The settings and attitudes are more contemporary than in most Roman novels I've read, but the charm of the characters and Downie's brisk writing style more than make up for that small flaw.

The hero, Gaius Petreius Ruso, is a doctor (medicus) with the Roman army in Brittania. Downie
Gaius Petreius Ruso, a doctor with the Roman Legion, comes to Britain in hope of opportunity for promotion and a better financial situation. He’s left behind an unappreciative wife but is burdened with family responsibilities and pursued by creditors.

He soon discovers Britannia is bleak, his quarters are squalid, his roommate is competing for the post he wants, and the hospital administrator is a bureaucratic oppressor.

Ruso is dour and serious. He’s also compassionate, a trait which soon has him
Medicus (2007, APA: Medicus and the Disappearing Dancing Girls, Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls) introduces Gaius Petreius Ruso, a Roman army physician in second century Roman Britain, who has transfered to the 20th Legion in the remote Britannia port of Deva (now Chester, England) to start over after a divorce and the death of his father have left him with a huge pile of debts. When a dish of bad oysters disables one of the other doctors, Ruso works a two-day shift at the hospital, incl ...more
Ann aka Iftcan
Excellent first book in a series. Also, excellent historical. Set in what is now Great Britain around 70 AD or so. Our detective is a Roman Army doctor named Gaius Petreius Ruso. He is a somewhat somber man, one who is more of an introvert than extrovert. He finds himself making an unplanned purchase of a female slave. He does it in order to save her life. This somewhat rash purchase ends up involving him in not 1, not 2 but THREE murders. He also winds up solving them--eventually. Altho, (somew ...more
Asterix meets McDreamy in this wanly imagined mystery about a doctor in Roman-era Britannia. I spent most this book pondering the strangely modern feel of Ruso's everyday life and work at the hospital doing rounds and clinic. Was this a carefully wrought statement about the commonality of experience through history (à la Wolf Hall) or just a failure of historical imagination? I quickly came to suspect the latter. There are a couple of nice touches here--Ruso's pesky scribe, his debts overseas--b ...more
I received this book as a gift from my daughter who loved the book. So with that in mind, I began to read it. Maybe a quarter of the way through it, I knew that I would have to struggle to finish it, but I wasn't sure why. After having read the entire book, I knew. This is an author who tells a good tale, but has not yet developed the art of giving her characters depth. They are cardboard people who do what they do as they meet their challenges in what otherwise is an interesting situation. My d ...more
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Ruth is the author of six mysteries* featuring Roman Army medic Gaius Petreius Ruso. The latest is TABULA RASA. She lives in Devon, England, and is married with two grown-up sons. A combination of nosiness and a childish fascination with mud means she is never happier than when wielding an archaeological trowel.

She is sometimes called R.S. Downie, but she isn't the person with the same name who w
More about Ruth Downie...

Other Books in the Series

Medicus Investigation (6 books)
  • Terra Incognita (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #2)
  • Persona Non Grata (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #3)
  • Caveat Emptor (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #4)
  • Semper Fidelis (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #5)
  • Tabula Rasa (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #6)
Terra Incognita (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #2) Persona Non Grata (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #3) Caveat Emptor (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #4) Semper Fidelis (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #5) Tabula Rasa (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #6)

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“Quid nomen tibi est? She was not about to offer her name up to a stranger. It was almost the only thing she possessed that nobody had stolen.” 3 likes
“wriggled to avoid the lump that always seemed directly under” 0 likes
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