Yune's Reviews > Medicus

Medicus by Ruth Downie
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
8561
's review
Dec 30, 12

bookshelves: historical-mystery

A forensic mystery set in Ancient Rome! How could I resist?

The tone is modern enough to be readable even by those who don't normally seek out historical fiction, I think. Gaius Petrius Ruso is a divorced physician stationed with the Twentieth Legion in Brittania when the unidentified body of a woman is brought to him for a post-mortem. The opening scene captures a lot of what I liked in the main character: dry humor -- Ruso is stuck with the mortuary assistant's assistant, whose note-taking skill leave something to be desired -- and a meticulousness that makes him revise "place of death" to "location of body." He's also a decent man, who purchases an injured slave so he can nurse her back to health.

She's ungrateful, of course; she's a British native who won't even speak to him at first, and Ruso ends up being forced to hide her in a brothel so she can convalesce. In the meantime, he contends with a supercilious administrative officer determined to nickel and dime the medical facilities; a smarmy roommate who snatches up all the best opportunities; a secret family debt he's desperately trying to pay off by being parsimonious; and a second dead woman.

Don't read this for any particular charm (I read comparisons to Lindsay Davis's Falco series, which kind of horrifies me); it's not particularly light-hearted, nor is our hero exceptionally clever. But he's a decent man who occasionally pokes his nose a little too far into things, and I liked that aspect, how he wasn't following the mystery like a dog with a bone. It just sort of kept being there to get bumped into, or lurking someplace where he could just possibly ask another question.

There's a lot of mundane everyday detail here, most of which rang true (especially the bureaucracy) without drowning me in a sense of Ancient Rome. I could see it boring some folks. And the slave woman's development into a respectable character was a bit fraught in my opinion, but satisfying enough in the end.

I'd pick it up for a quieter read if the premise appeals and you're not looking for sharp or glittery writing.
likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Medicus.
sign in »

No comments have been added yet.