Our local museum, Cobb & Co is currently hosting an ancient rome exhibit, so decided to take advantage for BookSnap this week and highlight my favourite historical mystery series; the Ruso novels of R.S.Downie.
Downie is an english author and the series is predominantly set in Roman Britain although Ruso and Tilla do find opportunity to visit Gaul and Rome in the series, as well as multiple locations through Britain.
I do really like well done historical fiction and that is what R.S. Downie delivers every time. Essentially crime/mystery novels, her Ruso series brilliantly evokes Roman Britain. Her novels are characterised by solid plots and memorable, likable characters. A sense of humour adds appeal and texture to her fiction making these books great relaxing reads.
I should perhaps explain that this is a series that can cause some confusion as the novels are published under different titles in the UK and the US. In the US the title Ruso and the root of all evils appears under the title; Caveat Emptor and the authors name is given as Ruth Downie rather than the more ambiguous R.S. Downie. I discovered this series sometime ago when I picked up a title on the new book shelf at the library. I new nothing of the book or the author, the title I picked up was the first in the series; Medicus and the Disappearing Dancing Girls, a book also published under another title, which may add some confusion if your trying to track down these books. That chance discovery was indeed the discovery of a little treasure as this series has proven itself to be an ongoing delight. I have now read all books currently available in the series and have enjoyed them all.
The series revolves around Gaius Petreius Ruso a medicus from Gaul attached to the Roman legions in Britain, divorced, plagued by family and financial problems, Ruso is cynical and sardonic but likable, with a knack for adding to his own difficulties. In the first novel circumstances led him to buy/rescue a slave he couldn’t afford and who could, it seemed do nothing but add to his problems. The slave was a local girl called Tilla. Tilla is a wonderful invention, a character that leaps off the page with vivid life, she acts as a nice foil to the conventional Ruso. She consistently refuses a submissive, subordinate role, much to the annoyance of Ruso. Their relationship forms the basis in the earlier novels for considerable sexual tension and comic effect. As the series has progressed Tilla has progressed from slave to free servant and eventually wife. Much of the appeal of these novels lies in the characterisations of Ruso and Tilla, the Imperialist invader and the defiant, insubordinate local, both characters have depth and are simply very likable. Domestic tensions have always played out in these novels which gives them a homely depth, while mysteries play out in the foreground of the stories. I can highly recommend this series for some entertaining historical escapism.
The public library would be a great place to source this series from, as I know my local library has the entire series. And maybe if you are a local or visiting check out the Cobb & Co museum, entry is free if you are a local but there is an entry fee for visitors to the area.
#BookSnapSunday is a weekly bookish Instagram meme hosted here at Gum trees and Galaxies.com, if you would like to join in please feel free to leave a link to your post in the comments below. All you have to do is post an image of a book. Happy reading!