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Publisher's Summary

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 today as Chester, England) does little to improve his mood, and after a 36-hour shift at the army hospital, he succumbs to a moment of weakness and rescues an injured slave girl, Tilla, from the hands of her abusive owner. Now he has a new problem: a slave who won't talk and can't cook, and drags trouble in her wake. Before he knows it, Ruso is caught in the middle of an investigation into the deaths of prostitutes working out of the local bar.
A few years earlier, after he rescued Emperor Trajan from an earthquake in Antioch, Ruso seemed headed for glory: now he's living among heathens in a vermin-infested bachelor pad and must summon all his forensic knowledge to find a killer who may be after him next.
Who are the true barbarians, the conquered or the conquerors? It's up to Ruso (certainly the most likeable sleuth to come out of the Roman Empire) to discover the truth. With a gift for comic timing and historic detail, Ruth Downie has conjured an ancient world as raucous and real as our own.
©2007 Ruth Downie; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"Downie's auspicious debut sparkles with beguiling characters and a vividly imagined evocation of a hazy frontier." (Publishers Weekly)
"Fans of Alexander McCall Smith will delight in this series debut set in Roman-occupied Britain and featuring wry army doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso." (Booklist)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Susan on 08-31-07

Great listen

Great story, good pacing. I thought it brought ancient Rome to life. Highly recommend.

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32 of 32 people found this review helpful


By Lehua of Pacifica on 03-29-08

Took Me by Surprise

The similarities to Lindsey Davis's Falco are present and obvious, so I didn't expect much more than a takeoff. I was so wrong. There was plenty that was fresh and enjoyable. The plot is very absorbing, the hero is likable and engaging, and there's ample, if gentle, humor. Except for the unreliable best friend, none of the characters were stock, and some were very startling. Ms. Downey is less didactic than Ms. Lindsey with the historical info, and that had pluses and minuses. On the one hand, I had to do more guessing by context on terms, but it also allowed for a free flow that I enjoyed. I would definitely recommend this.

Audio: After a recent series of horrible readers, this was a great pleasure. The reader has a pleasant voice, is a good actor, and delineates the characters beautifully. And unlike most male readers, he does a good job with the females, using timbre instead of pitch, thus sounding like real women rather than impersonators or elderly aunts. He's top drawer on this one.

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108 of 111 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Mary Carnegie on 10-18-16

I'm hoping a successor to Falco!

I've been a Falco fan since I first heard the dramatisations of the earlier books on Radio 4 with Anton Lesser (available on Audible, like the whole book versions with a number of narrators of varying quality!). So I've heard them all, and have been looking for another series of historical mysteries especially in Roman Empire times. I don't want just wars, armies and blokes being macho. So some series have been returned to sender!
I don't want Latin chick lit, just some continuing characters I might like or hate.
Ruso seems to fit the bill, so far, and Simon Vance reads well, with a rather neutral English accent which is easy to listen to, but has developed a recognisable accent for the British characters- - sort of mild Ulster or Ulster-Scots diffentiates locals from invaders.
The English hadn't arrived yet!!
Simon Vance has however developed some American pronunciations which come across like an obscenity in a sermon - unexpected wrong notes, like privacy- just a clunk in an otherwise good performance. There does seem to be a tendency for writers of European origin writing about European events to adopt US English, no doubt hoping for bigger sales, Martin Walker's Bruno novels being a prime example, but diversity of language is part of literature!

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12 of 12 people found this review helpful


By Mrs on 03-10-17

Interesting and informative

I am a glutton for a whodunnit! I found that I could put it down but as I listen to them to get to sleep (blocking out all other thoughts) I did keep rewinding. I found the characters well performed and enjoyed it so much that I have downloaded the second novel for my holiday. Appparently, according to reviews, it is even better.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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