Back at his post as a doctor in the 20th legion in Roman-occupied Britain, Ruso uncovers a new danger even closer to home than the neighboring barbarians.
As mysterious injuries, and even deaths, begin to appear in the medical ledgers, it's clear that all is not well amongst the native recruits to Britannia's imperial army. Is the much-decorated centurion Geminus preying on his weaker soldiers? And could this be related to the appearance of Emperor Hadrian?
Bound by his sense of duty and ill-advised curiosity, Ruso begins to ask questions nobody wants to hear. Meanwhile his barbarian wife Tilla is finding out some of the answers -and is marked as a security risk by the very officers Ruso is interrogating.
With Hadrian's visit looming large, the fates of the legion, Tilla, and Ruso himself hang in the balance.
©2013 Ruth Downie (P)2013 Tantor
"Downie injects a modern who-done-it twist into the imperial action." (Kirkus)
The series is moving right along with Tilla and Ruso diverted to a posting far away from the Emperor's planned itinerary... in order to run right into the imperial procession. I think this outing features the best mystery of all the books and I'm delighted to say that my favorite character, Tila, is as delightful as ever. I did miss Albanus. Can't he somehow become attached to Ruso so he can stay where the action is? Valens makes a return performance as well as Ruso's arch enemy Mettelus. As always, the dialogue is humorous and the relationship between Tila and Ruso hasn't grown stale at all. It's at the heart of all the books.
All I can do is hope that Ruth Downie is busy working on the sixth in the series. She left us with a slight cliff hanger. Totally recommend.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
Downie set the story of Semper Fidelis book 5 of the series, in 2nd century Roman Britain during Hadrian’s rule. The protagonist Gaius Petreius Ruso, a Roman Army Medical officer and wife Tilla, a native Briton are back with the 20th legion. The Emperor Hadrian and Empress Sabina are visiting England. Ruso and Tilla are posted to fortress Eboracum (modern day York) only to find things are going seriously wrong there for the legion’s British recruits. Mysterious injuries and deaths have occurred. Ruso runs into problems with Centurion Geminus when he starts asking questions. Ruso suspects Geminus is preying on the recruits, how, why he set out to find out. Tilla brings to the Empress attention the plight of the recruits. I particularly like the section of the book when the British recruits appeal to the Empress Sabina to accept there petition and help them. They are chanting Sabina, Sabina and the Empress responses to them in such as way to reveal she has had very little attention paid to her. Downie does factually portray the relationship between Hadrian and Sabina. There are many twists, turns and setbacks for the protagonist. The characters major and minor are well drawn. The author does an enormous amount of historical research and weaves this into the story with such a light hand that you’ll hardly notice you’re being educated as well as entertained. I like the authors note at the end of the book providing the historical facts provided in the story as well as the modern day location in the city of York that are presented in the book. There is proof of the abysmal treatment of native recruits to the legions in Britain in the “Vindolanda Tablets” dated from 85 -122 CE they also tell of Hadrian’s visit to Britain in 122 CE. The award winning, Simon Vance does a super job narrating the story.
whats odd is I never like the new one when it comes out. Its never as good as the last one, which I always come to love. And I love this one now. These stories are a lovely weave of historical fiction, muder mystery, fantasy heroism, and postcolonial politics. For some listeners it may just be a murder mystery with an exotic backdrop, and is certainly enjoyable on that level, but there is a lot more to the narrative if you are open to it. Thats the difference between good and great. These are great. Can't wait for the next one. Do we get to go to Rome ? is Justinus still alive? Will they ever have children? Oh I cannot wait
Artist & Journeyman Composter
We are now familiar with Medicus (doctor/surgeon) Gaius Petrus Ruso's courage to live by his values coupled with a certain social clumsiness in either gaining allies or gaining appropriate audience or understanding for the problems and the truth of them. His forte is his observation and persistence in following up where clues take him. Usually he gets unexpected help from innocent quarters, especially from Tilla (Daludicca in Celtic British), first his patient, then slave, then wife, who has the same intelligence and ability to put facts together. Also usually, in the first three books, there will be a couple of bright well intentioned allies who welcome his trust and good intentions toward the patients and soldiers and work to be of service to him. Also, there are the in- between characters who neither wish to harm or help him, but make life challenging, messy and interesting. Check again. And usually there are just enough evil characters, maybe just one or two, who make your spine tight and your teeth grind, to create a real hero's test for Ruso; but this time there was such a pervasion of sickening evil being perpetrated on the soldiers, just in about the first half of the book, that personally, I wondered if I had got the wrong series, or author and wondered further if I could actually finish this latest episode. I have little admiration for this era of Roman Culture, for the tyranny and nearly insane or completely narcissistic (in the psychological dysfunctional sense) acts to maintain power and the nearly absent respect for fellow human beings, or failure to see others as worthy of respect, and this volume seemed to be heavy with these failings, much more than books 1 through 3. I envythe author's ability to write about this, and keep rescuing her hero, dripping, often maimed, from the muck of evil-doers for whom the truth is a terrific threat and who will avoid it at all costs "to keep the peace " - surely an applicable, if anachronistic Orwellian phrase. Her books come about a year or year and 1/2 apart. I may skip the next one. The introduction to geography, interaction of cultures, and history is always exciting to me, and though I admire Ruso's ability to persist through much hardship in bringing the truth to light, Downie never giveshim real ease or success with it. Well, yes, where would the story then be? My conclusion isthe widespread corruption and violence of that age is just a little too front and center for me, especially in this, the darkest of the series.
I'm not sure how this one got released because it isn't even close to being in the same league as previous books in the series. The characters that I have come to love, Ruso and Tilla, are just "blah" in this one, as is the storyline. Where is the witty banter between them, not to mention the chemistry? They do spend a great deal of time apart (it's almost written as two different, though somewhat intertwined, storylines), but when they are together, there's just......nothing. Where is the cleverly-written plot? Yes, there were some "interesting events" that Ruso had to suffer through, but for the most part I never got the sense that he was in any real danger. The setting is a training base for new recruits, which I guess doesn't really lend itself to riveting storytelling. I found the plot to be uninteresting and a bit confusing. It didn't hold my attention at all. Maybe I missed some important bits because of this, but at times I found it difficult to follow what was going on. In the end, I didn't really care about why Geminus did what he did nor about what happened to him because of it (don't want to leave any spoilers).
As usual, Simon Vance does a terrific job. He is one of my favorite narrators, which is the ONLY reason I even listened all the way to the end.
If you are a fan of the Medicus series, I suggest giving this one a miss. I was quite disappointed in this book. So much so that I may not continue with the series unless the next one is considerably better.
I have read all the books in the series and this is definately not one of the best. I found it dragging in spots. I have really come to dislike Tilla. The story centers about the Centurion Geminus and the death of many native recruits to the 20th Legion.
I think the problem for me in this series is that Tilla is becoming more, and more implausible as a character. I just find her activities in assisting Russo in the murder investigations not really true to the times. Yes Roman soldiers did occasionally marry a "native" woman during their time in Britain but this woman would never have been allowed the freedom to wander around the Fort and snoop the way the Tilla does. Actually at times I find Tilla quite annoying.
The mystery of the deaths of the young recruits is quite a good one, and I suspect not an unusual occurrence. But the laxity of some of the commanders I found difficult to believe. The Roman Legion, even in Britain, was still a pretty well-organized and disciplined machine. But one never sees this in the book. Instead we are given a picture of sloppy, slovenly bunch of recruits and commanders.
The wait was worth it. This might be my favorite of the series. Ruso, the medicus, and his barbarian wife Tilla are as entertaining as ever, though the theme of the story and the main actions are anything but a comedy. Roman Britain comes alive in this story of cruelty, murder and political cover ups. The visit of the Emperor Hadrian and his wife Sabina is especially interesting and led me to do some follow-up reading on the pair. Simon Vance is the perfect Ruso. I can't wait for the next adventure with Ruso and Tilla.
Sometimes the bumbling brain fog of Russo, our hero, is carried a little too far by the author. Result: exasperated reader.
This is a fun series about a crime fighting doctor in Ancient Rome. The history is well-researched, and it shows in the writing. The story is just fun...Ms. Downie continues to develop the characters and make you more engaged. It's a very enjoyable, if somewhat light, read.
As I have read all series I do not know how it would be as a standalone plot fine but perhaps characters not so enjoyable. The series is good if you like roman setting
"Ruso, scapegoat and hero"
Ruso doesn't know that "no good deed ever goes unpunished"! His family in Gaul blame him for lack of cash, debts he didn't run up, failure to acquire high status and big earnings just to spite them.
He's a good doctor but never going to be a "society" favourite and worst of all he has a British wife - a "native" a "barbarian", who has her own ethical standards and a strong idea of women as independent agents. (This is of course Britannia before the English immigration, tough women who don't sit at home worrying about wrinkles.)
It is enjoyable to have a story which considers the Roman Empire from both sides. Ruso although a citizen is a "not-quite-Roman", being from what is now Southern France, and his wife Darlughdacha - I may not have spelled this as in the written version, but it is a name with many variants in writing, and I don't suppose she could spell it either - (aka Tilla) - is of a less male-dominated civilisation.
It's unusual to have the viewpoint of the occupied presented in any literature about the period of Roman domination of what is now the UK. (Possibly even rarer, given that the Romans left before the English came.) Once in a while Tacitus makes positive comments but generally there are collaborators or savages...
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