MEDICUS by Ruth Downie

MedicusIn 55 BC, Julius Caesar invaded what today we call England.  Well, some of us call it England.  The Romans called it Britainnia.  It was filled inconveniently with a lot of native peoples, tribes, many of whom were at war with each other, many of whom were just going about their daily lives and, frankly did not fancy any  invasive armies.  Oh well, if wishes were horses…..

Medicus is the story of a doctor with the Roman army stationed in Britain in the year of somebody’s god or gods or goddesses 118 A.D.   Gaius Petreius Ruso is not a Roman, he is a Gaul.  He and his brother have large property in Northern Gaul, which unfortunately dad had buried under a mountain of debt, unbeknownst to his unsuspecting family.  When he suddenly dies, the brothers are hard put to save the property, on which the brother, his wife and a bunch of kids, plus the widowed step mother and her daughters live, so Ruso takes the opportunity to join the Roman army at a decent salary in order to help out the family financially.

He is sent to the port of Deva, which is now Chester, to the fort there, which houses about 5,000 soldiers and hangers-on.


The book opens with Ruso being asked to inspect the corpse of a girl apparently drowned in the river.  And that is just the beginning.  He goes on to rescue (read buy) an abused female slave from a disreputable dealer,  and after going through great troubles to heal her, finds she can’t cook and has eccentric housekeeping abilities, and a mind of her own.

He shares a vermin-infested dwelling with a fellow medic while waiting for housing, and wondering what he is doing in this land of cold, rain and fog, and is sucked unwillingly into a murky situation of disappearing soiled doves who work for the local … ummm …. dovecote.

It is a delightful mystery, wound through the  story of daily life in the early days of  that era.  The characters are truly charming and colorful.

It is just a wonderfully well-done book, and imagine my delight at discovering there is now a series of five, with Terra Incognita being the second.  I am almost half-way through that one.

An interesting side tidbit:  The titles for the books published in Great Britain are different from those given to them by the American publisher.  Medicus is Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls in Great Britain.  I personally think the Latin titles are so much more appropriate.

Ah, well, as I always say,  Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt. (When catapults are outlawed, only outlaws will have catapults.)

Or Corripe Cervisiam.    (Seize the beer!)


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