I thoroughly enjoyed the first venture in this series, Medicus (2006), and was delighted to get this second entry in the series. There is nothing but good news for those who enjoy well-plotted Roman mysteries, although I do have a suggestion or two for the author as she continues in what I hope will become an established and popular foray into the ancient Roman army and murder mysteries. She has fine characters, an extremely likeable protagonist, a good sense of historical place, and a good sense of plotting. I must admit, I haven't been close to guessing "whodunnit" and I usually can. She also has none of that "how on earth did she pick HIM for the killer" syndrome, which drives me nuts when the killer turns out to be someone totally unlikely.
This is a fun read; the author was a wonderful dry sense of the ridiculous that will keep you laughing aloud more than once. I had only two small concerns after its enjoyable and satisfying conclusion. Our hero, Gaius Petreius Ruso, a doctor to the legions, is in this novel so overwhelmed with difficulties in the far north of Britain that at points I got a tad impatient with him. Ruso is a great character, ironic, self-effacing, modest, likeable and decent, and the characters that surround him have an almost Dickenesque eccentricity: their personal pecadilloes are not only funny but firmly contrast to our hero's. The dialogue is rapid fire and a rather modern sense of wry angst adds its own flavor to the brew. One certainly feels that bureaucrats in 2008 and AD 128 were largely similar. However, I wanted poor Ruso do to a little better SOMEWHERE . . . he appeared confused to the point of ineptness at several places in the plot, and we need to retain both our affection for him, and our respect. He began to seem like a well-meaning dweeb. I also got occasionally impatient with Tilla, the native Briton/ex-slave/current girlfriend, and found her frequent disappearances during the novel (to visit friends, family, enemies, graves, old boyfriends) to be a tad peculiar. Surely even an open-minded, tolerant and affectionate Roman might ask, after 72 hours or so, where his slave girlfriend had disappeared to? Again, these are very tiny criticisms in the body of a fun and well-plotted novel, I just hope that, in Volume 3, Ruso could be a little more Roman and Tilla could be a little less attitutudinal.
Otherwise, I enjoyed this and can heartily recommend it for those who enjoy careful history with their murderous intrigues.