Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tabula Rasa by Ruth Downie

Tabula Rasa: A Gaius Ruso Mystery by Ruth Downie --- 332 pages

Ruth Downie is a British author who has written a series of mystery books set in Roman Britain in the time of the Emperor Hadrian. Her sleuths are a Roman Army medicus, or doctor, Gaius Petreius Ruso (a native of Gaul) and his British wife Tilla (formerly his slave).

In this, the sixth book in the series, Ruso has a contract as medicus for the Twentieth Legion, assigned to the construction of the Emperor Hadrian's Great Wall. It's the end of the short summer construction season, and the men of his century are eager to complete their assigned section and return to the relative comforts of their winter camp in Deva, far to the south.

Here in the north the local people still have bitter memories of their losses during the last British uprising against Roman rule. The situation has been exacerbated by the forced removal of many British families from their farms to make way for the Great Wall. Tilla, Ruso's wife, has discovered she has family in the area and is eager to reconnect with them, and Ruso agrees, for her sake, to try.

Then Ruso's clerk at the military hospital goes AWOL, and rumors begin to circulate that a Roman soldier has been murdered and buried in a section of the wall. When Ruso orders a search for his missing clerk, the Roman soldiers clash with Tilla's relations, and her tentative overtures seem doomed. Then the young son of the house is lured away by a soldier who says Tilla wants to see the boy. But no one knows who the soldier was, and the boy has disappeared.

Ruso fears that unless he can discover the fate of his missing clerk, and Tilla's missing relative, the situation will deteriorate into another bloody rebellion.

Downie's Gaius Ruso series has won lots of critical praise for its authentic period detail, vivid characters and intricate plots. One critic has compared her to the late, great Rosemary Sutcliff, author of a number of highly acclaimed novels set in Roman Britain. Fans of Lindsey Davis and Steven Saylor may also enjoy Downie's work.

Click HERE and HERE for two excellent detailed reviews of Tabula Rasa (Warning: Spoiler Alert)

Click HERE to read about Tabula Rasa on Downie's web page.

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