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Medicus (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #1)

Medicus (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #1) - Ruth Downie I bought this book and its sequel because they were free and 99¢ on the kindle respectively. I was excited to read it but ultimately found it pretty unsatisfying and a bit of a slog. First, it was way too long. Don’t get me wrong, I love long books, particularly historical fiction. But in Medicus, there were entire chapters where virtually nothing happened. They seemed to be there only for more character building, but the main character had been pretty well established from the first chapter, and most secondary characters were two-dimensional. There was no real tension or suspense until the end when the killer was revealed. The pacing was glacially slow, and the plot was bogged down in endless mundane details about hospital bureaucracy.

Second, as others have mentioned, the historical accuracy was spotty at best. This story really could have taken place anytime and anywhere. The dialogue and characters were thoroughly modern British. The setting felt like one of those backdrops photographers use to make it look like you are standing on a tropical island instead of in their studio. All the major points are there at a glance but there is no depth, and it is obviously completely fake if you look too close. I guess this was really my major complaint with the book – I read historical fiction in large part to be immersed in the setting and historical details, and both were lacking in Medicus.

I should mention that mysteries are not really my thing either, but this one was pretty easy to figure out. I also wish the character of Tilla had been fleshed out a bit more. I liked the few chapters from her point of view, but I would have liked more, along with a decent understanding of what was going on outside the fort from a Briton’s point of view. The book was very poorly edited and had dozens of typos (at least the kindle edition) which was also bothersome.

Overall, I found the story extremely slow and not that interesting. It failed both as historical fiction and as a mystery for me. One thing I did like was that the story focused entirely on the average Roman citizen instead of following Julius Caesar around again. I like reading about what normal everyday citizens were up to in these times, so I enjoyed that aspect of the book. I just wish either the setting had been better realized or the story more engaging, either of which would have saved the book for me.