The Bear and the Wolf by Ruth Downie & S.J.A. Turney

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Life north of Hadrian’s Wall was tough enough for the tribes who lived there without having to deal with the cruelties of the Emperor’s son and his equally cruel Numidian cavalry.  In this short, what if tale, a Roman auxiliary, from a tribe that is loyal to Rome and his wife, whose tribe is on the brink of rebellion come face to face with Caracalla and his prized cavalry unit.  It is an exciting story of divided loyalties stretched to their limits in the pursuit of peace with Rome.  The duo of Downie and Turney combine their talents and their expertise in things Briton and Roman and give us a glimpse of life on that tumultuous frontier and though the story is fictional, it is one that is totally believable, and that is testament to the authors’ creative abilities.  4.2 stars

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Vita Brevis by Ruth Downie

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When I was asked if I would read – review Vita Brevis, the latest in Ruth Downie’s Medicus series, I was more than happy to comply.  When it was mentioned that I would be part of a Blog Tour to promote Vita Brevis, I thought, great, more exposure for this humble but enlightening book review blog.  When I found out who was also on this tour, I almost fainted.  I am in the company of the elite.  To use baseball terminology, it’s like I’m a September call-up to a team of the Major League’s heaviest hitters.  Well, no matter, I’ll put on my big boy pants and do my best….perhaps I’ll offer sacrifices to my Muse for extra guidance.  🙂

I’ve read my share of Roman whodunit books; Lindsey Davis (Falco) -Steven Saylor (Gordianus) – David Wishart (Corvinus) – JM Roberts (Decius) and of course Ruth Downie and her medical sleuth, Ruso.  What I like about these various characters is that while there are many similarities among them, foremost is the fact that they are doing detective work, there are enough differences in time, place and social station for the authors to compose unique mystery situations.  Thus we find Ruso and Tilla in Rome.  What’s so unique about that you may ask?  Well, having spent the last few years in Britannia as a Medical Officer in the 20th Legion and used to managing hospitals, clinics and dealing with the aftermath of battles, Ruso now faces a private practice that is anything but manageable.  A missing doctor, an unlooked for delivery, nosy and mean neighbors, overbearing landlords, an outlaw religious sect holding prayer meetings in the apartment above you and the general hustle and bustle that is Rome; these are just some of the things that Ruso and Tilla have to deal with.  Setting up a new practice is hard enough without being tasked with locating the missing doctor, nor does the mysterious death of an important person make it any easier. In a thoroughly entertaining way the author spreads clues and subtle hints and leads the reader down many trails to the truth.  Witty, poignant, charming, hopeful and riddled with doubt are some of the traits that permeate the narrative.  Through it all, the city of Rome is in the background; street corner charlatans, irritable crowds, bakery smells, slave auctions; all providing the perfect touches to a page turning delight.    5 stars and the highly sought after Hoover Book Reviews highest recommendation.  🙂

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Vita-Brevis-Crime-Empire-Medicus/dp/1620409585/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr

 

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 Vita BREVIS
A Gaius Ruso Mystery
By Ruth Downie
22nd September 2016
hardback – £16.99
Bringing both the majesty and depravity of ancient Rome to life, Ruth Downie concocts
a delicious mix of crime novel, mystery, and history lesson in the latest novel in her
bestselling Medicus series, VITA BREVIS.
“Downie writes with her usual humor and depth . . . Perfect for fans
of the Falco novels by Lindsey Davis, this entertaining New York
Times best-selling series and its endearing characters deserve as
long a run” —Booklist
“A deftly crafted and consistently compelling read from beginning
to end, ‘Vita Brevis’ clearly establishes author Ruth Downie as a
consummate and accomplished master of historical crime fiction” —
Midwest Book Review
Ruso and Tilla’s excitement at arriving in Rome with their baby daughter is soon dulled by
their discovery that the grand facades of polished marble mask an underworld of corrupt
landlords and vermin-infested tenements.
Ruso finds that his predecessor Doctor Kleitos has fled, leaving a dead man in a barrel on
the doorstep with the warning, ‘Be careful who you trust’. Distracted, Ruso makes a grave
mistake, causing him to question his own competence and integrity.
With Ruso’s reputation under threat, he and Tilla must protect their small family by tracking
down the vanished doctor – and discovering the truth behind the man in the barrel.
VITA BREVIS is brimming with humor, clever plot twists, and evocative historical details, as
Ruth Downie follows her beloved characters in their next adventure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ruth Downie is the author of the New York Times bestselling Medicus, as well as Terra
Incognita, Persona Non Grata, Caveat Emptor, Semper Fidelis, and Tabula Rasa. She is
married with two sons and lives in Devon.
Follow her at ruthdownie.com and on Twitter @ruthsdownie.
Praise for VITA BREVIS
“Masterfully draws out its suspense, painting a vivid portrait of ancient Rome that
feels persuasive and authentic”
—Kirkus Reviews
“Downie’s plotting is as engaging as ever… much more than a mystery novel”
—Historical Novel Society
“Reading ‘Vita Brevis’ felt like catching up with old friends”
—Italophile Book Reviews
Praise for ruth downie and the medicus series
“Attention to day-in-the-life period details, judiciously doled-out twists, and dry
British humor . . . One hell of a toga party” —Entertainment Weekly
“Wonderfully entertaining” —Newsweek
“Places Downie alongside such established masters of the Roman historical as
Steven Saylor and Rosemary Rowe” —Publishers Weekly
“Ruso rocks. Let’s hear it for those Romans” —Kirkus Reviews
“Downie’s attention to detail—both historical detail and human detail—makes this
series a joy to read for the mystery lover, the classics fan, or anyone seeking more
character-driven genre fiction” — Historical Novel Society
Ruth Downie is available for interview and feature writing.
For more information please contact:
Joseph Thomas
joseph.thomas@bloomsbury.com – 020 7631 5863

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Year of Ravens

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A collaborative effort of seven authors, A Year of Ravens tells the tale of the Iceni Queen, Boudica and her rebellion against Rome.  While the cause and effects of the war are admirably presented, it is the characters that drive this emotion packed, soul searching, heartstring tugging story(or rather stories).  From the beginning the readers are treated to a seamless transition from author to author and the way each of them puts their own marks on the growth of each character.  Time and time again I was drawn into a character’s mindset and felt the pain, the remorse, the confusion, and even the occasional joy being experienced.  One, of the many examples I could choose, of a character’s journey through the book is the fictional wife of the Roman Procurator.  Valeria as introduced in the first chapter is a cold as ice Roman matron whose only ambition is to promote her rather timid husband’s career.  What she experiences in subsequent events is so beautifully written as to elicit some tearing up even to this old curmudgeon.  Also on display are the realities of war and the cruelties inflicted by men(and women) madly entrenched in the rightness of their cause.  Whether it’s shield wall action or the rampant, wanton destruction of a town or village, the battle scenes are bloodlust filled events punctuated with the sounds of sword on sword and the screams of the dying.

By way of summation, let me say, from the very beginning with the Intro by Ben Kane to the very, very end with an afterword from each author, this book is a testament to the creative genius of seven wordsmiths.  5 stars

 

Terra Incognita by Ruth Downie

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Gaius Petreius Ruso, currently attached to the 20th Legion has arrived in the northern reaches of Britain, the fort at Coria along with his slave/housekeeper/lover, Tilla.  This is her homeland and she is naturally looking forward to going there.  For Ruso, this should only be a short stay as the 20th is moving on to another outpost, Ulucium.  However, events intervene and the hapless doctor finds himself stuck at Coria and enmeshed in the investigation of the mysterious murder of a legionnaire of the 10th Legion.  What follows is a race against time to solve the murder before the arrival of the Roman governor in four days time.
The author provides the reader with a plot line that has more twists and turns than the Hana Road on Maui and I must confess that for a couple chapters I was a bit confused as to where this tale was going but then again the good doctor was just as confused.  This confusion, however, leads to an exciting, taut, last half of the book, one in which I found it difficult to put down even as I was on duty watching my 2 1/2 year old toddler grand daughter.
One of the features of the author’s books is her witty/humorous writing style and this is on full display especially in the character of Tilla, though the good doctor has his moments as well, especially those moments where his thoughts are slightly different than what he is saying. A thoroughly enjoyable whodunit is in store for the reader in this, the second tale in the Ruso series.  I will certainly be going on to see what more trouble and confusion awaits him.  4 stars
About the author:
Ruth (RS) Downie graduated from 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, set during the building of Hadrian’s Wall.

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, only one title everywhere!)

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.

Find out more at http://www.ruthdownie.com

Medicus by Ruth Downie

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Once again I find myself late to the party as I have only just now started reading about Gaius Petreius Ruso, a Roman Legion Doctor and the protagonist in this delightful tale.  The author has produced a character that is seemingly a competent, if not a good physician, who finds himself drawn into the search for the killer(s) of two prostitutes.  However, unlike some other fictional sleuths of ancient Rome, Lindsey Davis’ Falco or Steven Saylors’ Gordianus for example, Ruso is not so keen on being a detective.  He is too concerned about other things like his financial problems, or his somewhat regrettable purchase of an injured slave woman but as the story goes on he cannot help but becoming involved in an unofficial investigation.  The characters in the book are well written, the day to day existence in an occupied/pacified town in Britain is done nicely with both the seriousness of the situation and with the humor she injects into the narrative.  Being a would be author myself,I particularly love the difficulties Ruso has in trying to write a concise first aid book for the army…brought many a smile to my face.

As to rating the book, as I read the first half I was leaning to a 4 star rating but the second half of the book made me change my mind and so I have given it 5 stars and I already have the second book in the series loaded in my Kindle.  🙂