Thursday, March 19, 2015

Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie

Semper Fidelis: A Novel of the Roman Empire by Ruth Downie --- 330 pages

Fifth book in Downie's entertaining historical mystery series about Roman Army doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso and his strong-willed British wife Tilla, on duty with the Roman Legions occupying 2nd century Britannia.

Upon rejoining the 20th Legion at Eboracum, Ruso is determined to settle into his duties as chief medical officer and forswear involvement in any more of the investigations that have had such a disastrous effect on his career and prospects. Unfortunately, he discovers an unusually high number of suicides, unexplained deaths and accidental injuries among the legion's new crop of native British recruits showing up at the hospital. Pera, the young medic in charge before his arrival, is a former pupil of Ruso's and seems both relieved and strangely reluctant to answer his old mentor's questions.    

Ruso's wife, Tilla, has her own sources of information among the unofficial wives and families of the legionaries, and what they have to say does not match up with the official medical records either. Ruso wonders if the impending visit of the Emperor Hadrian and his wife adequately explains why the 20th's tribune (commanding officer) Accius, is so determined to resist any suggestion that all is not well with the legion. 

The veteran Centurion Geminus, in charge of the new recruits, and counting down the weeks to his own retirement from the Legion, also takes a dim view of Ruso's persistent questions. When Geminus is found in a ditch with his throat cut, Ruso finds himself accused of murder. 

Tilla, meanwhile, makes use of a tenuous connection with the Empress Sabina, in her efforts to discover the true murderer of Geminus and vindicate her husband.

As always, a fascinating concoction of historical fact and fiction.

Click HERE to read a review of Semper Fidelis from the Historical Novel Society.

Click HERE to read a review from Kirkus.

Click HERE to read an interview with Ruth Downie from the Sleuthsayers web site.

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