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on 28 August 2010
I have always been an afficionado of detective and adventure stories in a Roman setting, starting with Lindsay Davis and David Wishart and moving on to include Rosemary Rowe, Marilyn Todd, Steven Saylor, John Maddox Roberts and Simon Scarrow, so the arrival of a new author in the field aroused my cautious interest. I welcomed Ms Downie's first book in the series, Ruso and the Disapperaring Dancing Girls, with pleasure but some reserve. It had a wry quiet humour running through it, and was certainly a pleasure to read. However, Ruso never quite became a real person to me, (probably due to a lack of imagination on my part) and I couldn't quite see how the saga could progress. That changed with the arrival of Ruso and the Demented Doctor, when to me, at least, Ruso became a definite individual whose problems you could appreciate and whose actions elicited an emotive response, be it either approval or dismay. By this time I was definitely looking forward to the third book in the series, so when Ruso and the Root of all Evils arrived I grabbed it eagerly and was not disappointed. To speak of this series as "Roman" is perhaps a shade misleading, as the action of the first two books takes place in Roman Britain, and the third in Ruso's home country of Gaul. However, the setting is less important than the characters, and the latter are beautifully drawn. Ruso comes through a a conscientious, caring and competent but slightly bewildered individual, doing his best to survive in a difficult world. Equally delightful is Tilla, his slave/housekeeper/mistress/potential wife who is tribal British and fiercely independant - standing no nonsense from either Ruso or anyone else. The result is pure pleasure. There are no dramatic cliff-hanging episodes, but plenty of adventure, and the joy of seeing two likeable characters (Ruso and Tilla) doing their best to survive and prosper in a frequently hostile environment. The fourth book can't come soon enough for me!
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on 29 July 2010
I find R S Downie pleasantly reminds me of Marilyn Todd though her hero is quite unlike the irreverant Claudia Seferius. The level of technical writing between the two authors is comparable. Both have an easy pace, a simple setting and a choice of language that will never elevate them into the pantheon of Saylor or Gregory, nor a grasp of scope of the likes of Davies or Doody. Downie's Ruso also has the same dogged thought-process flow as that other sharp-witted detective created by Rosemary Rowe.
It is fairly evident that at some point all ancient history who-dunnits authors have to let their sleuths spread their wings and fly the nest of the comfort of home. In this case its only taken two novels to have Ruso limp out of Britannia with the independent and apparently guileless Tilla to head for home where brother Lucius is struggling over a court case presented by the unctuous Severus who happens to be married to Ruso's ex. - Claudia. What with two headstrong sisters, a level headed gladiator suitor, a "my cousin the senator" sneaking about, a missing brother Justinus on a shady trading shipwreck and the appearance of two Roman henchmen to investigate the rhododendron honey poisoning of the aforementioned Severus, Ruso has his work - and time! -cut out to discover the culprit, save the family honour and pecuniary, and establish both Tilla within the family and his sisters' future.
Enjoyable, light-hearted mayhem from the pen of an author with a steady hand on the plot, a warming set of characters and just enough intrigue to ensure the pages turn. It's not Saylor, it'll never be literary genius, but for a plane/train flight or just a lazy summer afternoon, fans of the genre could do no worse than check in our our new Medicus and see what strife's he managed to entangle himself in this time.
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on 12 May 2010
For Ruso and Tilla, The usual slight farce ensues, with stroppy adolescent sisters, step mothers with their heads in the sand, smarmy politicians and believable baddies. A very pleasant way to spend a few evenings.
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on 7 October 2014
Loved the previous two books: found the change of location a shock. Thoroughly enjoy R. S. Downie's books, and will be buying the rest as soon as disregard for finances triumphs over prudence. That said, the change of location made me instantly and unwittingly compare this to the Lyndsey Davis Falco books. Very different - obviously - and I love both - but I found the unconscious comparison absurdly distracting. Am hoping Ruso returns to Chester for the others!
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on 3 August 2014
I love the Ruso series. Ruso is an unlikely hero, but a kind and honest one, who together with his companion/slave girl (who manipulates him shamelessly and with great ease) manage to fall into all sorts of plots and problems. Entertaining as long as you dont want heavyweight historical facts and battle scenes, but you still enjoy a good read
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on 19 September 2014
Just as good as the earlier books. Ruso is an endearing hero who is brave, but fallible. His relationship with Tilla develops further in this novel, which shows the author's good grasp of Roman history.
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As a huge fan of historical fiction, I'm always on the look out for something new and different to the norm especially within the Roman period. What unfurls within, in this, the third outing for Ruso, is a tale with humour, mystery and demonstrates that mankind has not moved on as much as we'd like to think in two millennia. Downie, brings a great tale to the fore with wonderful prose, some great twists and above all characters that just step off the page into the readers imagination like almost as if they're friends that you'd like to invite round for a drink in the forum. Add to the mix realistic dialogue and you've really got a gem to enjoy even if you haven't read the other titles within the series.
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on 9 February 2015
This is my third Ruso book, and I confess that I find the Ruso books enchanting.

The stories are good, well paced and plotted, though I do not get a great sense of Imperial Rome as was in the Stephen Saylor's Gordianus books. However, the books are superior in their characterisation of the two main protagonists, Gaius and his Girl Friday, the British Tilla aka Darludacha "Daughter of Lugh". By rights the series should be "Ruso and Tilla ..."

Gaius acquired Tilla in rescuing a badly beaten and even dying young slave girl in the first book. However, he is both alarmed and smitten when she morphs into a beautiful and self-willed woman, someone the Medicus, with a bad divorce already and a confessed fear of women, finds it hard to come to terms with. As a "housekeeper" she is somewhat of a failure (her bad cooking is a running joke). But in a brutal world she needs a male protector, since her own family were massacred and she sold into concubinage. A Roman army doctor is an ideal guardian, and she calls him "Master", though the relationship grows to be more and more one of equals. Gaius on the other hand has clearly emotional and sexual needs. It has been wonderful to watch this ill-matched pair grow from partnership-of-convenience to mutual respect, mutual affection and ( I am sure) mutual love.

It is the strength of the books, and I hope the electric charge persists as the relationship of Tilla and Ruso develops.
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on 1 June 2010
If history and mystery is your thing, you'll like this book. Ruso, a Roman military medic is ably assisted by his British slave girl sidekick Tilla to unravel a mystery involving poison, dodgy dealing and all the complications of his family. I have enjoyed all of the Ruso stories so far, and I hope you do too.
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on 26 August 2015
This is the first Ruso I have tried so wasn't sure what to expect, but certainly wasn't banking on it being so bland. The story is pretty innocuous, as are the characters and the background detail. It felt like being inside one of those nameless shopping malls where you could be anywhere in the world. The writing is okay, there's some gentle humour, the story plods along - if you want something that isn't going to raise your heart rate while lazing away afternoon on the beach, this would do the trick. I got to the stage that I just didn't care about the characters or how anything would be resolved, so I had no reason to carry on reading.
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