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Semper Fidelis: A Novel of the Roman Empire (Medicus) Hardcover – 4 Jul 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (4 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608197093
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608197095
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 3.1 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 420,595 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 'Tabula Rasa' and the previous five are:

Medicus (the first story, 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')

Semper Fidelis (at last, we have settled on ONLY ONE TITLE for each book!)

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.

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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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kate TOP 500 REVIEWER on 28 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover
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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Blue in Washington TOP 500 REVIEWERTOP 1000 REVIEWER on 13 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By amazon customer on 11 Dec. 2013
Format: Hardcover
The perfect gift for all Roman history enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Je Salter on 27 Jun. 2013
Format: Hardcover
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. The author manages to create an atmosphere filled with engaging characters and story lines that are geographically accurate to the time and period where the protagonists find themselves.

Along with good humour and good story lines and the hard done to Ruso, the books are always extremely comfortable and nice 'places' to find yourself and provide situations where you can escape and spend many hours, not wanting to put the book down as I found with this until I realised I had read past page 100.

Whilst not the sword and sandals war epics of a Ben Kane or Simon Scarrow, these stories are equally as good in their own right and provide a pause between battle and limb slashing books that I also enjoy reading. If you like historical fiction that mirrors historical fact I can't recommend these books highly enough.

Ruth Downie provides the reader with stories and characters akin to your favourite and most comfortable chair, keep up the excellent work Ruth, I look forward to the next book.
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