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Tuesday 23 July 2019

‘Prima Facie’ by Ruth Downie

Published by Grampus,
9 July 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-9164694-8-8 (PB)

A new adventure for Gaius Petreius Ruso is always something to look forward to – but this one seemed to be over almost before it started. The latest in Ruth Downie's delicious series is only a novella, and dedicated fans (like me) will gobble it up in one sitting (as I did).    

Numerically it's number nine, but chronologically it slots in between numbers seven and eight. Ruso, his British wife Tilla and their adopted baby daughter Mara are on their way back to Britannia after an eventful visit to Rome, and en route they decide they can't avoid paying a visit to his family home in southern Gaul. 

If you're not familiar with the series (and I strongly recommend you correct that error of judgement immediately) you may have gathered it's set during the Roman occupation of these isles back in the second century AD. Ruso is a medic by trade, but murder and mayhem seems to follow him around and demand that he gets involved with crime-solving. This time the victim is one Titus, a sort of Roman Hooray Henry, who met a nasty end during a boisterous party with a wine jug to the skull.  Every finger is pointing at Verax, Ruso's sister's boyfriend, who insists he is innocent – and somehow the job of exonerating him falls in Ruso's lap.

As if that wasn't enough, Ruso's brother, who runs the family farm, is away, and Ruso finds himself fending off the demands of his stepmother, both his sisters and an assortment of creditors, patching up assorted nephews who behave pretty much as children still do a couple of thousand years later, and much as usual, failing to prevent Tilla from taking a hand in solving the murder.

The result is a tongue-in-cheek, engaging novella which takes a large cast of well observed characters and the world they inhabit and portrays them in exuberant Technicolor. I just have one complaint: it's much too short! 
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Ruth (RS) Downie left 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.
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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.

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