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Ruth Downie
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Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire (Medicus Investigation #1)

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  5,829 Ratings  ·  732 Reviews
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 thirtysix- 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 proble

Published (first published January 1st 2006)
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Asteropê News article: "The Romans carried out cataract ops"
__...Perhaps most surprisingly of all is that the Romans - and others from ancient times,…more
News article: "The Romans carried out cataract ops"
__...Perhaps most surprisingly of all is that the Romans - and others from ancient times, including the Chinese, Indians and Greeks - were also able also to carry out cataract operations. The Romans were almost certainly the first to do this in Britain."Interestingly the Roman author Celsus described cataract extraction surgery using a specially pointed needle - and possible cataract needles (specilla) have been found in Britain as well as elsewhere in the Roman Empire." Detailing the procedure Celsus said: "A needle is to be taken, pointed enough to penetrate, yet not too fine, and this is to be inserted straight through the two outer tunics."When the (correct) spot is reached, the needle is to be sloped.........and should gently rotate there and little by little."__
- Full article here:

Also, just Google "ancient Rome cataract surgery" - there are other articles and references. (less)
Sylvia Snowe Yes, corn is the generic term for grains in ancient Briton--but why use the term, when the author could specifically identify wheat, barley, rye, and…moreYes, corn is the generic term for grains in ancient Briton--but why use the term, when the author could specifically identify wheat, barley, rye, and oats, the common grains of Briton? And wheat was introduced by the Romans, I believe. But maybe it's a British thing to call those grains corn, in the New World, corn is the maize of the Native Americans.(less)
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Community Reviews

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Mar 29, 2009 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 25, 2009 Carre Gardner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Feb 12, 2009 Kass rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
...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
Feb 26, 2017 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A while back, I tried to get into the much-acclaimed Marcus Didius Falco series, and just couldn't. So, when I saw this book on sale as an Audible Daily Deal, I thought for a couple of bucks, why not? Turned out a wise move.

I bonded with "Medicus" (Doctor) Gaius Ruso as a character right away, nice guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. Downie does an excellent job of showing that everything old is new again, at one point having Ruso go through the frustration of getting the hospital administ
Laura McLean
Apr 15, 2009 Laura McLean rated it really liked it
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
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.
Lance Greenfield
Looking forward to the next in the series!

Medicus and the Disappearing Dancing Girls is the first of a series of novels that follows the misfortunes of a Roman Army Medical Officer, Gaius Petreius Ruso, after his posting from the warm climes of North Africa to the dreary grey drizzle of Deva (pron. Dewa); that's modern day Chester.

Ruso is down on his luck and doesn't own much more than a few mounting debts. As well as trying to support his own life in the British garrison town, he is obliged to
Jamie Collins
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
11811 (Eleven)
This was different from the usual crap that I read. The lesson seems to be that if you are a doctor living in the ancient Roman Empire and some hot little slave girl shows up, you should probably keep her. She can make you breakfast and all sorts of neat stuff.

I enjoyed this one.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 04, 2014 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Camilla Monk
Nov 06, 2015 Camilla Monk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This. Yes.
I’m generally a sucker for anything related to ancient Rome, and this series is a treat. It’s slow-moving, but in a leisurely way, almost like playing an RPG: we wander along the streets of small towns and military camps in Roman-occupied Brittania, bumping into all sorts of strange fellows. It’s at time hilarious, at times sweet, sometimes a little suspenseful. I love Ruso’s awkwardness, occasional bouts of typically Roman machismo and his humanity. I know some readers aren’t big fan
Nov 10, 2008 Shiela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
It took me a while to get the humor in this book but once I did, I started to enjoy it. Gaius Petreius Ruso is a broke, divorced doctor serving the 20th legion, just arrived to the wilds of Britannia. He's extremely grumpy, always grumbling about not wanting to get involved in anybody's business, but at the end, he always does the right thing. And that's how I realized what a good and kind man he was. No matter what he said or thought, he would always go out of his way to help others, even when ...more
Janet Richards
Feb 03, 2011 Janet Richards rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nook
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
Jan 21, 2016 Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My sister has put me onto this series, and I will be reading them all. I have no idea if the actual mysteries are good --- the one at the heart of the first book isn't --- but the setting is genius and the characters are well-drawn. It would make a wonderful series for PBS Mystery, and that is high praise from me. Downie has created the world of early second century Britain. The central characters are Romans stationed at the outpost of Deva, chiefly a doctor named Ruso and his slave, Tilla. It h ...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
Sep 30, 2010 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
I didn't enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. I don't know why I was expecting a more sophisticated "who-done-it" but I was. Anyway things I liked about the story, I liked the fact there was always something happening. It didn't drone on and on about minute details that had no value to the story. I rather liked the ending. It's one of those feel goods that supports the whole, "If you love something set it free..." mindsets.

What I didn't like... Even as busy as it was I was sometimes bored. I
Sep 01, 2009 Spuddie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
#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
3.5 Stars

Gaius Petrius Ruso, a medicus (doctor) with the 20th Roman Legion stationed in Britannia, finds himself investigating the deaths of two prostitutes working out of a local bar. 

While the book is heavy on establishing the setting and developing the characters, it is light on the plot and investigation of the crimes.

Much of the story involves the day to day activities of the main character as he treats patients at the legion hospital, and becomes involved in the lives of the people
Jan 06, 2010 K rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 17, 2012 Stina rated it really liked it  ·  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
Susan in NC
Jun 16, 2008 Susan in NC rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mystery buffs, historical mystery fans
Recommended to Susan in NC 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
Mar 15, 2012 Alethea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ben Kane
Mar 02, 2012 Ben Kane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 11, 2011 R.Z. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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:
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
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Ruth is the author of seven mysteries* featuring Roman Army medic Gaius Petreius Ruso. The latest is VITA BREVIS. 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
More about Ruth Downie...

Other Books in the Series

Medicus Investigation (7 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)
  • Vita Brevis (Medicus Investigation #7)

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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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