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Publisher's Summary

Ruso and Tilla's excitement at arriving in Rome with their new baby daughter is soon dulled by their discovery that the grand facades of polished marble mask an underworld of corrupt landlords and vermin-infested tenements. There are also far too many doctors - some skilled - but others positively dangerous.

Ruso thinks that he has been offered a reputable medical practice only to find that his predecessor, Doctor Kleitos, has fled, leaving a dead man in a barrel on the doorstep and the warning "be careful who you trust." Distracted by the body and his efforts to help a friend win the hand of a rich young heiress, Ruso makes a grave mistake, causing him to question both his competence and his integrity.

With Ruso's reputation under threat, he and Tilla must protect their small family from Doctor Kleitos' debt collectors and find allies in their new home while they track down the vanished doctor and find out the truth about the heiress' dead father - Ruso's patient - and the unfortunate man in the barrel.

©2016 Ruth Downie (P)2016 Tantor

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 10-19-16

Life in Ancient Rome

This is book seven of the series. In this story Gaius Petraeus Ruso, his wife Tila and baby daughter Mara, have arrived in Rome from Britain. Former Tribune Accius has offered Ruso the home and medical practice of a Doctor Kleitos. Kleitos has vanished. Horiatis Balbo, a patron of Kleitos’s is convinced someone is trying to poison him and only Kleitos’s mysterious medial prescription will protect him. Balbo suddenly dies. Ruso and Tila are trying to solve the mystery of Kleitos and Balbo.

The book is well written and the move to Rome adds a new excitement to the story. Downie, as always, provides a realistic view of ancient Rome and provides historical insight to the story. The characters feel real, the plot is complex and the suspense builds throughout the story. As with all Downie books there is a subtle dry humor which I enjoy. I am always amazed at the detail of Roman life that Downie works into her story. The squalid conditions and corruption that was Rome is vividly portrayed by Downie.

Simon Vance does an excellent job narrating the story. Vance is a British actor and award winning audiobook narrator.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Thank you for another completely wonderful listen!

I love these books so much I will listen to them again. They transport me to another time as an observer in the midst of the action so clear and colourful is the description of the scenes.
As always, the writing is witty, the characters are now my friends, and the narration is superb! Thank you!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Never disappoints

Downie has been right on since her first Russo. He and his sassy wife are good every time out. Simon Vance is the best narrator on audible books.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Gr
  • MD
  • 01-17-17

A HERO IS NOT ALWAYS THE WARRIOR

Ruth Downie’s seventh novel Vita Brevis brings a glimpse of Hadrianic Rome and is a wonderful addition to the Medicus series. Ruso and Tilla make great and likeable hero's worth revisiting. Simon Vance is an outstanding narrator. Ruth Downie does a great job mixing her stories with historical events making them real for the reader. If you have enjoyed the previous stories in the series, this one is worth the credit. If you have not tried any of these books, and like believable period historical fiction, with a bit of mystery and detective work, try reading Medicus.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Another great Roman murder mystery.

Ms. Downie just keeps getting better. What a wild ride through the eternal city of Rome. she brings the ancients to life.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

The series gets better and better.

Set in Rome this time around, it seemed it would be difficult to be as good as all the stories set in Britannia. As good or better. If you haven't read any of this series, you probably could start with this one or any other and enjoy it but you may as well go back to the first book and start there. If you enjoy that one, you'll enjoy them all and each will be that much better for the back story. And then, like me, you'll get to the point I'm at now; trying to be patient as Ms. Downie works her charm and skill into the next book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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I love this series!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This series gets better and better and I love the contrast between the City/Rome and the small people who inhabit it.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Vita Brevis: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire?

I loved it when Russo was stoned out of his mind!

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  • c
  • Lantau, Hong Kong
  • 01-06-18

Good plot

Have you listened to any of Simon Vance’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Excellent narration

Any additional comments?

I had listened to all other books of series and I would recommend this as the characters history is important. I enjoyed it but it was not I thought the best of this excellent series. I love roman history but do not think this needed to enjoy the story.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good story, but slow start and not good narrator

What did you like best about Vita Brevis: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire? What did you like least?

The second half of the book was quite good when the mystery defined itself and Ruso and Tilla worked to solve it. I also like Downie's description of the social milieu of the time. I thought that the story started slowly, with the mystery taking some time to define itself. I also did not like the narrating job by Simon Vance which made the story less enjoyable.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

Most interesting was how Downie tied up most of the loose and disparate threads at the end. Least nteresting was the length of time until there is a sense of what the issues are.

How could the performance have been better?

I thought that Vance overdid some characters, especially the gruff, older men. His performance seemed a bit stuffy.

Did Vita Brevis: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire inspire you to do anything?

Not really, other than that I will look out for the next book in this series when it comes out and read it.

Any additional comments?

Overall, a worthwhile read. I don't think it is the best book in the series, but the series is a great one and worth reading.

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Continued Excellence

As with others in the series, the plot and the performance by Simon Vance, was outstanding. Downie's observations on human behavior and her humor very much added to my great enjoyment! Thanks for many hours of pleasurable commuting.

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  • Rachel
  • 03-27-18

Brilliant Who Done it Roman Style

This is my last book to read in the series and I have enjoyed everyone of them immensely. The characters are well defined and each catches you attention immediately. I have come to love the characters and feel like a visit with old friend. You can jump in anywhere, but I would suggest following them in order. I have also learned much about Ancient Rome and the many inventions by Rome that we are still using. Ever time I stem on my underfloor heating I think of Russo and Tilla. Great series.

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  • Debra K
  • 08-16-17

Same high level of quality of writing.

If you could sum up Vita Brevis: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire in three words, what would they be?
Atmospheric, endearing & intriguing

What did you like best about this story?
The meeting of an old enemy. The extremes of wealth and poverty in Rome and how the glamour and glitz of the city did not fool anybody.

Which character – as performed by Simon Vance – was your favourite?
Russo and his arch enemy (don't ask me to spell his name, please). Never been keen on Tilla, she's a tad too whiney and stubborn for my taste.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Yes but it was too long for that. However, the story line made it easy to follow up after breaks.

Any additional comments?
I really hope this isn't the last Russo book.