Peejay Who Once Was Minsma's Reviews > Medicus

Medicus by Ruth Downie
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Jun 01, 10

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Read in May, 2010

I loved this book. Told with heart and a great deal of humor, it had me buying the sequel before I’d even finished the first book. Gaius Petreius Ruso, the hero of the story, is a doctor, known as a medicus, for the Twentieth Legion stationed in Deva (current day Chester) in Roman Britain ca 178 AD. He’s a wonderful, well-rounded character: a man burdened with debt from his profligate farm family back in Gaul who is trying to earn a living as best he can and get the family out of trouble. He’s a good man who tries earnestly to do the right thing, with maybe more curiosity than is politically expedient for him. He’s something of a schlemozzle—not the guy who’s always spilling the soup on people (the schlemiel) but the guy who is always having the soup spilled on him. He can’t get a break. Like the time he just wants to drown his sorrows with the few coin he’s got left in his purse, but on his way to the bar/brothel, he sees a native girl being badly mistreated by a slave trader. She’s in bad shape—starved, beaten, her arm badly broken—but when she looks up at him with semi-comatose but beautiful eyes he uses the last of his money to buy her. He comes to call her Tilla because he can’t pronounce her complex Celtic name, and nurses her back to health, but it’s always a close call as to who is the master and who the slave in this relationship. Tilla is a beautiful force of nature. She may have been beaten half to death, but she never really submitted to being a slave and lives for the day she can escape. The interplay and growing relationship between Tilla and Ruso, the glimpse of the seedy side of the Roman empire, and Ruso’s attempts to solve the murder of two prostitutes—even though every official in town wants him to leave it alone—are the core of this book. It’s well-written, well-researched, and endearingly entertaining.
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