Friday, February 4, 2011
Gauis Petreius Ruso 1 - 3
Divorced and down on his luck, Gaius Petreius Ruso has made the rash decision to seek his fortune in an inclement outpost of the Roman Empire, namely Britannia. In a moment of weakness, after a straight thirtysix-hour shift at the army hospital, he succumbs to compassion 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. Now Ruso must summon all his forensic knowledge to find a killer who may be after him next. With a gift for comic timing and historical detail, Ruth Downie has conjured an ancient world as raucous and real as our own.
It is spring in the year of 118, and Hadrian has been Emperor of Rome for less than a year. After getting involved with the murders of local prostitutes in the town of Deva, Doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso needs to get out of town, so has volunteered for a posting with the Army on the volatile border where the Roman-controlled half of Britannia meets the independent tribes of the North. Not only is he going to the hinterlands of the hinterlands, but it his slave Tilla's homeland and she has some scores to settle there. Soon they find that Tilla's tribespeople are being encouraged to rebel against Roman control by a mysterious leader known as the Stag Man, and her former lover is implicated in the grisly murder of a soldier. Ruso, unwillingly involved in the investigation of the murder, is appalled to find that Tilla is still spending time with the lover. Worse, he is honour bound to try to prove the man innocent - and the Army wrong - by finding another suspect. Soon both Ruso's and Tilla's lives are in jeopardy, as is the future of their burgeoning romantic relationship.
At long last, Gaius Petreius Ruso and his companion, Tilla, are headed home-to Gaul. Having received a note consisting only of the words "COME HOME!" Ruso has (reluctantly, of course) pulled up stakes and brought Tilla to meet his family. But the reception there is not what Ruso has hoped for: no one will admit to sending for him, and his brother Lucius is hoping he'll leave. With Tilla getting icy greetings from his relatives, Lucius' brother-in-law mysteriously drowned at sea, and the whole Ruso family being sued for bankruptcy, it's hard to imagine an unhappier reunion. That is, until Severus, the plaintiff in the bankruptcy suit, winds up dead, and the real trouble begins...
I'm combining these three because I'm horribly behind in reviews and because they're all part of a series so I thought perhaps I could cheat like that. :o)
I'm awaiting the fourth novel, which I won in a contest, and so I thought I would read the first one and see about "catching up" on the series before I read the one I'd won. I'm so glad I did. These are really well written historical novels that manage to capture the essence of the time period without sacrificing the character of any of the people involved.
These are secular novels, but they are fairly clean. I have to say fairly because that time period included things that many people would find objectionable. Gladiator fights, brothels, false gods... Still all these things are treated in a way that shows the negative aspects of the things that are truly evil and the humanity of the things and people who did things we would disagree with today.
The entire series centers around a Roman doctor (medicus) and the slave he rescues from death. She hates the Romans and wants to die. He is in dire financial straits and shouldn't have wasted the money on the girl. She is expressive and emotional, he is reserved. Together they form an unlikely bond of friendship and loyalty that helps carry them through many potentially dangerous situations.
These books were funny, challenging, engaging and even thought provoking. One of the things that made them stand out was the fact that they weren't over sanitized. It wasn't a case always of who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. You could see both sides and that there were good people on both sides of the argument. I can't wait for book four and if you haven't read these yet, you may want to consider adding them to your list.
Posted by Margaret Metz at 5:36 AM