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Persona Non Grata

af Ruth Downie

Serier: Medicus Ruso (3)

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4956336,681 (3.69)89
Gaius Petreius Ruso and his companion, Tilla, become embroiled in a family scandal when Severus, the family's chief creditor, winds up dead.
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Viser 1-5 af 63 (næste | vis alle)
This is the third installment of an entertaining historical crime fiction series set in the Ancient Roman Empire.

This book begins with hapless do-gooder Roman Army medic Gaius Petreius Ruso breaking his foot while trying to save a child who had been dropped into the river by five drunk legionaries.

His friend and colleague Valens prescribed that he must go easy on it for a good six weeks, “and no wine, of course.” (Part of the fun of this series is learning about the various “cures” used by people in Ancient Rome. Since the author also highlights the food they eat, it seems inevitable, even without murder, that they would need a lot of fixing up.) Valens also delivered a letter to him marked urgent, that read “Lucius to Gaius. Come home, brother.” Since Ruso can’t do anything else for six weeks, he agreed, even though his home in the south of Gaul was over a thousand miles away from his current post in Deva. (Ancient Gaul included the area that is modern France.) He was granted a medical discharge. (It was now June, and his contract with the Legion would be up in January. He had the option to sign on again when he got back from Gaul, and Valens assured Ruso he would want to. Ruso wasn’t so sure.)

Ruso has been living with Tilla, a “Barbarian” from Britannia, for the past two years. He knew he should have found a way to mention Tilla to his family before now, but he had not, and now she was “about to become a surprise.”

When Ruso went to see Tilla’s home in the previous installment, Tilla found her memories didn’t quite live up to the new reality there. Analogously in this book, Ruso has been remembering his home through rosy glasses; a vision dispelled almost as soon as he got there. As Tilla mused in the previous book, Terra Incognita:

“As far as she had been able to work out, the medicus’s family lived in a fine house whose roof baked beneath the everlasting sunshine of southern Gaul, while its foundations stood in a deep and perilous pool of debt. . . . She knew that he sent most of his money home to his brother, and she knew that it was never enough.”

Moreover, to call Ruso’s family “dysfunctional” is an understatement.

In any event, when they arrive, they once again get involved in a murder case, and once again, Ruso, with a lot of help from Tilla, finally figures out what happened, saving his own skin by doing so.

Discussion: Ruso continues to bumble through regular and extracurricular responsibilities, trying to do the right thing and right wrongs while everyone else is trying to take advantage of him. Ruso realizes too that he hadn’t done right by Tilla by not smoothing her way with his family:

“You asked me once if I was ashamed of you.”

“Are you?”

“I’m the one who should be ashamed. I should have introduced you better.”

“And what would you have said?”

“He paused. ‘I would have said, This is Tilla. She is the bravest and most beautiful woman I know, and I don’t deserve her.”

“She smiled. ‘All these things are true.’”

Evaluation: I am greatly enjoying this series, even though many of the characters and events described are most unsavory. But I love the medical information, and the author also shows us how the class and gender disparities of the time played out, which is always interesting. The plot of this book also weaves in the growing appeal of Christianity in the Roman Empire, with the characters who adhere to its tenets explaining just what it is about the religion that attracts them. ( )
  nbmars | Jan 18, 2021 |
Ruso has just injured his foot attempting to rescue a boy from the river (the boy manages to save himself) when an uncharacteristically brief and urgent letter arrives from his brother Lucius: Come home immediately. In a panic about what new disaster is so awful Lucius won't even hint at it, he wangles extended medical leave, and he and Tilla pack up and head for southern Gaul.

Their arrival is a complete surprise, and not a welcome one. One of their major creditors is threatening a bankruptcy action against them, and the absence of the real property owner--Ruso--on public service had been legal protection against a seizure order. Lucius vehemently denies having sent the letter; if he'd thought his elder brother might be contemplating a return home, he'd have sent word not to come. Ruso's return makes them vulnerable to real financial disaster and disgrace.

Things only get worse when that same creditor drops dead during a private conversation with Ruso, poisoned.

Along with putting his investigation skills to work clearing himself and the other prime suspect, his ex-wife Claudia (now the widow of the dead man) of murder, Ruso has to figure out what happened to Lucius' brother-in-law Justinian, steward to Claudia's father, Probus. Justinian had been sent along on a merchant ship to watch over Probus' investment, but the ship has vanished. Ruso and Lucius' stepmother Aria wants to do new, expensive "improvements" to the house, and is certain Lucius is just being stingy and unreasonable in not letting her. And Ruso's half-sister Marcia wants her dowry settled so that she can marry.

Or rather, he discovers, so that she can buy the freedom of a gladiator so that he can marry her.

Oh, and Ruso had never mentioned Tilla in his letters home, and Aria, determined to marry him off to the rich widow next door, is not pleased and does her best to make sure Tilla knows it.

This is, like its predecessors, and excellent mystery, with wonderful characters and nicely twisty plotting. As always, both Tilla and Ruso show real talent for getting themselves into trouble in their attempts to do the right thing, and confuse each other thoroughly trying to communicate across the barriers of their cultural differences.

Recommended. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
Great...still loving Ruso and Tilla....smart mystery, historical accuracy and Ruso is the most charming army doctor although he is completely unaware of his appeal.
( )
  almin | Jul 29, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I read this in 2010 and reviewed it, I stand by that review.

This is to highlight the audio version which I listened to in 2017, with narration by Simon Vance. He does a marvelous job of giving each character their own "voice." The dialects startled me, being the accents of England, and all, but they were able to convey the class of the speaker, and after all, who would know what sorts of accents the early Roman population had? Well, I'm sure someone does, but not I. ( )
  MrsLee | Sep 10, 2017 |
This is a very well written murder mystery with a twist. It occurs in Roman controlled Gaul in 119 A.D. The characters are well developed, the plot unfolds logically, and there even bits of humor. I actually laughed out loud at one point. Is it a realistic portrayal of life at the time? I very much doubt it, but it is a good story. I highly recommend this one. ( )
  DLMorrese | Oct 14, 2016 |
Viser 1-5 af 63 (næste | vis alle)
"A third deftly plotted puzzler starring Roman battlefield physician Gaius Petreius Ruso and his former house servant—and present lover—Tilla."
tilføjet af bookfitz | RedigerKirkus Reviews (Jul 15, 2009)
 
"The plotting is clever and suspenseful, with subtle clues and lots of action, while the setting and supporting cast are vividly drawn."
tilføjet af bookfitz | RedigerPublishers Weekly (May 18, 2009)
 

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Originally published in the UK as "Ruso and the Root of All Evils". Published in North America as "Persona Non Grata."
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Gaius Petreius Ruso and his companion, Tilla, become embroiled in a family scandal when Severus, the family's chief creditor, winds up dead.

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