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on 26 April 2011
The intrepid Ruso former legionary doctor returns in Ruth Downies fourth instalment in Caveat Emptor (US version). He also returns to Britannia in tow with his new wife, Tilla after staying with his family in Gaul. I have to admit its irritating to find that the names of the books in the US and Britain differ and you have to grub around each time a book is released. If you want a hardback version you have to order from the US as well and its annoying.

The above said in Caveat Emptor, the book opens with Ruso returning to Britain and landing at the port of Londunium where he meets his friend and former legionary surgeon Vallens. Ruso is hoping to return to his old trade but when a tax collector and his brother disappear on route to the settlement, he is 'volunteered' to investigate the circumstances of the disappearance of the brothers and the money.

It's not long before the one of the bodies turns up dead not too far away from where Ruso is staying and rumours spread that he must have been killed by his brother who has ran off with the cash. As usual things are not as they appear and Ruso soon finds links with the Iceni and Catuvellanni as his enquiries begin. With Tilla wanting a baby Ruso is more than happy when he goes off in search of the truth.

It's not long however, before Tilla turns up in company with a woman claiming to be the great grand daughter of none other than Boudica and she is heavily pregnant with the unborn baby of the dead man. With counterfeit coins, corrupt officials and deserters from the Roman army and with the threat of the Iceni, Ruso has his work cut out as he soon becomes a target for the men who have a vested interest in covering what what actually happened. It's another good book by Ruth Downie where the reader can expect to laugh and enjoy Ruso's exploits!
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on 3 March 2017
Excellent series of books, hard to put down once you start reading.
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on 29 September 2016
I suspect Ruso was my favourite investigator of crimes by the time I’d finished the first book in Ruth Downie’s Medicus series. The second book expanded this world to include darker themes and the wild north. And by the time Ruso went home to Gaul in the third book he was not only my favourite investigator, but one of my favourite characters in any book series. Left with something of an uncertain future at the end of that book, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the fourth book, other than being sure it would be highly entertaining.

Caveat Emptor takes us back to Britain, where Ruso and Tilla (now man and wife) find themselves dragged into problems galore. Tilla becomes a friend and helper to a native woman who has got herself into disastrous trouble, her man the tax collector having disappeared with the money. Ruso finds himself appointed by the province’s assistant procurator to investigate the disappearance of the tax collector and his money.

What follows is a complex and thoroughly engrossing investigation taking us from the docksides of Londinium (London) to the finance offices of Verulamium (St Albans). A plot that involves a fascinating and shady cast of characters from lurking town guards to power-hungry councillors to weaselly clerks to half-blind noblemen and so on. A plot that, I might add, while I grasped parts of the solution half way through, parts kept me guessing to the end. A plot that is not all it seems at any given point.

But once more, the major wins of the book are the main characters and Ruth’s writing. Having met Ruth now, and discovered what a truly nice lady she is, it amazes me how she seems to be able to get into the mindset of hen-pecked males or vicious mysogenists or the like so well that they read as truly authentic. Ruso is at times hapless, at times heroic, mostly beleaguered and often confused. He is a man who tries to do the right thing, even though at times he’d like nothing more than to do the wrong one. Tilla is no barbarian, nor is she a Roman matron. She is not a charicature but a person, with all the complexity that implies. And as always with Ruth’s writing, the threads of gentle quirky humour that run throughout add counterpoint to the seriousness of the situations in which they find themselves and make the books something special and a delight to read.

As a last treat, here’s just a taster of the sort of writing that makes me love Ruth’s work:

As the ostler had promised, the ginger mare was keen to go – but not necessarily forward. After winning the argument over which of them was steering, Ruso urged it out under the archway and onto the wide expanse of the North road.

If that kind of writing doesn’t make you want to read, then I reckon nothing will.

Caveat Emptor. A beautifully constructed mystery. And now I go on to read the next book – Semper Fidelis.
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Ruth Downie takes her "Medicus" series to a new level of complexity and intrigue with "Caveat Emptor". This fourth book in the highly entertaining series set in Roman-ruled Britain in the Second Century AD has protagonist Gaius Petreius Ruso and his now-wife Tilla back in Londinium after a long visit to his family home in southern Gaul. Ruso, no longer an army medic, is looking for work and reluctantly accepts an assignment from the Procurator of the province to investigate the disappearance of a tax collector and a substantial amount of tax revenue from the nearby town of Verulamium (modern St. Albans). With Tilla and the missing tax collector's wife and child in tow, Ruso moves his investigation to Verulamium, to all appearances a very law-abiding and largely Romanized settlement where the local Britons talk with Babbit-like pride about their town and province. The town fathers are not happy about the possibility of criminal scandal that has come with Ruso the Investigator, and as the bodies of the tax collector and his brother turn up, civic hostility becomes increasingly dangerous for Ruso and his family and colleagues.

Author Downie has crafted a very clever plot that is slowly revealed through Ruso's investigation in classic police procedural fashion albeit in the historic context in which the mystery is set. The conclusion is never predictable and is revealed only in the last few pages of the book.

While the plot is clever and skillfully spun out, what I liked even more about "Caveat Emptor" was the growing complexity of the characters. The relationship between Ruso and his Briton wife Tilla is extremely complicated. To be sure, there are masculine/feminine differences at work, but this is also a pairing of two extremely different people, coming from two very different cultures (cosmopolitan vs. tribal). The two are shown to be strongly committed to each other, but they are rarely in agreement about anything--their lives together, relationships with others, how to investigate a crime, etc. That personal tension is consistently written into the entire run of the story and, for the most part, strengthens it and brings a sense of historic reality to the tale.

I also thought that Downie provided a good balance of mystery story vs. historic detail in "Caveat Emptor". The plot had a modern feel to it, with its emphasis on human relationships, greed, petty power struggles, and bureaucratic bad behavior. But there is enough historic material here--living conditions, Roman medicine, transportation, burial rites, tribal relationships, etc.--to make the story original and entertaining for the reader who chooses this genre for those qualities.

A very fine book in a good series that gets more interesting with each successive episode. Recommended.
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on 26 January 2011
Watch out Caveat Emptor and Ruso and the River of Darkness are the same book!! Amazon are offering a deal if you buy both books but you will end up with 2 copies of the same book.
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on 31 December 2016
This Machiavellian plot begins with Tilla longing for a baby. During the course of the novel, she is heavily involved in caring for one, not her own. Ruso meanwhile is investigating the disappearance of the baby's father and a lot of money. Downie’s characterisations are superb and the series just grows in strength.
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on 4 September 2016
How does Ruth Downie keep coming up with so many new intricate plots. Thankfully she does so there is another one to start.

Well rounded. Very satisfying read. Again almost no typos. 
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