Downie, R S - 'Ruso and the Demented Doctor'
RUSO AND THE DEMENTED DOCTOR is the second in the Medicus series by R S Downie. The books are set in Roman-occupied Britain, in the north near Hadrian's Wall.
Gaius Petreius Ruso is a doctor with the legions, and he's beginning to wonder why he volunteered for this posting - there's a new local hero, with a penchant for wearing antlers on his head and he's got the natives all restless; there's been a series of attacks on soldiers at the fort; and then there's Ruso's housekeeper, who's a local and who is acting very oddly.
When Ruso gets to the fort at Coria, the previous doctor has admitted to a gruesome murder, but all is not as it seems and Ruso gets landed with not just a lot of patients but also a tricky investigation. He has to walk a difficult path between the Romans and the local natives and find out just who is on the level.
I really liked this book. Ruso is a complex character and the Roman medical background is fascinating. The relationships especially between Ruso and his housekeeper, Tilla, are well drawn and there are a number of well-rounded characters in the book. The character of Tilla is expanded considerably here as she gets back into her native lands and runs into some members of her family that she has a bone to pick with. The northern British setting is convincingly described and interesting and the book boasts a soundly constructed and free-moving plot.
If you like Lindsay Davis then you're probably going to like this too, but the setting and characters are different enough to show that this is no copycat or pale imitation. This is the real deal and Lindsay Davis had better watch out - she's got some serious competition here.
Pat Austin, England