In Medicus by Ruth Downie, Gaius Petrius Ruso has found himself in the miserable Britannia, the farthest outpost of the Roman Empire, in a step down from his promising career as an army medic. After working a 36-hour shift, he comes upon a man abusing his slave, who has a broken arm and for whom the man has no intention of spending the money to get medical attention. Being exhausted and angry at the callousness of the owner, Ruso offers to buy the young woman from him and thus ends up the owner of a slave, whom he calls Tilla. It takes a long time to nurse Tilla back to health, especially because she strongly desires to die in order to join her family in the afterlife.
In the meantime, the body of a young woman gets fished out of the river, and she has been strangled and had her hair shaved off. After a few days she gets identified as a slave belonging to the comparatively high-class brothel owner who ran away after only ten days in servitude. This takes Ruso into the world of slavery and in particular that of slave prostitutes. The appearance of a second dead slave from the same brothel just adds to the intrigue.
This book was very well written. It started off a bit slowly, but it didn’t take long for me to get involved in the book. The lives of the medic and his slave, as well as the depictions of the primitive medical conditions, become very real. One thing that influenced my decision to purchase this book was the comment that it is unlike the Falco series by Davina Porter. I listened to a number of those books, but they grew tiresome. My mother, who shares my listening tastes, did not like the Falco books at all. But I think she will really enjoy Medicus.
Simon Vance narrates this book and makes it come to life. I have heard his books before and always enjoyed them. He does an outstanding performance.
I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone, not just those who are fans of historical fiction. It is one that will appeal to anyone who likes mystery or history. The book also has an interesting epilogue about the known history of the Roman Empire in England, and it also draws a powerful comparison between the legal slaves forced into prostitution and the large trafficking in women that goes on today. It satisfied me and will satisfy plenty of others. I give this book four stars.
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