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Bloomsbury, 6 March 2018. ISBN: 978-1-62040-961-9 (HB)
There are often useful life lessons lurking in fiction, and I unearthed
two not far below the surface of the eighth in Ruth Downie's delicious Ruso
series: one, your best mate is still your best mate even when he's accused of
killing his wife and you're not too sure he didn't; and two, empires may come
and go, but people don't change much.
If you've already discovered
the adventures of Gaius Petreius Ruso, formerly doctor to the Roman occupying
army and occasional solver of crimes, you don't need me to tell you that as
well as offering pearls of wisdom like this,they bring Roman Britain to life in a way which makes you believe that's
how it really was, and fill the country with characters who are often quirky,
sometimes larger than life and always real and engaging.
This time Ruso's detective
skills take precedence over his medical knowledge when his friend Valens, still
a doctor and now a fugitive from what passes for justice in the Roman Empire,
is accused of murdering his young wife Serena, who happens to be the daughter
of Pertinax, a retired centurion who has cause to be grateful to Ruso for
saving his life, but somehow seems to ignore that fact. Confused yet? So was I,
in the best tradition of mystery fiction, especially when Tilla, Ruso's British
wife, who is far too outspoken and independent for Pertinax's comfort, got
involved in her husband's attempts to sort everything out.
Ruso, Tilla, their tiny
adopted daughter and a couple of slaves leave their northern home and head for
Aqua Sulis (modern-day Bath) where Serena's body has been found floating in a
sacred pool. InDownie's customary witty,
colourful and well-observed style, they each use their individual skills to
unpick various aspects of the mystery, not always (I'm tempted to say not at
all!) in a co-ordinated way, and thread their way through veteran soldiers,
security guards, priests, fierce Britons and the machinations of Valens himself
to arrive at the truth of the matter.
To dedicated fans, of whom
I'm unashamedly one, a new Ruso novel is always a treat worth waiting for; to
newcomers to the series, Memento Mori is as good a place as any to get
started – though be warned, you'll want to go out in search of the earlier
seven volumes the moment you've finished this one. Me, I can't wait for the
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
(RS) Downieleft university with an English degree and a plan to
get married and live happily ever after. She is still working on it. In the
meantime, she is also the New York Times bestselling author of a mystery series
featuring Roman doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso. Ruth is not the RS Downie who
writes real medical textbooks. Absolutely none of the medical advice in the
Ruso books should be followed. Roman and Greek doctors were very wise about
many things, but they were also known to prescribe donkey dung and boiled
cockroaches.Memento Mori is the eighth book in the series.
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen,
and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but
never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher
for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now
burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with
books, about half of them crime fiction.