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Semper Fidelis: A Novel of the Roman Empire (Medicus) [Hardcover]

Ruth Downie
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 July 2013 Medicus

Back at his post as a doctor in the Twentieth 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 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.

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Semper Fidelis: A Novel of the Roman Empire (Medicus) + The Ides of April (Falco: The New Generation) + Enemies at Home: Falco: The New Generation (Flavia Albia)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (4 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608197093
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608197095
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 194,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ruth (RS) Downie left university with an English degree and a plan to get married and live happily ever after. She is still working on it. In the meantime she is also the New York Times bestselling author of a mystery series featuring Roman doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso.

The latest book is 'Semper Fidelis', and the previous four are:

Medicus (published as 'Medicus/Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls' in the UK and Australia)

Terra Incognita ('Ruso and the Demented Doctor')

Persona non Grata ('Ruso and the Root of All Evils')

Caveat Emptor ('Ruso and the River of Darkness')

Ruth is not the RS Downie who writes real medical textbooks. Absolutely none of the medical advice in the Ruso books should be followed. Roman and Greek doctors were very wise about many things but they were also known to prescribe donkey dung and boiled cockroaches.

Find out more at

Product Description


I was thrilled with Semper Fidelis (which I highly recommend to any fan of mysteries or historical novels). (Nancy Pearl)

I had trouble putting it down at night . . . . Highly recommended. (Historical Novels Review)

This latest installment in the best-selling series will delight readers of history, mystery, and popular fiction. (Library Journal)

Downie injects a modern who-done-it twist into the imperial action. (Kirkus Reviews) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

Inspired by true events, the newest novel in the bestselling Medicus series returns to the ranks of the army, featuring the arrival of the heralded and mysterious Emperor Hadrian.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Continues to develop and improve,,, 25 Jun 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ruth Downie appears to be getting into her stride with this series about a Roman army surgeon and his British born wife. In this outing we find our reluctant medicus back in the army and drawn into an intrigue surrounding the mistreatment of British recruits as they prepare to move from their training base in York to their permanent camp. Every investigator, reluctant or not, has to have their Watson and Ruso's is his determined wife Tilla. The fact she's British puts a nice twist on the medicus storylines and provides depth and prospective. Tilla is also developing as a character who is an equal to the medicus and in this story she is centre stage more than in the other books, they're beginning to become a team with mutual respect for the qualities each of them brings to their relationship.

Downie is also showing she has Paul Doherty's flair and ability to write uncanny and believably descriptive backdrops to her stories in such rich detail that you can almost smell, feel and taste 2nd century Brittania as you get drawn into the tale. The storyline is well plotted, has a couple of red herrings and some nice twists, particularly at the end - sorry, no spoilers!

My only concern is that you have to have a degree of familiarity with Ruso and Tilla's backstory as there are references to it throughout the book so it's not really a standalone read - although at a push you could, it's just you'll miss a lot of the background, and some of it is important background that explains what makes the characters interact with each other as they do and their motivation. That said, my recommendation would be to play catch up and read the others first, you won't be disappointed if you're a fan of this genre.

I really enjoyed this outing and I'm looking forward to book six.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Always Faithful" 11 Dec 2013
By Trajan
Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
A great title for this, Ruth Downie's latest sequel in the Russo adventures, (by the way SEMPER FIDELIS, is also the motto of the American Marine Corps ("Always Faithful" ).
I have read all the Russo books to date and I have to say they are a pleasant change to the plethora of cut and thrust contemporary Roman military fiction, even though having said that I am an avid reader of the latter.
I won't delve into the narrative as there are many excellent reviews already posted.

Apart from the excellent plot, what really appeals to me (being a student of Roman history for over thirty years and having lived very near to Hadrian's wall) is Downie's grasp of the epoch, her in-depth historical research, and above all her descriptive powers of everyday life in Roman Imperial Britannia. All the latter breathes life into the narrative which many contemporary authors sacrifice for the plot.
All in all an excellent storyline with three dimensional characters, a real page turner. Highly recommended.
For those who would like further information on this epoch I highly recommend the OSPREY Campaign, Warrior, and men at arms booklets, with great overviews, excellent illustrations, and highly detailed maps.

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By Blue in Washington TOP 500 REVIEWER TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Ruth Downie adds another episode to the saga of Roman army doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso and wife and helpmate Tilla in second century AD/CE Britian. And a good story it is. Characteristically of this series, the historic context feels authentic; the grubbiness of provincial living conditions, lousy weather, medical practices and local cuisine are pitch perfect to the point of occasional reader discomfort (I thought that the Romans had at least introduced the idea of central heating to Britain, but if they did, it apparently didn't get to the provinces (early York) where this story takes place.) The novel's characters seem like real people dealing with credible social/cultural differences (do present day Britons and Italians have the same differences in perspective, I wonder?)

The storyline is familiar and solid; Ruso and wife Tilla are in the north of England (Eboracum) on an inspection of army medical facilities ahead of an unprecedented visit by the Roman Emperor Hadrian and entourage, including the discontented royal wife, Sabina, The garrison at Eboracum has some serious morale problems stemming from the deaths and desertions of several young British recruits, and Ruso, the instinctive investigator and seeker of justice, gets involved. His poking around earns him the emnity of the local commander and his subordinates, and early on Ruso is first worked over physically by man and dog and eventually accused some serious criminal activity.

While the Roman medicus is by definition the center of the book (and series), it is Tilla, his British-born wife and helpmate, who is increasingly at the heart of the book's motivations and actions.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly entertaining Roman mystery 28 Jan 2013
Semper Fidelis is the fifth in Ruth Downie's Roman mystery series featuring Gaius Petreius Ruso, medicus or doctor to the Twentieth Legion in Roman Britain. The year is AD 122 and Ruso, along with his barbarian and suitably feisty Briton wife Tilla, rejoins the Twentieth at Eboracum (York) just in time for the chaos that means the imminent arrival of emperor Hadrian, who is on one of his famous imperial tours, no doubt involving a detour to a certain wall. Unfortunately, Ruso's arrival and the visit of Hadrian and his empress coincide with a spate of mishaps affecting the legion's native recruits. They appear to be dropping like flies. It's not long before word spreads of a curse. While Ruso is put to the task of fixing the recruits, while hearing worrying rumours of their harsh treatment by certain officers, Tilla looks about for clues to the source of the curse. Needless to say, such meddling gets them both into a spot of bother.

I have yet to read the earlier novels in the series and, considering how much I enjoyed Ruso and Tilla's relationship in Semper Fidelis, this is clearly something to put right. If you had read the preceding novels then I think you'd derive extra pleasure from watching the pair as they settle down to marriage with all the ease and confidence that this brings to them both. Relationships are seldom if ever perfect and this one isn't either but despite the less familiar setting of 2nd-century Britannia and the thrills of the murder mystery the portrayal of Ruso and Tilla is very real. I enjoyed getting to know them in this novel, with their little arguments and conflicts, their variable beliefs due to their very different backgrounds, and the security that they bring to each other. Not to mention the laughs.

And then there's Eboracum.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
dad loved it
Published 21 days ago by Victoria Sidhu
5.0 out of 5 stars Brought as a holiday read and I can't wait
I've read all the other Russo books and can't help loving his bumbling through life. I've read all the others and can't wait to go on holiday to read this one.... so excited
Published 3 months ago by Lesley
5.0 out of 5 stars ROMAN MURDER / MYSTERY
Published 4 months ago by Mrs. Mary Jc Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars A delicious whodunnit in togas
In this fifth offering in the Ruso / Medicus series, the long-suffering Roman army doctor Ruso and his tenacious 'barbarian' wife Tilla become suspects in a murder at a Roman fort... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Fiona Veitch Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars semper fidelis
Ruso the Medical man in Roman times is always a delight to read - he always gets in the s*** with Tilla his wife. - John
Published 6 months ago by jack
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
Having followed the Medicus from the beginning of his adventures I really enjoyed this latest instalment. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mrs. P. Cairns-speitel
5.0 out of 5 stars Ruso
we love all the Ruso books beautifully written funny well researched would recommend them to anyone to try particularly if they like history or who done its
Published 8 months ago by diana morrison
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun, but....
I've only chosen the low rating for what is an exciting and enjoyable book, because I feel there are too many strands to it. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Fiona Cameron
5.0 out of 5 stars SEMPER FIDELIS
I have read all of the Ruso books by Ruth Downie and have thoroughly enjoyed each and everyone one of them, this one included, maybe even more than usual. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Je Salter
5.0 out of 5 stars Ruso does it again!
I first came across Ruth Downie's books about Ruso, the Roman Medicus, and his British wife Tilla last year. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Tiger Lily
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