Ruso and the Demented Doctor

In Book Reviews on December 18, 2013 at 6:00 am
Penguin Books 2009

Penguin Books 2009

Hello, my dears! I’m very much aware that it’s been a couple of weeks since I did a post. Apologies for that. I’ve had a bad case of the winter blahs. You know it’s bad when it takes me two weeks to finish a 463 page book. I just felt really burnt out and listless. I’ve started my holiday already, though, and am already starting to feel refreshed. And I’ve finally finished a book, so woo!

Nutshell blurb: This is a crime novel set in Roman-occupied Britain. Gaius Petreius Ruso is a Roman medicus stationed in Britain who haplessly ends up solving murders.

This is the second book in the series and I’ve gotta say, I’m not really feeling these books. I read the first oneΒ in the series earlier this year and when I looked it up on my Goodreads shelf, I noticed that I didn’t give it a rating. I enjoyed both of them, yet I came away feeling strangely unsatisfied.

In this book, Ruso takes his slave girl, Tilla, to a fort up north that is near her family. Just before they arrive, someone is murdered and mystery lands right in the doctor’s lap.

As you might know by now, the stories I love the most are the ones that are character driven. This is why I don’t read a lot of crime stories. I’ve found that in the (admittedly few) crime novels I’ve read that most of the effort seems to go into fleshing out the plot and the details that surround whatever mystery we’re dealing with, leaving the characters feeling a bit shallow or thin. I feel the same way about crime tv shows as well. I particularly love NCIS, Castle and Law and Order as they delve into the relationships and personalities of the people involved rather than just the crimes.

I think that this is perhaps why these stories aren’t fulfilling all of my storytelling needs. I really want to like these books more than I do, which is why I picked up the second one. I mean, who wouldn’t want to read a crime story placed in Roman Britain? I can’t fault Ms. Downie’s storytelling abilities. She has a whimsical style that also makes me want to like these books more. There’s just something missing.

Ruso isn’t the best leading character. He is portrayed as an old fuddy-duddy but I think that he’s meant to be in his 20s. I don’t know if his age was ever mentioned. I picture him as an intensely boring middle-aged man in these books. (Let’s be clear that I don’t think that middle-aged men are boring. People of any age can be incredibly dull and this is just how I picture this character.) He doesn’t seem to care about much but just muddles through his life. Tilla, his slave girl, isn’t much better. I’m just not convinced by their interactions with each other and I don’t find either of them sympathetic at all.

I would speculate that my winter blahs might be partially responsible for my reaction to this book except that I read the other one at the beginning of this year and had the exact same reaction to it.

It’s a pretty fun read if you don’t pay too much attention to the characters but my overall reaction to this book is: Meh.

  1. I hope the winter blahs let up on you soon, Buffy! πŸ™‚

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