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Vita Brevis: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire

(Medicus Investigation #7)

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4.09  ·  Rating details ·  774 ratings  ·  107 reviews
The seventh novel in the bestselling Gaius Petreius Ruso series.

Ruso and Tilla and their new baby daughter have left Roman-occupied Britain for Rome, but their excitement at arriving in the city is soon dulled when they find that the grand facades of polished marble mask an underworld of corrupt landlords and vermin-infested tenements. There are also far too many doctors
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Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published April 5th 2018 (first published July 12th 2016)
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Kathleen
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Downie’s 7th offering in the Medicus Investigation series. Gaius Ruso and Tilla have recently moved from Britannia to Rome under the impression that his friend Accius is offering him a thriving medical practice and wealthy client to provide some much-needed financial security. Hah! Ruso and Tilla find that the previous doctor left his lodgings in shambles and Horatius Balbus is soon murdered. Gaius Ruso, a good doctor and honest man, finds himself in the middle of a swirling maelstrom of ...more
Camilla Monk
Nov 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-rome
I have waited so long for this!

Ruso is back, and as usual, the more he tries to become the reputable, successful doctor his ex-wife once hoped he'd become... the more everything falls apart around him. :)

When we left Ruso and his wife (and former slave), Tilla, in Britain, they had just welcomed a new addition to their family: Mara, their adopted baby daughter. (I'll never forget how Ruso calls Mara's young biological mother in book #5 "The pregnant tart from Eboracum" -- before welcoming her un
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Emma
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s been a while since I picked this series up, so was really thrilled to see the next book on a kindle deal. It was immensely enjoyable and set in Rome rather than Britain. Having recently been less than impressed with a Flavia Albia book (Lindsey Davies) and mourning the end of the Falco series, this book has restored my faith in Roman historical fiction. Poor Ruso and family get off to an unpromising start to their new life in Rome and from there it’s downhill all the way. Will the family ta ...more
Assaph Mehr
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ruso is making an attempt at better life in the centre of the empire, but his stay in Rome is marred by the usual - a corpse laid at his doorstep. While Ruso is trying to navigate the complex politics of life as a doctor in Rome, his wife Tilla is trying to build a home in this new (and smelly) city, while aiding in medical practice.

What to Expect

A great description on life in Rome, in particular the patronage system. We get a ground-level look at the workings of daily life: accommodations, food
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S.J.A. Turney
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The seventh novel in Ruth Downie’s Ruso and Tilla series takes us from Roman Britain (the setting for the majority of the books) for our first glimpse of Hadrianic Rome. Adn what a glimpse it is.

If you follow my reviews at all, you’ll be well aware by now of my opinion of this series and Ruth Downie’s awesome talent for storytelling, so you’ll be unsurprised to know that this is one of my highest rated books.

Following a former commander from Britain, Ruso brings Tilla and their new baby to Rome,
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Jane
3.5/5 rounded to 4. Another delightful mystery in the Medicus Gaius Ruso series. This time the outing finds Ruso and Tilla in Rome at the behest of ex-Tribune Accius. Two mysteries to be solved this time around: a dead body in a barrel; also the death [murder?] of Accius's patron, a wealthy real estate magnate cum slumlord. Ruso has come to Rome under false pretenses; Accius has led him to believe the practice he has temporarily taken over is perfectly ordinary, whereas it has its dodgy side. Th ...more
MB (What she read)
8/2/16 3.5 stars

I enjoyed the reading experience--I love this series-- but found myself bothered by how craven and powerless Ruso was throughout this book. Even Tila's spark was dimmed (somewhat and to a lesser degree). I found the mystery itself confusing. (The stakes seemed way too high for what seemed to be an incredibly minor slip.) I liked the additions to the Ruso household and am glad that (view spoiler)
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John
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ruso and Tilla finally get to see the great City for themselves, and couldn't wait to leave fairly early on it seemed. Terrific parallels given with modern day places such as London or New York: crowded, noisy, no one knows their neighbor, etc.

The mystery angle was well done as I had no idea of the bad guys until the revelations near the end. Here, I felt Tilla came off better as more independent than just a cardboard British figure. As usual, these stories are funny without resorting to dopey s
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Steven Kuehn
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In VITA BREVIS, Gaius Ruso and Tilla (and baby Mara, of course) have left Britannia for Rome, where Ruso has been promised a respectable and potentially lucrative medical practice. The excitement of a new life in the heart of the Roman Empire, however, is tempered soon after their arrival. The grandeur of the city fades as Ruso and Tilla encounter a mix of unfriendly neighbors, squalid living conditions, corrupt officials, debt collectors, some disreputable doctors, and additional troubles as th ...more
Mary
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"What is that mysterious ticking noise" (Potter puppet pals).

"What is that mysterious barrel?" (everyone at the beginning of "Vita Brevis")

I love this series! It keeps getting better and better, and the characters are loveable, decent, and also fallible. In this one, our unfortunate army doctor, Gaius Petraeus Ruso, has to live with two mistakes. He has brought his young family to Rome, a great city with a lot of poor housing and very little in the way of secure employment. And, as the story goe
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Jean
This is book seven of the series. In this story Gaius Petreius Ruso, his wife Tila and baby daughter Mara, have arrived in Rome from Britain. Former Tribune Accius has offered Ruso the home and medical practice of a Doctor Kleitos. Kleitos has vanished. Horiatis Balbo, a patron of Kleitos’s is convinced someone is trying to poison him and only Kleitos’s mysterious medial prescription will protect him. Balbo suddenly dies. Ruso and Tila are trying to solve the mystery of Kleitos and Balbo.

The boo
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Rebecca
Jun 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this book in a giveaway, although it then took me a stupidly long time to get to reading it.

Downie's Medicus series is one of my favorite in historical mysteries, not just for the Roman setting, but also for the way she makes it feel so real and modern even as it remains recognizably historical. Her characters are people rather than Ancient Roman Beings, and the light, dry humor in the novels makes them easy and fun to read.

This volume in particular, which takes place in Rome itself rathe
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Mary
Apparently the series is usually set in Roman Britain. This one is a complicated story set in Rome and it doesn't hang together too well. Ruso, his British wife Tilla and their baby Mara are newly arrived in Rome, looking for employment as a doctor. His patron finds him a practice to take over while Dr Kleitos is in the provinces caring for his aged father. But left on the doorstep that morning is a large barrel for Dr Kleitos and it is soon discovered that the barrel contains a corpse. This giv ...more
Kate
Thoroughly entertaining and absorbing Roman mystery. Each time I read one of these books I fall ever deeper for Ruso and Tilla.

Italo Italophiles
Ruso, a doctor, and Tilla, a midwife, are the protagonists of this crime series set in Ancient Rome. They are at first glance a mismatched couple, he being a Roman from Gaul (France), she being a Celt from northern Britain, a relatively recent addition to the Roman Empire at the time of the stories. But in this couple's case, appearances are very deceiving. They are perfect together.

Rough-edged military doctor Ruso barely manages to hide his weakness: a deep sense of humanity and justice. In the
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Amanda
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a verse from a John Gorka song, Always Going Home, that kept running through my mind as I read Vita Brevis.

It's like that old expression
All roads lead to Rome
You see he comes from trouble
And he's always going home.


Ruso, Tilla, and baby Mara are in Rome, which is nothing like home for either of them. It may be the center of the Empire, but it is large, dangerous, and frightening for people with no cash, no influential contacts, and no idea who they can trust. The naive and unwary can fin
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Jamie Collins
These books are great fun, and I love Ruso and Tilla. For this latest adventure they have moved to Rome with their adopted baby, where they are horrified by the egregiousness of medical quacks and the apathy of slumlords. The mystery is okay, providing just enough plot to give our characters something to worry about and argue over. The historical setting is great, as usual.

They need some slaves to help run their household (Tilla still can’t cook, although she can clatter crockery while singing s
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Lisa
Jul 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I certainly did enjoy the book, this latest addition to the Medicus series - one of my favorite historical mystery series - was a weaker entry than the ones it followed. For me, the main flaw was moving the Gaius Petreius Ruso family from Britannia (123 A.D.) to the great city of Rome itself. I am hoping to see their future adventures....in Britannia!
Fredrick Danysh
In Rome with his wife and daughter, Ruso finds work practicing medicine. He discovers the greed and corruption of Rome when he is accused of murdering a patient and loses everything. A good historical fiction that portrays the workings and politics of the Roman empire. I honestly feel that while readable, this work is not quite up to the standard of the rest of the series.
Julie
Jul 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
Russo and Tilla have arrived in Rome only to discover that the promised physician's job doesn't exist. When he is asked to cover for a doctor who had to leave town on a family emergency, he jumps at the opportunity. But almost immediately he begins to regret his decision when a body is discovered in a barrel on his new doorstep.
Colin Smith
Jul 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My spoiler-free review is on my blog: http://www.colindsmith.com/blog/2016/...
Baelor
Probably my favorite entry in the Ruso series. Ruso and Tilla finally make their way to Rome, and Downie's illustration of life among the lower classes in the imperial city was fantastic. I especially appreciated her depiction of the complexities and occasional absurdities of the Roman patronage system, the willingness of freedmen to have slaves of their own (which itself reduces to intellectual rubble the all-too-frequent-in-the-modern-era theory that sympathizing with the oppressed or experien ...more
Shannon
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great read! Unlike many series, this one has gotten better since the first one, although "MEDICUS" was enjoyable too. It seems that author, Ruth Downie, is now more confident of both the form of these books as well as the who the characters are. I especially like that they are set in the Rome of about 150 AD. I think they are quite true to this time period, without being overly pedantic. It is doubly interesting to me as I am currently editing Rod Warren's book: "The Praetorian & ...more
Marlowe
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ruso and Tilla head to Rome, their new baby in tow.

I like that Downie changes up the scenery every now and then. Britain is great, but it was nice to see Gaul in Persona Non Grata, and it's lovely to see Rome here. And while Downie doesn't exactly do vivid detail, the city certainly managed to come across satisfyingly noisy, dirty, and smelly.

As usual, the mystery is something of an afterthought. The main attraction is Tilla and Ruso, and now their expanded household. Adding Mara and the two sla
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Helen
I don't know about "amazing" but it was better than the usual "really liked". MS Downie allows her military doctor to drift through life with a rather slowly operating analytical sense which would be dangerous if it operated at that speed in medical matters. In this story, which appears to take only a week, it nearly does. Ruso has come to Rome with Tilla his wife and their adopted daughter and takes on a job as locum for a doctor who has vanished. Things become very confused as a patient dies g ...more
Katherine
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
One of my favorite series--a Doctor of the Roman legions who served in Britannica and married a former slave. This is the 7th installment. Ruso, the doctor always seems to get himself involved in some mysterious situation, missing people, unexplained deaths etc. Interspersed with his patients are his superiors, who always seem to find fault with him, the natives, who are sometimes suspicious of him and his wife, Tilla, who with her barbarian ways either embarrasses him or gets him into further t ...more
Andrew Doohan
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Our eponymous hero and his wife find themselves in Rome, the overcrowded capital of the empire, thanks to the efforts of Ruso's former Legion superior and now patron, Accius. And things weren't working out as they thought they might for anyone.

When Ruso and Tilla are finally able to move into suitable accommodation and taking over a medical practice, they are drawn into the kind of intrigue that is commonplace in Imperial Rome, but for which they are completely unprepared. As the intrigue expand
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Jo  (Mixed Book Bag)
Ruso and Tilla are in Rome and it is a hot crowded city where they are having trouble fitting in. Of course there is a mystery for the two to solve. Turns out that Rome just is not for them. I enjoyed seeing Ruse and Tilla again. It has been several years since I finished the rest of the series. One of my favorite parts of the series is the interaction between the two. There was less of that this time but they still have that push/pull relationship. There was a note from Downie at the end explai ...more
Robd
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The latest episode in the life of Gaius Petreius Ruso, former medicus to the Twentieth Legion stationed in Britannia, sees his return to Rome along with his British wife Tilla and adopted daughter Mara. Finding a vacancy at a medical practice from which the previous doctor has fled, Ruso is once again drawn into the murky criminal underworld. There are corrupt landlords, missing people, debt collectors and a dead body left in a barrel on his doorstep.

Another great crime story set in the Roman w
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Barbara Monajem
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vita Brevis is several books into the Gaius Petreius Ruso mystery series by Ruth Downie, and although it works very well on its own, I recommend that you read them in order, starting with Medicus.

Ruso is a doctor with the Roman army in Britain, and he marries a woman from one of the British tribes. Their life together and the trouble they get into in Britain, Gaul, and Rome (so far) make fabulous reads. Generally, I like the ones in Britain best because I know Britain better, but they're all ex
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Ruth is the author of eight mysteries* featuring Roman Army medic Gaius Petreius Ruso and his British partner Tilla. The latest is MEMENTO MORI. 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 th
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Other books in the series

Medicus Investigation (8 books)
  • Medicus (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #1)
  • 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)
  • Memento Mori (Medicus Investigation #8)