Terence's Reviews > Medicus

Medicus by Ruth Downie
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Jun 26, 2011

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bookshelves: historical-fiction, mysteries-noir

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 Romano-British town of Deva (modern day Chester) at the beginning of Hadrian’s reign (AD 117). Our put-upon protagonist is Gaius Petreius Ruso, a doctor in the XX Legion, whose marriage has failed (because he was too devoted to his craft and not devoted enough to advancing his career), whose family is drowning in debt and in danger of losing their Gaulish farm, and whose first “mistake” is rescuing a British slave girl from her slimy owner.

The mystery isn’t all that complex or hard to figure out. I enjoyed reading the book because I enjoyed following Ruso as he stumbles along, inadvertently uncovering the clues (view spoiler). Our hero is by no means stupid, he’s a rather good doctor, in fact, but he is often blind to his environment, awkward socially and politically inept*. Ruso is a man I can identify with and Downie’s writing is engaging and “user friendly” if you’re looking for a diverting, not-too-serious reading experience.

I’d enjoy seeing PBS or BBC adapt this into a series like Brother Cadfael ; it practically cries out for it.

I’m going to head down to the library this weekend and get some more entries in this series – I’ve been reading too many depressing things lately.

* Downie makes Ruso the “mysterious stranger” who rescued the Emperor Trajan from a collapsing building during an earthquake in Antioch but – much to his wife’s disgust – Ruso never parlays it into anything advantageous.
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Reading Progress

June 26, 2011 – Started Reading
June 26, 2011 – Shelved
June 26, 2011 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
June 26, 2011 – Shelved as: mysteries-noir
June 30, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Steven Harbin Excellent review. I really enjoyed this book and plan on reading more in the series.


Terence Steven wrote: "Excellent review. I really enjoyed this book and plan on reading more in the series."

I'm in the middle of the second book, Terra Incognita, and enjoying it about a well as Medicus.


Chris You're so right about it being a PBS type of thing.


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