Review: Medicus and Terra Incognita
If you want to really treat yourself to a rip-roaring yarn set in Britannia during the Roman Empire, then this series if for you. Although Ruth Downie has been writing for some time, I had never read her books before, and not one to follow any series too much, I was surprised to find myself searching frantically on Audible for Book II (Terra Incognita), the moment the first book (Medicus) finished. (I found it and it was WONDERFUL!)
The stories follow crime-solving, recently divorced, Doctor Ruso, who spends a lot of time scratching his ear in thought and putting his nose where, quite often, it doesn’t really belong. He is confused about women and how they think but his morals and sense of fairness lead him to champion the causes of the voiceless, including the slave girl Tilla, whom he rescues. Sparks fly and not always in the most romantic of ways.
Downie’s research is intriguing. She captures life in the Roman-controlled city of Deva (now Chester) and then the border area, with such detail that you can almost smell the sour beer, or the stinking infirmary, the soot and the dust. You can taste the great wine and sense the cacophony of life within and beyond the walls of the cities. Always present, however, is Downie’s witty sense of humour. Sometimes I laughed out loud.
As mentioned, I read both books on audiobooks, but the reason was Simon Vance’s impressive narration. In just one or two words you know which character is speaking – Vance is beyond masterful.
Though these are not necessarily books that will change your life forever, you will not regret any time that you gave to them.
And now that I have some birthday money to spend (thanks family!), I know exactly what I’ll be downloading to listen to next…
Have you read Ruth Downie’s work and what did you think of it?
For other historical fiction, read Paula Marais’s novel The Punishment, set in France during World War II. Love, betrayal and punishment in the 1940s! (Link below.)