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Back at his post as a doctor in the Twentieth legion in Roman-occupied Britain, Ruso uncovers a new danger even closer to home than the neighboring barbarians. As mysterious injuries, and even deaths, begin to appear in the medical ledgers, it's clear that all is not well amongst the native recruits to Britannia's imperial army. Is the much- decorated Centurion Geminus preying on his weaker soldiers? And could this be related to the appearance of Emperor Hadrian? Bound by his sense of duty and ill-advised curiosity, Ruso begins to ask questions nobody wants to hear. Meanwhile his barbarian wife, Tilla, is finding out some of the answers-and marked as a security risk by the very officers Ruso is interrogating. With Hadrian's visit looming large, the fates of the legion, Tilla, and Ruso himself hang in the balance.

352 pages, Paperback

First published January 8, 2013

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About the author

Ruth Downie

19 books719 followers
Ruth is the author of nine mysteries* featuring Roman Army medic Gaius Petreius Ruso and his British partner Tilla. The latest is a novella, PRIMA FACIE. She lives in Devon, England. 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 writes medical textbooks, and recommends that readers should never, ever take health advice from a two thousand year old man who prescribes mouse droppings.

*The first four books have all had two titles. Ruth is still wondering how this ever seemed like a good idea. Since she is unable to wind back time, British readers may find it useful to know that:

Medicus was Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls,
Terra Incognita was Ruso and the Demented Doctor,
Persona Non Grata was Ruso and the Root of All Evils,
Caveat Emptor was Ruso and the River of Darkness -
but SEMPER FIDELIS, TABULA RASA, VITA BREVIS, MEMENTO MORI and PRIMA FACIE only have one title each - hooray!

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 190 reviews
Profile Image for S.J.A. Turney.
Author 66 books410 followers
October 6, 2016
Book 5 in my tour of the life of Ruso and Tilla. It's a rollercoaster ride, for sure. I've followed Ruso and his slave/housekeeper/girlfriend/wife from Chester to Northumberland, to the south of France, then London, and now to York. It's like a pit-stop tour of some of my favourite places guided by two of my favourite characters and penned by one of my favourite writers.

If you don't know how much I love Ruth's books by now then you're clearly new to the blog. The Ruso mysteries are at the very top level of their genre - atmospheric, elegantly-plotted, immersively historical and delivered with rich prose. And yet also truly human tales, shot through with a sense of humour that never fails to make me smile and occasionally with deeper pathos. Ruso is not so much hapless as unlucky. He is skilled and clever and full of innovation, and yet regularly makes rather critical mistakes and finds himself in a mess. Tilla is practical and sensible and yet prone to headstrong decisions that show little forethought. Together they should be able to tackle any problem and yet more often than not they cause each other problems and worsen the situation exponentially. It makes for really engaging reading.

In Semper Fidelis ('Always Faithful', the motto of the US Marine Corps) we are brought to York as Ruso joins a small unit of the 20th legion who are there training recruits as they await the arrival of the 6th legion, who will be based there shortly. Ruso is back with the army now after his brief foray into the world of fiscal investigation, and the army is the focus of this book. For in York (Eboracum), the largely empty fortress has played host to native British legionary trainees, martinet centurions, beleaguered medics and desperate camp-followers. And a series of accidents and incidents that are believed to be a result of the curse on the unit point- to a clever investigator, anyway - to brutal and unacceptable behaviour on the part of the training officers.

Ruso and Tilla finds their selves delving into the incidents that have taken place and uncovering unpleasant truths within the army and landing their selves in deep trouble, which is only compounded all the more when the emperor Hadrian, his wife Sabina, and a unit of Praetorians arrive rather unexpectedly. Ruso knows Hadrian of old, since long before he came to power. You might think he could count on an old comrade to look after him. You might think that....

Semper Fidelis is yet again a beautiful offering from the pen of Ruth Downie and deserves to be read and enjoyed by all.

Oh, and the dog bite... Heh heh heh.

Go read it folks. It's a treat.
Profile Image for Claudia .
108 reviews501 followers
December 27, 2019
Really fun crime mystery in the interesting setting of Roman York. And we get to meet the Roman Emperor Hadrian in this one!
Profile Image for Assaph Mehr.
Author 5 books385 followers
January 12, 2018
Back with the Legio XX, Ruso is doing inspection rounds. We are treated to a view of life in the various outposts and training of recruits for the Roman legions. As usual, Ruso gets dragged (reluctantly!) into looking at some unsavoury aspects of life and death.

What to Expect

Well-researched details about Roman life in Roman Britain under Hadrian (who makes a cameo appearance), murders and other nefarious deeds, a plot and sub-plots that twist and build up - all for a great read overall.

The POV of view alternates between Ruso and his (British) wife Tilla, and Downie does an excellent job in describing how these two very different people view the world. The rest of the cast are also fully realised people, and one cannot but relate to them.

What I liked

This goes for the whole series.

The absolute charm of the writing. All characters are fully fleshed, believable, with their own motivations. The writing is witty, the setting is rich, the plot thought-out, and the mysteries engaging.

These are the kind of books where you care for the characters. Downie has a knack to depict the world-views of the characters realistically, switching viewpoints from a Roman medical officer to a British peasant woman. It is clear that each character - from main to support cast - is a fully realised person, with their own agendas and biases.

The plot of the stories grips you till can't put the book down. Downie is masterfully weaving the investigations through sub-plots, distractions, daily lives, grand events - till you just have to know what happens next. Ruso may be a reluctant investigator, but he has that nagging voice in his head when things don't quite fit well, and it keeps him following and digging for the truth. Tilla has her own sense of fairness, and views on what makes the world tick.

Downie locates each book in a different town, mostly around Roman Britain
(with only two exceptions). She has clearly done her research for each location and they all come alive, with the latest modern archaeological understanding of life there seeping through her writing.

What to be aware of

These aren't the noir mysteries I normally read and recommend. While there are certainly some gruesome bits (did I mention gladiatorial combats?), these aren't your typical first-person hard-boiled detective. Rather, the stories are told in a lighter vein, in third person perspective from either Ruso or Tilla's POV. Happily, Tilla gets more page-time as the series progresses.

Ms Downie has experience with archaeology and Latin history, and it shows in her writing. She has elected to translate most Latin terms into modern English (e.g. calling a master 'my lord' rather then 'domine', or using 'doctor' for physician), which may sound a tad weird to those used to Latin terms from similar series.

Be aware that while it's not strictly necessary to read the books in order, it certainly helps.


I absolutely love this series. I have no idea why it took me so long to get back to it, but I am glad I did. If you've read the previous books, this is a great continuation. If not, go back to book one (Medicus) and start reading today!

Assaph Mehr, author of Murder In Absentia: A story of Togas, Daggers, and Magic - for lovers of Ancient Rome, Murder Mysteries, and Urban Fantasy.
Profile Image for Terence.
1,160 reviews387 followers
September 20, 2013
Another enjoyable entry in the author's Ruso series.

Ruso is back with the XX Legion in Britain and has decided to make an inspection tour of the legion's medical facilities so as to avoid crossing paths with the Emperor's retinue. In the wake of the recent troubles, Hadrian has come to the island to supervise the building of the Wall and settle the VI Legion there as reinforcements. While in Eboracum (York), he stumbles across several mysterious deaths and injuries amongst the British recruits and soon finds himself and Tilla embroiled in a messy situation involving a bigoted, sadistic centurion; his nephew, the ambitious tribune; and the Imperial household (because, inevitably, Ruso does cross paths with the Emperor).

As with the first four novels in the series, Semper Fidelis is a quick enjoyable read with just enough gravitas to make it memorable.

The only caveat is the new character of Virana, whose dimwittedness is almost too dim to be believable. Hopefully, she won't descend too far into slapstick in future books (as she's become a member of the Ruso household).
Profile Image for Jane.
1,535 reviews173 followers
October 22, 2019
This finds Medicus Ruso back in the XX Legion and with a vexillation to Eboracum where the VI Legion is taking over. He and his wife, Tilla, are involved in solving the mystery of why so many British recruits are dying in suspicious circumstances. There's a good portrayal of Emperor Hadrian and his wife, Empress Sabina, visiting Eboracum and Hadrian devising plans for his Wall. Downie gave us a memorable conception of Sabina, an important character in this novel.
Profile Image for Jean.
1,707 reviews742 followers
April 3, 2014
Downie set the story of Semper Fidelis book 5 of the series, in 2nd century Roman Britain during Hadrian’s rule. The protagonist Gaius Petreius Ruso, a Roman Army Medical officer and wife Tilla, a native Briton are back with the 20th legion. The Emperor Hadrian and Empress Sabina are visiting England. Ruso and Tilla are posted to fortress Eboracum (modern day York) only to find things are going seriously wrong there for the legion’s British recruits. Mysterious injuries and deaths have occurred. Ruso runs into problems with Centurion Geminus when he starts asking questions. Ruso suspects Geminus is preying on the recruits, how, why he set out to find out. Tilla brings to the Empress attention the plight of the recruits. I particularly like the section of the book when the British recruits appeal to the Empress Sabina to accept there petition and help them. They are chanting Sabina, Sabina and the Empress responses to them in such as way to reveal she has had very little attention paid to her. Downie does factually portray the relationship between Hadrian and Sabina. There are many twists, turns and setbacks for the protagonist. The characters major and minor are well drawn. The author does an enormous amount of historical research and weaves this into the story with such a light hand that you’ll hardly notice you’re being educated as well as entertained. I like the authors note at the end of the book providing the historical facts provided in the story as well as the modern day location in the city of York that are presented in the book. There is proof of the abysmal treatment of native recruits to the legions in Britain in the “Vindolanda Tablets” dated from 85 -122 CE they also tell of Hadrian’s visit to Britain in 122 CE. I read this as an audio book downloaded from Audible. The award winning, Simon Vance does a super job narrating the story.
Profile Image for Jo .
2,623 reviews48 followers
November 17, 2012
Ruth Downie has done it again. Semper Fidelis is another great story in this mystery series. Just a quick warning, there are a few spoilers in my post.

If you have not read any of this series don’t start here. Go back to book one where you first met the two main characters, Ruso and Tilla. Russo is a depressed, unhappy person. His father squandered all of the family money before he died and Ruso as the oldest son is the one who has to keep the family afloat. He is doing this by serving as a doctor in the Roman Army in Britain. Most of his pay goes to his family in Gaul. Tilla is a native of Britain and life has not been kind to her. In spite of everything that has happened to her she remains upbeat. The two seem to be a real mismatch.

There is a big change in the two characters when you get to Semper Fidelis. Even though Russo and Tilla start out in a good place that changes for the worse. They arrive at a unit where all is not as it seems. Bad things happen to both but like previous books they work together to find the truth. Even though Russo just wants to be a doctor he is forced into investigation again.

One of the great things about this series is how Ruth Downie works the history of the Romans in Britain into the story. I think it helps that she lives where much of the story is set and can visit the sites she writes about. I get a real picture of life in Britain under the Romans.
I did think I saw a foreshadowing of an event that will bring further change to the lives of Russo and Tilla. I will just have to wait and see.

I received a ARC of Semper Fidelis form Netgalley.

Bloomberg will release Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie in January of 2013.
Profile Image for Monica Hills.
847 reviews23 followers
January 3, 2020
This was not my favorite book in this series. I like the characters a lot especially Tilly. This one brought in emperor Hadrian and his wife which was interesting. I did get a little confused at some parts as I lost track of who was who. It had some good elements but I have liked some of her others so much better.
Profile Image for Kara.
Author 22 books73 followers
April 4, 2021

Normally I find every day characters in historical fiction who just happen to bump into famous people stretches my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point and usually find it annoying.

However, I was very pleased here at how well it works to have Ruso and Tilla meet Emperor Hadrian and Empress Sabina in Book 5 of the Medicus series.

Downie has laid the groundwork since Book 1 that the emperor was going to be coming to Britain, and, historically, if a Roman was going to meet their emperor, Hadrian was the one that makes the most sense. Hadrian could not stop traveling - he went everywhere, probably covering more ground and meeting more average people than any leader before or since up until the 20th century.

So yes, very plausible he could have had a chat with one of his army docs when he was visiting Britain to see how that giant wall to keep out the barbaric Scots was going.

And that is good news for Ruso, because he really needed to talk to someone as high up the chain as possible to help him get out of the mess he and Tilla land in when they start asking a few too many questions about why a certain legion thinks they are cursed...
Profile Image for Eden.
1,804 reviews
January 7, 2020
2020 bk 8. Ruso is back in the Army, with the Twentieth. The Twentieth Legion is stationed in the backwoods and preparing for a move. It also has a band of recruits from among the Britains. It also has big problems. Suicides that are swept under the rug, mysterious "training deaths' and officers who want to hide what is happening. A chance visit by Hadrian and his Empress lands Ruso and Tilla in more hot water before the issues of this mystery are resolved. I have to admit that this book seemed to have more minor characters of importance than some of the others and I had difficulties distinguishing between some of them. The action was quickly paced, and characters would pop in and out. I had to rely on the character list in the front of the book more than I've had to in the other books. Comment - if one can be proud of a character, I am so proud of Tilla for learning to read and write and that she puts those skills to use!
Profile Image for Marty.
341 reviews5 followers
February 23, 2020
More of the adventures of Ruso and Tilla. Somewhat more enjoyable that some others in the series, although all are readable.
Profile Image for Linda Baker.
928 reviews18 followers
January 14, 2013
I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Semper Fidelis, #5 in Ruth Downie's Gaius Petreius Ruso series, set in Roman Britain. I was especially eager as we spent the week after Christmas in Corbridge, Northumberland and visited the major Roman excavation there. I had a much better idea of what a Roman town in Britain looked like and it added to my enjoyment of an already favorite series. Corbridge also brought home the rigors of Roman Legion life. Northumberland is no place to be in a tunic and cloak in the winter months!

Ruso is a surgeon with the Twentieth Legion and is married to a British woman, Tilla (actually Darlughdacha, but I agree with Ruso that Tilla is much better). Ruso is a very good man with insatiable curiosity but Tilla is his conscience. Ruso longs for nothing more than a peaceful life but does not seem to be destined for peace.The combination of curiosity and conscience has gotten them into a great deal of trouble before, but never to the extent seen in Semper Fidelis. The Emperor Hadrian is visiting Britain and the Twentieth Legion in Eboracum (York) and Ruso has also gone north to inspect the medical facilities there. When he arrives he discovers evidence of abuse of new British recruits leading to deaths and suicides. While Ruso is no longer an investigator and does not want to be, his sense of duty is aroused. His and Tilla's questions lead him to the Centurion, Geminus. He is forcibly warned off by Geminus, who not only is a highly placed figure, but is related to the Legion's Tribune, the ambitious Accius. When Ruso makes the mistake of taking his concerns straight to the Emperor and Geminus turns up dead, who better to take the blame for the murder than Ruso? Stripped of rank and imprisoned, Ruso is in deep trouble and Tilla is not much better off. As only officers can be married she is no longer his wife and loses all the protection of that status.

Many vivid new characters are introduced; the Empress Sabina, Hadrian and an assortment of Britons and Roman soldiers. Tilla even picks up a stray, a remarkably dim camp-follower named Virana. Ruso's friend, Valens, makes a short appearance and also, less welcome, Metellus, spymaster and general snake in the grass. The trademark dry humor is very much present but not to as great an extent as in earlier books. I think this is because Ruso's and Tilla's situation is so very serious. I was getting very anxious about it for a time.

I highly recommend the series but it is very important to read the books in order: Medicus, Terra Incognita, Persona non Grata and Caveat Emptor. The series is tremendously enjoyable and Semper Fidelis does not disappoint.
Profile Image for D.G..
1,363 reviews343 followers
April 20, 2018
This was the most exciting book yet in the Gaius Petreius Ruso series. I was scared half to death during half of the book, having no clue how everything will be solved.

Ruso and Tilla arrive to Ibaracum to learn that a Centurion is abusing his recruits. Ruso, who is a lovely man with a hugely developed sense of duty, puts his neck on the line to do the right thing. And let me tell you, that things go terrible for him! I was mad at Tilla, who just keeps pushing Ruso thinking he's invincible. I thought she would learned her lesson and put Ruso first for once but I've given up hope.

The series is not as light as it used to be, so I wonder if something happened in the author's life that turned the series darker. Still, I'm definitely enjoying learning about life in Roman Britannia so I'm looking forward to the next in the series.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
780 reviews20 followers
January 12, 2022
Second read of this.. Doing the whole series.. Love Medicus <3 My first by Ruth Downie and I so love Roman Britain! I borrowed this one from my library system and trying for more.A very energetic and engaging mystery about a couple who seems contemporary in thoughts. Love that!

Gaius Ruso, Medicus of Twentieth legion in Roman-occupied Britain and his wife the native born Tilla get caught up in a series of intense events. The Emperor Hadrian's unscheduled appearance has the Legion involved in some complicated but nefarious happenings.

Great history of the era and descriptions of travel and daily life. I am going back now and start with the first book. I recommend that everyone interested try to do that also.
Profile Image for Paulette.
131 reviews39 followers
August 22, 2013
Once again Medicus, with the help of his wife, Tilla, solved the crime. The Roman world is safe and all can sleep well! I really like Ruth Downie's serial. I looked forward to this book coming out and I look forward to the next one. I like mysteries and I like historical novels, Miss Downie's books give you both.
Profile Image for Joy.
461 reviews
March 17, 2013
I think this was the best yet in this series. I downloaded the audobook from Audible and I could not stop listening. It ate my Friday. Fans of historical mysteries, ancient Rome, or just good character-building should check out the adventures of Ruso and Tilla.
Profile Image for Sandi.
1,569 reviews47 followers
November 21, 2015
Another excellent entry in this series featuring a doctor in the service of the Legion serving in Britannia. Ruso is a great reluctant hero and Tilla is always highly entertaining. The plot was quite suspenseful and quick moving and the look at Hadrian and his wife interesting.
823 reviews2 followers
March 7, 2021
Another good one

When we last left Ruso, he was in Valens' house writing letters about a position as a civilian doctor...anywhere except where his last investigation took place, a place where he was offered a house and a practice that fits an old quote I once heard, the source if which I can't recall, but which also describes some types of nursing: "Money is too expensive to be earned that way."
Now, he's back in Deva as a military medic. He was able to renew his contract, and he's familiar with the job, the regulations, etc.
But then he goes to York, or as they called it then, Eboracum, at a run down fort that he's inspecting for the Emperor's pending visit. ..and before that, the advance team for the Emperor.
But something isn't right.
First of all is the young deserter whom Ruso and Tilla never report, as they are on their way in to Eboracum. He looks like he has been beaten to within an inch of his life, and that he can still run shows Ruso something odd is going on...the young man, little more than a boy, is doggedly going on despite injuries that may have stopped others. These are the new local recruits to the Legions because all posts are understaffed throughout the Empire.
When Ruso gets there, he finds one of his apprentices from the first book in the series, and he is running the military hospital. He sees 2 bodies in the morgue, one of which looks far more beat up than the deserter they saw earlier, and who obviously died of his wounds. Not only does the explanation make no sense, the post mortem is short and vague, not at all as he taught his protégé. The other is a suicide,, and they've just buried a young drowning victim. All those remaining won't talk, exceot to say they're viewed as unlucky, and unlucky soldiers are mistreated in any new duty station. Ruso is mucking about, after having seen a collection of patients that include a young man who shaved a tattoo off his skin and has an infection setting in, and may lose the arm. He finds the post mortem his protégé hid, an excellent one, and confronts his now fellow medicus about hiding it. Late, after it's burned, he figures out why it was hidden.
Tilla gets information from sources to which Ruso has no access, and tells him the DI, as we would call him, was making the men do things and betting on the outcome. What things they're betting on remain to be seen, but since Ruso tells one official and is threatened by the DI, tells the emperor when that worthy - whom he lnows from the past - is makimg rounds, then is busted to buck private and given latrine duty. When they find the DIs body, Ruso is arrested for his murder - meanwhile Tilla has been staying with the wife of the deserter amd her son, whom she and Ruso saved from a severe burn. The deserter is living in the attic, hidden; the military figures it out by noting she is buying a lot more food than is needed by 2 women and a toddler, and they find the deserter and arrest him as well for the murder...and the family believes the soldiers who claim that Tilla has betrayed them.
Then there is the Empress, bored out of her mind, upset about a violent storm that nearly killed everyone on the boats, and who has, with her husband, arrived early because they were blown off course - and she is determined to aavoid ships until she has to go home. She is wondering where the 24 hour days and the blue painted people are, the ones touted in books about the area. On being told they are both very far north of Hadrian's now-being-constructed wall roughly at the border of Scotland, she wants to see a local, and Tilla is summoned. And Tilla doesn't want to go. But her acquaintance actually helps the local legionnaores, Ruso, and the Empress herself in the long run.
So once again, Ruso ends up investigating things that just don't add up. He can't seem to help himself. Not even when he's being accused of the crime and very far out of the loop. Nor can Tilla.
The conclusion is a bit odd, IMO, and the solution may just become a problem. But that's for another book.
Profile Image for Carolina Búho.
378 reviews10 followers
August 10, 2022
La verdad no pensé que este libro fuera a gustarme tanto. Cuando iba hacia la mitad me estaba resultando bastante pesado y deprimente, mucho más duro que todos los anteriores, pero… pronto las cosas cambiaron y me llevé una grata sorpresa, pero vayamos por partes.
En la quinta entrega de la serie de Gaius Petreius Ruso (Cayo Petreyo Rusón, si lo tradujéramos al español, jaja), Bowie nos traslada junto con buena parte de la Legión XX a Eboraco, el York romano, donde un tribuno y algunos oficiales, entre los que se encuentra Ruso, han llegado para llevarse a los nuevos reclutas (britanos) de regreso a Deva, pues el fuerte de Eboraco quedará en manos de la Legión VI, peeero, cuando llegan, Ruso y Tilla pronto se dan cuenta de que varios reclutas han muerto en misteriosas circunstancias y que, en general, los oficiales de Eboraco parecen ocultar cosas.
Por supuesto, Tilla empieza a meterse donde no la llaman entre la población nativa, mientras que Ruso, en aras de hacer lo correcto, comienza a investigar los extraños acontecimientos y ambos se ven envueltos en algo mucho más oscuro de lo que esperaban y no hacen sino meterse en problemas cada vez peores. . Por suerte para todos, las cosas acaban bien gracias a la astucia de Tilla, las investigaciones de Ruso y la ayuda de algunos personajes que me hicieron emocionarme mucho.
Creo que lo que más me gustó de este libro no fue la historia en sí (aunque me pareció muy bien abordada la discriminación y el abuso a los que eran sometidos los britanos y cómo no todos los oficiales romanos, pese a no confiar por completo en ellos, los trataban así), sino el hecho de que es aquí, por fin, cuando Tilla entiende que sus acciones, por más buenas que sean, pueden acarrear consecuencias funestas para su esposo y cuando Ruso decide seguir investigando porque es lo correcto, en oposición a lo que había pasado en libros anteriores. También me encantó la aparición del séquito imperial y la participación de la emperatriz Sabina, de Suetonio y de Septicio Claro. El final y el papel tan importante de la emperatriz para la resolución del conflicto me encantó y deseé que algo así hubiera pasado en verdad <3 Adriano nunca ha sido de mis emperadores favoritos, así que supongo que por eso me hizo tan felix la pequeña rebelión de su esposa. Y la razón que dio Downie para lo que pasó con Suetonio y Septicio me pareció muy bien hilada con la trama de la novela.
Además, por segunda vez en cinco (5) libros, las maldades quedan al descubierto y la gente sabe que fue gracias a Ruso <3 Espero que en los siguientes libros vuelva a pasar algo así, porque siempre siento feo que no se enteren de la verdad ni de los esfuerzos del médico.
Ah, y Valens 🥰 siempre un gusto volver a leerlo, aunque esta vez extrañé mucho a Albano.
Aaah, no puedo esperar a leer los siguientes libros.
282 reviews
June 16, 2019
This installment was a little darker than the others in the series. The book explores some serious and deep issues and therefore, the characteristic humour found in the other books was dimmed somewhat. Some of the issues explored which were more relevant to life in the armed forces (such as pack mentality and the use of torture) whilst others were more general (such as the nature and role of leadership).

Downie handled the grave and weighty topics very well and created a believable and powerful plot, with a very unsettling and disturbing mystery at its centre. The plot was handled sensitively but also with force, to create a story that was neither too hard-hitting and depressing nor too light and insubstantial. I sometimes find that Downie's plot can be a little to meandering and that the ending can be a little unsatisfying, however this was definitely not a complaint I had about this book. Out of all of her book this was probably the most clear mystery with the best, most satisfying ending.

The two main leads shine as usual, both individually and in their relationship. Tilla is her usual strong brilliant self, but we follow Ruso to a darker place which gives a new angle of Ruso to explore. We also meet some other new interesting female characters, one who feature more in the later series and also the Empress Sabina.

Downie shows, in a convincing way, how two very different women had a huge effect on others and play key roles in the story. Tilla continually encourages her husband to fight for justice in extremely challenging and dangerous circumstances whilst showing remarkable bravery herself. Sabina who despite being one of the most privileged women in the world at the time lives a very controlled and restricted life also secretly fights for justice of people she does not know. .
Profile Image for Katherine.
629 reviews29 followers
October 27, 2016
Gaius Ruso, Medicus to the Twentieth Legion, and his wife, Briton barbarian, Tilla are once more in Britannia. Though Ruso's commission had expired while he was on sick leave at home in Gaul, his friend and fellow Medicus, Valens, pulled some strings and got him reinstated. The two find themselves in Eboracum ( modern day York ) awaiting a visit from Emperor Hadrian and his Empress, Sabrina. The Legion has had its ranks increased by the recent recruitment of young Britons but there seems to be something strange happening among them. One recruit has died mysteriously, another jumps from a roof in front of Ruso for no apparent reason and yet another is in the sick bay with a very serious self-inflicted wound to one of his arms.
Ruso's suspicions are aroused by his subordinate's attributing the death of the first recruit as accidental despite bodily injuries that point to a serious beating. When he finds the written report supporting his suspicions he begins to ask questions.
He is thwarted at every turn in his investigation and when the commanding officer of the recruits is found murdered he finds himself the accused murderer. Stripped of his commission once more he is told that Tilla is to be returned to her family since they are now divorced. How the two of them manage to solve the mystery and make a choice where they will be stationed next is an exciting tale of whitewash and scapegoat tactics to keep the peace in the Legion and protect its officers. All is resolved in the end but not without Tilla's headstrong disobedience to her husband and the Tribune who is his superior, which, as always, adds to the confusion before the solution.
Profile Image for Shane.
Author 5 books14 followers
March 1, 2019
This is now the 5th volume in the misadventures of Roman medical officer Ruso and his Briton wife Tilla, and it was about comparable to the previous volumes: entertaining, a dash of humor and action, a bit of mystery, nothing too spectacular but a worthwhile read. I returned to the series after about a five year break because eight days after the date I finished this I am going to England so it seemed like a fun thing to read before the trip (even though we are not going to Eboracum [York], where this story primarily takes place).
The plot of this one--strange deaths and other occurrences with the British recruits for the legion--was at least different enough to feel somewhat fresh. The mystery was solid, although I thought more could be done with it as sometimes key information came too fast to build the proper suspense. The most interesting section was when Ruso is arrested for murder.
Tilla is a great character, and I like how her character arc has gone throughout the series. Some of the new supporting characters--like Virana, Accius, and Marcus--were interesting as well, although Geminus seemed too one-dimensional.
Profile Image for Melanie.
343 reviews
August 29, 2018
The more books I read in this series, the more impressed I become with it. The details of Roman Britain are well researched, the writing excellent, and I really do have a mad crush on our hero, Ruso, the Medicus. In this story, he and his native wife Tilla have rejoined the XX Legion in Eboracum - present day York. Before long, they hear of some suspicious injuries, deaths and a desertion among the recruits, who are native Britons. Ruso, with his connections in the military ranks, and Tilla, who makes inroads among the locals, work as a team to investigate. The mystery here deals with some issues of abuse of power between the Romans and the Britons, the roles of men and women in both Roman and Briton societies, and even Hadrian himself, and his wife Sabina, make appearances.

There were a few plot moments that seemed a little unbelievable, but...I just love the dynamic that Downie is developing between Ruso and Tilla as the series progresses. I am hooked and look forward to more.
641 reviews5 followers
May 12, 2023
Ruso is in danger of losing his life.

Ruso and Tilla are sent with the twentieth legion to a new posting. The Emperor Hadrian is on his way to Brittania and all the outposts are being given a facelift. On the way there the couple come across a man badly beaten with roles around his wrists, Ruso recognises the man's boots as army issue and decides he is a deserter. Tilla asks him to help the man but before he can decide what to do a soldier approaches and the.man runs off. Then when they arrive at the new post there is more trouble a new recruit has climbed into the highest point of the fort and soldiers are trying hard to get to him before he can jump to his death. There is something very wrong at this fort and Ruso keeps telling himself it's not his buisness but the longer he's there and the more he learns the more he feels he must act. Then the Emperor and his retinue arrive early and things take a dangerous turn....................
237 reviews
November 8, 2017
This is the fifth book in the Roman historical series centred around medical officer Gaius Ruso and his British wife Tilla. Once again Ruso becomes involved as unofficial investigator, this time into the deaths of a number of young British recruits in the Roman Legions at the time of Emperor Hadrian. Ruso asks questions no one wants to hear and is himself imprisoned for a murder, whilst his wife Tilla, ignoring his instructions not to get involved, seeks out the Emperor's wife Sabrina.

A great tale bringing to life Roman Britannia and the harsh life facing the newly recruited 'foreign' soldiers. This is a story of cruelty and deceit, distrust and hatred, and one that invokes a period in British history so vividly. I am really enjoying this series and look forward to the next instalment.

Rob D
Profile Image for Baelor.
171 reviews43 followers
August 6, 2018
My favorite entry in the series so far.

The novel is more complex than the other entries except, perhaps, the fourth, because Ruso and Tilla end up investigating several deaths that may or may not be connected. Moreover, the novel features impending visits by Hadrian and his wife, Sabina, which adds both interesting political and interesting social dimensions to the story as we get a glimpse of the interaction between the aristocracy and the common masses that rejects standard portrayals (which generally fall into "All commoners are scum" or "You are a random commoner yet I immediately believe everything you are saying"). The interactions between are particularly fun to read.

I still wish that actual clues were a bigger part of the book, but the twists in this one were satisfactory recompense.
22 reviews
December 20, 2022
I'm enjoying this series and actually liked this plot the best, but I'm wondering as I have from the start if there is any real emotional connection between Ruso and Tilla. I'm not looking for a sloppy romance, but holy moley - after he's faced a death sentence twice, her life and virtue are constantly in danger and when they're finally reunited, he touches her hand and kisses her on the head? Okay, they didn't want to perform for anyone watching, but there is not even a whisper of how worried and scared they were that they might lose each other, no realization of how close they came to doing just that or even a minor indication that love plays a part in their relationship - just kind of "Oh hi. Everything's okay again, right?" We all know this is a continuing series, but having an actual end to it would be novel (no pun intended).
Profile Image for Massimo Pigliucci.
Author 60 books892 followers
March 15, 2023
Unfortunately for me I jumped in the middle of this series of detective novels set in Ancient Rome, and this may have colored my reception of Semper Fidelis. I found the story, featuring a medical doctor in the service of one of Hadrian's legions, together with his Briton wife, not as good as the long running series by Steven Saylor, centered on his fictional PI, Gordianus the Finder. It seems to me that the plot of Semper Fidelis is a bit hard to believe, though the historical background is broadly accurate. I'm sure that Roman officers did occasionally marry "barbarians," but I'm just as sure that Briton women did not have the sort of modern-sounding feminist attitude that the character of Tilla is here portrayed to have by author Ruth Downie. Nevertheless, I'll probably give the full series a second shot, this time beginning with the first entry, Medicus.
Profile Image for Enzo.
732 reviews1 follower
May 14, 2022
Gaius Petreius Ruso is back to being a Medicus. He is feeling better about himself and his life. SO in order to clear his head he is traveling around Britannia and checking the different forts. At Eboracum (present day York) Ruso stumbles upon several strange deaths. As he is married to Tilla, he hears the complaints of the Britans. Centurion Geminus seems to be mistreating the new Recruits. From Tilla's point of view, Ruso must do something. Which is the start of all the problems for them both.
To compound this issues Emperor Hadrian is touring Britannia and everyone is trying to keep their heads.
This is another great story by Ruth Downie, and the setting and characters are entertaining and keeping you in suspense. So don't miss this one or the series.
Profile Image for H.L. Gibson.
Author 1 book3 followers
September 9, 2018
Nothing will ever replace Sano Ichiro in my heart so much so that I'm holding off reading the last two books in the historical mystery series because once it's over, it's over. However, I'm really taking to Gaius Petreius Ruso in Ruth Downie's Medicus series, also historical mystery. By book five, Downie is still pouring the heat on Ruso. He really takes a hit in this book, but it makes her protagonist and the outcomes that much more believable. She even ends this one on a note of tension between Ruso and Tilla which will keep me reading. I highly recommend this enjoyable historical mystery series. Can't wait to get my hands on the next book.
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