RUSO AND THE DISAPPEARING DANCING GIRLS by R.S. DOWNIE.
Britannia, AD 117.
Primitive, cold, and a touch damp.
For army doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso, this oversea posting is no picnic. He has vast debts, a slave girl too clever for her own good and an overbearing hospital administrator to cope with ...... not to mention a serial killer stalking the local bar. Dancing girls are being washed up with the tide and everyone expects Ruso to investigate, even though the breakthroughs in forensic science lie centuries in the future.
Will the gods smile on Ruso before he falls prey to the murderer? If only it were possible to find good Falernian wine in Britannia, life would seem so much rosier - and perhaps the locals might stop killing each other .....
...... Outer back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): Someone had washed the mud off the body, but as Gaius Petreius Ruso unwrapped the sheet there was still a distinct smell of river.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 185): Ruso closed his eyes briefly and dreamed of a world where women stayed quietly at home and sewed things and understood the value of modesty and obedience - not to mention not turning up dead in suspicious circumstances.
KEEP IT OR NOT?: Not.
I was intrigued by two things before I even started reading this novel. (1) Why was it also published under the titles of both Medicus and the Disappearing Dancing Girls as well as (in the US) Medicus: A Novel Of The Roman Empire? And (2) I've never before heard of a publisher offering money back if the reader did not find the book as good as the book(s) by another author ........ A sticker printed on the front of the book states 'As good as Lyndsey Davis or your sestertii back'.
Hmm, never having read any of the books I wasn't in a position to comment, let alone ask for my money back..... just as well as the offer ended way back in 2008.
A debut novel and the first in the Ruso series (I believe there are now another two books available) by R.S. Downie (she writes as Ruth Downie in the US) I'm sure that this series may prove popular with many readers as I feel there is plenty left to learn about main character Ruso.
As for as I'm concerned though it may well be that Ruso and I will part company at this junction as on the whole I felt it didn't really work as crime fiction and yet wasn't substantial enough to be of much interest as historical fiction either. A shame really as I'm fascinated by most 'Roman' novels.
Not altogether a bad read though. It did leave me pondering on the fate of the 'dancing ' girls (a euphemism for prostitutes) who as Ruso pointed out, at what cost the human misery that lay behind the 'entertainment' industry that served the Roman Legion?