Patching Up The Predicaments

Ruso and the Root of all Evils; Ruth S. Downie; Penguin; pp: 448; Rs350

– Shana Susan Ninan

Ruth S. Downie spins a fascinating tale in her third Medicus thriller, Ruso and the Root of all Evils that was released in April this year. Her first book featuring Roman medic Gaius Petreius Ruso was published in 2006. The first two in the series are Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls and Ruso and the Demented Doctor.

In Ruso and the Root of all Evil, Gaius Petreius Ruso is a surgeon with the Army, and lives in Roman-occupied Britain. His home, though, occupied by the rest of his family, is in Gaul, South France. Confusion clouds his mind when a letter summons him homeward. A small injury is his reason for a long leave from the legions, and he travels home with his housekeeper-lover-guide Tilla, a British barbarian in the eyes of others.

Home’s waiting for him; but with all the bad news he can take! His family is in terrible debt, with powerful creditors waiting to sue them. The principal creditor, and now husband of his ex-wife, Severus dies of poisoning in Gaius’s home, and who is the suspect! Justinus, his sister-in-law’s brother, is feared drowned. Gaius’s overly expensive mother-in-law and his demanding sister, all add to his tensions. Just as he’s about to find out the mysterious killer, he himself is dragged in for questioning!

Downie weaves the characters’ personalities along a line that tows the plot well. Each person’s traits and mannerisms come out not directly, but in soft portions on the way. Especially Ruso’s relationship with Tilla accounts for some amount of intrigue and humour. So are the little tantrums by his family members. This sort of characterization makes for unhindered reading. You aren’t left with the idea that the author is in a hurry to describe the characters. In fact, I got this feeling that Downie writes with great precision, giving readers the credit of skill to unravel the story and the plot themselves.

The history is totally subtle, with just enough details to give you an idea of ancient Rome and Britian, and everything else in between. Details such as dressing, culture, food and architecture of the mentioned period are well-researched by Downie.

And, the author is kind enough with her words – one doesn’t have to pause reading and google words such as ‘architypographia’ or others. The vocabulary is easy to understand and the pace admirably great. Suspense is held till the very end, kinda the reason why someone would finish the book in three to four hours straight!

Downie won the Fay Weldon section of BBC 3’s End of Story competition; she was also runner-up in the Mail on Sunday’s ‘Start a Novel’ competition. The author enjoys gardening, archaeology and singing in a blues band. A video example of the last is available on the internet. She is married, and has two sons and lives in Buckinghamshire.

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Rating: 8.2/10 (6 votes cast)
Patching Up The Predicaments, 8.2 out of 10 based on 6 ratings

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 at 11:30 pm and is filed under Historical Thriller, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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