We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access.
 >   > 
Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire | [Ruth Downie]

Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire

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. 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. And before he knows it, Ruso is caught in the middle of an investigation into the deaths of prostitutes working out of the local bar.
Regular Price:$29.99
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Your Likes make Audible better!

'Likes' are shared on Facebook and Audible.com. We use your 'likes' to improve Audible.com for all our listeners.

You can turn off Audible.com sharing from your Account Details page.

OK

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.

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (988 )
5 star
 (293)
4 star
 (425)
3 star
 (198)
2 star
 (55)
1 star
 (17)
Overall
4.0 (566 )
5 star
 (187)
4 star
 (234)
3 star
 (102)
2 star
 (29)
1 star
 (14)
Story
4.3 (562 )
5 star
 (283)
4 star
 (195)
3 star
 (69)
2 star
 (12)
1 star
 (3)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Jill cody, WY, United States 07-12-13
    Jill cody, WY, United States 07-12-13 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I’ve found my Summer Listening!"
    Any additional comments?

    Well written, interesting and well researched setting, engaging characters - and Simon Vance as narrator.I think I’m onto a winning series for the summer!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    T. L. Walker Montgomery, Al, USA 07-05-13
    T. L. Walker Montgomery, Al, USA 07-05-13 Member Since 2015

    Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    32
    20
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    9
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent Beginning to Gaius' Adventures"

    This story follows military medicus (doctor) Gaius Petreius Ruso who is a Roman man living in Brittania (England). He's escaped to the Brittania to heal from a disaster of a marriage that ended in divorce and the death of his father that left the family with many undue debts to pay. Brittania is considered a backwater town but important nonetheless. It's too small to be considered grand, but too large to be ignored by the Romans. As if going from everything to having nothing wasn't bad enough, women continue to bring trouble for Ruso after he examines a dead woman found in the river and rescues a slave from her callous owner.

    This story takes place during a time when modern medicine was just beginning to emerge. Doctors were regarded as suspicious conmen and "healers" still ruled surpreme. I loved how Downie weaved that into the story, showing how doctors began to record treatment and discover new ways to deal with various medical ailments and conditions. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Ruso ushered around the new doctors in training and reveled in their naïveté after one fainted (and the others just barely made it out) when Ruso showed them a particular gruesome case. The description made me chuckle because it was just so Ruso-like.

    Ruso is a bit cynical and serious, but he does have a little bit of a dry comedic side. He's very sure of his abilities as a medicus almost to the point of cockiness, but unlike his friend and fellow medicus, Valens, he keeps to himself in a world where knowing the right people means everything. He often feels awkward in social situations and almost always says the wrong things in his mind, so he tends to keep to himself. His bedside manners are cool because he's a man of logic, even by his own admission, but Ruso cares more about people more than he shows. This care extends beyond mere medical interest, but he's not sure how to "fix" people beyond what physically ails them.

    Ruso complains that he shouldn't get involved in certain matters, but still he finds that his underlying compassion and concern causes him to do the exact opposite, which is how he ends up "investigating" a murder that he insists he's not investigating. He's also terrible at being a hard ass as shown when he became Tilla's "master." Tilla is just one of a group of ragtag friends he picks up during the course of the story which includes the charming Valens who thinks that Ruso needs a new wife, an overenthusiastic scribe named Albanus, and a dog he claims not to care for. He complains about them, of course, but I don't think he'd know what to do without them.

    Despite all the elements that could make this a complicated story to listen to, it was very easy to follow. Nothing really went beyond my grasp or caused me to pause and rewind just to make sure I was understanding what I'd heard. Downie didn't use language that was too complicated, and the things that seemed a little unfamiliar she was able to explain in the simplest terms, even when it didn't really seem necessary. However, this was a surprisingly light listen. I was afraid that I would get partway in and decide that I need to read the book rather than listen to the audiobook.

    One of the chief complaints I'd heard about this book was that the language was "too modern," but that's the usual complaint of many historical fiction settings ranging from books to television. I wasn't surprised to hear the complaint, but it just seems like old news now since many shows and books take this approach. I think that's because it makes it easier on the reader and the writer. How many people would really be interested in reading this if written in the style of that time? What writer would stick to writing a story in such a style? It would be tedious for both the reader and the writer. I agree that maybe some word choices absolutely were too modern, but that's such a nitpicky thing. However, I can only say that it doesn't bother me. Your mileage may vary.

    My chief complaint is that, while I liked Ruso, he could be a bit annoying at times. I'd get mad at him for how he tried to treat Tilla, calling her property and trying to force her to call him master, even though he was terrible at being bossy--at least to Tilla. He does show a surprising amount of sexism that can be a bit annoying, too. Not because it's sexism, however. This is ancient Rome era we're talking about. It's annoying because it's obvious that he's not as sexist as most, but has defaulted to sexism because of his general disillusionment due to a bad marriage, which is understandable but so frustrating. Some of his actions were so obtuse to the point that I had to wonder if Ruso was okay mentally at times. An example being how he wanted the rumors about him investigating the murder to stop since he "wasn't investigating," but he made it his business to ask every person around if they'd heard he was investigating the murders. Really, Ruso?

    As far as the narration goes, Simon Vance is quickly becoming one of my favorite narrators. He has a voice that is perfect for reading. This will be the third book I've listened to with him as the narrator and he never fails to impress me with his read. He's remarkable; his narration is always so impeccable. I have never encountered a narrator with such clean narration skills. Also, he understands that timbre not pitch determines how realistically a female voice will come across when reading, and even when faced with multiple female speakers in one scene, he gives them all their own personality that makes them easily discernible one from another.

    The only real complaint I have is that he's a fast talker. I tend to speed up my audiobooks between 1.25 to 2.0 times faster than normal. With him, I have to get used to the pace he's keeping before I can speed it up, but that's really a trivial complaint when compared to how extraordinary he is as a narrator.

    This was a great opening for the series, and I look forward to following more of Ruso's misadventures as narrated by Simon Vance.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 06-18-13

    I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    869
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    390
    273
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    96
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Zzzzzz"

    For something that pretty much bills itself as CSI: Ancient Britannia, it goes nowhere fast. The characters are well-developed quickly, but the plot... well, it plods. Slowly. Brutally slow to the point where I'm yawning. The author's descriptions and dialogue and everything else are top notch, she just has zero sense of pacing. I had high hopes based on other reviews and gave it a quarter of the book, but finally just gave up.

    Simon Vance is the reason I got as far as I did in this title. His performance is, as per always, amazing. His talents are wasted on this one.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Catherine NC 06-09-13
    Mary Catherine NC 06-09-13 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    115
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    363
    57
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I like this series"

    This was a Roman cozy to me - I liked the characters and the story. During the long drive to work, I found this book pleasant and relaxing - later I started to listen to the series during breaks at work - a mild addiction. Listening to Simon Vance is such a pleasure - just the right touch to get away briefly into a good story. It was well worth the credit for me, and I downloaded the rest of the series. I like to feel comfortable and entertained with a story. Good job all the way around.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stacy S. Scott 03-26-13 Member Since 2003

    stacy@metamet.com

    HELPFUL VOTES
    20
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    20
    13
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Puppy"

    They should've given the porter a puppy. A good story, good performance, ready for book2.
    thumbs up.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marie 01-11-12
    Marie 01-11-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    437
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    232
    139
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    39
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Story hovered between a 3 and a 4 star"

    I enjoyed listening to this book. The narrator was great, though, as others have noted, the use of more contemporary English accents was jarring. The mystery was enjoyable but I never believed I was in 2nd century Britian. The setting wasn't gritty enough, the hospital too modern, and the natives way too polite. I will probably listen to the next in the series because the narrator makes up for some of the weaknesses in the story.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gerald Cedar Rapids, IA, United States 12-11-11
    Gerald Cedar Rapids, IA, United States 12-11-11 Member Since 2010

    Traveler

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    133
    10
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "This book is a snoozer"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    I doubt if anyone would like this book. It is basically a book about nothing, but the author attempts to put it in Roman times. It isn't very accurate, and you learn nothing about the actual historical landscape or environment. Basically it appears the author took a poor written novel about people and translated the time.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Ruth Downie again?

    No


    How could the performance have been better?

    Performance was fine.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    boredom


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Valerie Salt Lake City, UT, United States 03-05-11
    Valerie Salt Lake City, UT, United States 03-05-11 Member Since 2014

    OD

    HELPFUL VOTES
    53
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    889
    74
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "Good story - poor narration/reader"

    The story is interesting for a lot of reasons - but I did not care for the reader/narrator. He was not able to differentiate between characters enough to keep my full attention. Not sure if I will get another in the series.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jon CHANDLER, AZ, United States 01-07-11
    Jon CHANDLER, AZ, United States 01-07-11 Member Since 2010
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    95
    3
    Overall
    "Great story worth a look or listen."

    This was a great book. I love history and I love mystery and this book combined both well. I’ve always found the Roman time period fascinating and I enjoyed the characters and British frontier setting. I’m no expert in the Roman civilization but I thought the historical elements were well researched and believable. Worth a look or listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert 03-10-10
    Robert 03-10-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    72
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    60
    24
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    "Life on the edge of Roman Empire"

    I enjoyed this story for its mystery, its characters and its ability to help me understand what life might have been like for the "real" people who lived at the very edge of their civilization. They were faced with the problems of dealing with the locals, superior officers, politics and everyday life. Not to mention murder.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank You

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.