What I’m reading: The Medicus series by Ruth Downie

First, though, Happy Thanksgiving to all my USA readers! I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday. I spent the past week in rural North Carolina with my family and limited internet access. It was wonderful.

A couple of years ago, a book caught my eye at the public library: Terra Incognita by Ruth Downie. I read it, and realized it was the fifth of a series. I began reading the first one then lost track of it on my Kindle (you probably know how that happens!) and didn’t finish.

Over the holiday I had lots of time to read, and I finished the first book in the series, Medicus. Gaius Ruso is a medicus – a physician – in the days of Emperor Hadrian of the Roman Empire. He’s a Roman citizen, from southern Gaul, who joined the army to put distance between himself and his family while also trying to earn money to save the family farm. His unit is stationed in northern Britain, first in the town of Deva (present-day Chester), then up on the wall that Hadrian is building. His patients are mostly soldiers suffering from accidents or fight-related injuries.

This is great historical fiction. Every book has a mystery – in the first, someone is killing off barmaids; in the sixth, a young boy sees a body buried in the interior section of Hadrian’s Wall. Ruso rescues a female slave, Tilla, from an abusive owner, and she complicates his life in all sorts of ways. The mysteries are tightly plotted, the characters are fully formed, there’s humor – and since I’ve tramped across most of Hadrian’s Wall, I can clearly identify the locations in the books.

If you like historical mysteries, particularly ancient history, give the Medicus series a try.


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