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(Gaius Petreius Ruso #1)

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  7,868 ratings  ·  923 reviews
Gaius Petrius Ruso is a divorced and down-on his luck army doctor who has made the rash decision to seek his fortune in an inclement outpost of the Roman Empire, namely Britannia. His arrival in Deva (more commonly known as Chester, England) does little to improve his mood, and after a straight thirty six hour shift at the army hospital, he succumbs to a moment of weakn
Hardcover, 386 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (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, includin…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)

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Average rating 3.74  · 
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Mar 29, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
The novel is an ideal holiday read. Set in Britain under Roman rule, it tells a story of a Roman doctor-cum-detective character, Gaius Ruso. Quite enjoyable if you are in the mood for some light reading.
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 rated it it was amazing
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!
Army doctor Ruso is serving in Roman-occupied Britain under very trying circumstances. He faces near poverty, a micro-managing Chief Administrative Officer, the loss of his household servants, mysterious deaths of prostitutes from the local bar, a killer, and the unexpected purchase of a beautiful British slave girl, with whom he is trying not to fall in love.

How not to buy a slave with a broken arm
"If you don't get help for her soon, this slave is going to die. I'll take her off your hands."
Assaph Mehr
I'm a bit of a Roman detective nut (shocking, I know), and have read several such series. I usually jump from one series to the next, interspersing with Urban Fantasy or non-fiction reading. I read this whole series front-to-back without pause, which should give you an indication of how much I loved it.

My reviews tend to focus on setting readers' expectations rather than rehashing blurbs or plot summaries. I hope this is useful to you.
You can see my review for the whole series here.

What to Expec
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 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
...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
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fantastic mystery about a Roman army Medic (Ruso) that just can let things rest when he sees a problem, injustice or human cruelty. Loved this and am glad that there are 6 more in the series to read.
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.
Feb 26, 2017 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
Apr 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Talulah Mankiller
May 16, 2010 rated it liked it
I was really thrilled when I finished this, because I was all like, “Yay! FINALLY ONE I DON’T HAVE TO KEEP!” Don’t get me wrong–this is an entertaining mystery, but it’s not one that I need to have in my collection, which means that I don’t have to pack it! OH JOY!

But I digress.

Ruso, a Roman military doctor, is stationed in Britain after a nasty divorce and the death of his feckless father. He’s burdened by debt (dad lived it up and paid on credit) and bummed out by the bad weather (he was stati
Blaine DeSantis
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A highly enjoyable and very fast read in this first book of the Gaius Petreius Ruso series. Loved Medicus, and look forward to the rest of the books in the series. A supremely fast read of a book about 385 pages long with 79 chapters - so you can see the story really moves along and it was a real page turner for me.
This is a mystery series set in Roman times, with the hero being Ruso who is a doctor that is stationed in Great Britain for this book. He stumbles across a young slave girl being bea
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: hf
Started out well, but about mid-way through I started to lose interest. So a little disappointed as it sounded like right down my alley, some medicine, history, and murder. I liked the MC alright, but the story could have wrapped up a lot sooner. It just started meandering through the plot, with lots of characters but not much development of the majority of those characters. Even the historical detail couldn't hold my interest. This is a first in a series, perhaps it improves with subsequent boo ...more
Judy Lesley
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Medicus is a story I've been meaning to read for a long time. I'm just glad I finally got around to this well written depiction of a Roman doctor of the Twentieth Legion who seems to have a gift for walking straight into trouble on the streets of Deva - modern day Chester. Gaius Petreius Ruso should know better than to get involved in anything going on in the streets of this outpost of the Roman army. Now he's saddled with a slave with a broken arm and she will most likely die before he can even ...more
Ashley Marie
3.5 stars

A good first installment. Ruso was amusing in his long-suffering-ness and I liked Tilla. My suspicions were pinned on the wrong character, as per usual. Simon Vance reads wonderfully, as always.
Lance Greenfield
Oct 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
May 04, 2014 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
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
2019 bk 292. Shout out to Goodreads reviewer Martin for introducing Medicus and Gaius Petreius Ruso to me. I tracked down a copy and thoroughly enjoyed this doctor of the Roman Army who is stationed in Roman Britain. Ruth Downie writes of a man who is in sorrow, his father's death revealed a house of cards based on loans that now need to be repaid, his wife has left him, a friend talked him into a transfer from sunny Africa to drizzling, colder Britain, and he has ended up with a battered slave ...more
Janet Richards
Feb 03, 2011 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 rated it really liked it
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
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
Kirsten McKenzie
Nov 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An exceptional romp through the Roman Army Camp alongside medicus Gaius Ruso. I love how the author wove the threads of mystery together with Roman medical practice and administrative angst. We've all worked with someone solely focussed on following the rules, and so it was easy to sympathise with Ruso and his dealings with the hospital's administrative arm.
The plot around the missing slave girls kept me on the edge of seat. Very well narrated, leaving me guessing right to the end.
I recommend t
Sep 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: greco-roman, mystery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I came across this series here on Goodreads. I'm really surprised I hadn't heard of it before that because it's just as good as the series by Steven Saylor and Lindsey Davis.

Gaius Petreius Ruso is a doctor who has joined the Roman army after a nasty divorce and the death of his father, who left the family in debt. Ruso is the main support of his stepmother, two half-sisters, a younger brother, his brother's wife, and their two children. Ruso transfers to the 20th Legion in the British port of D
Nov 10, 2008 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
Camilla Monk
Nov 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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
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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 wh

Other books in the series

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

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