Vita Brevis: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire

Ruth Downie. Bloomsbury, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-1-62040-958-9
Downie’s uneven seventh Gaius Ruso mystery (after 2014’s Tabula Rasa) takes the former medical officer; his wife, Tilla; and their infant daughter, Mara, from second-century Britannia to Rome to start a new life. Things don’t get off to a good start. Their accommodations are vermin-infested, and the doctor, Kleitos, who was to send Ruso some patients, isn’t home when Ruso calls on him. Then Ruso gets a note from Kleitos, explaining that he is going to be out of town for a bit and inviting Ruso to take over both his house and practice. Hope turns to disappointment after Ruso learns that Kleitos has taken all his medical supplies with him. Meanwhile, a smelly barrel dumped in front of Kleitos’s door turns out to contain the corpse of an unidentified man, which doesn’t inspire confidence among prospective patients. Downie’s trademark humor is in evidence, but her superior plotting skills aren’t, in an entry that downplays the historical background. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/23/2016
Release date: 07/12/2016
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-4945-0279-9
MP3 CD - 978-1-4945-5279-4
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