Terra Incognita: A Novel of the Roman Empire

Ruth Downie, Author Bloomsbury $23.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-59691-232-8

A judicious use of humor and a memorable protagonist lift Downie’s sequel to her bestselling debut, Medicus (2007). Toward the beginning of Hadrian’s reign in A.D. 118, Gaius Petreius Ruso, a doctor originally from Gaul, has attached himself to a contingent of the Roman army, the 10th Batavians, en route to the northern edge of the Roman Empire in Britannia. When Felix, a soldier, is found beheaded, the prefect of the 10th Batavians, Decianus, assigns Ruso to investigate, despite a confession to the murder by Thessalus, “retiring medic to the Tenth Batavians Bedbugs.” Decianus is concerned that the attack presages further unrest from the locals, who ascribe the killing to their antlered god, Cernunnos. Reluctantly, Ruso probes Thessalus’s motives for admitting the crime and finds that many others also had an interest in seeing Felix dead. This well-researched novel places Downie alongside such established masters of the Roman historical as Steven Saylor and Rosemary Rowe. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/07/2008
Release date: 03/01/2008
Genre: Fiction
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