Downie, Ruth 1955-
Downie, Ruth 1955-
Born 1955; married; children: two sons.
Home—Milton Keynes, England.
Writer and novelist.
End of Story competition, Fay Weldon section winner, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) 3, 2004.
Ruth Downie is the author of Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire. The book's protagonist, Gaius Petreius Ruso, is a Roman army physician assigned to a legion headquartered in Deva. Ruso is recently divorced; his father has died, leaving his family in financial hardship; his medical duties are many and overwhelming; and he is constantly in conflict with his military superiors. He is also suffering under increased financial strain as he struggles to respond to his brother's requests for resources to help the cash-strapped family. Things become more grim when one slave girl is found murdered and another named Tilla appears with a broken arm and evidence of having been severely beaten. To help Tilla, Ruso "buys" her from her owner, but the uncommunicative young woman will not give him any background information. Worse, she turns out to have few useful skills and costs more to maintain than he can afford. After she works in Ruso's kitchen for a time, she begins to open up, and the doctor discovers that a clandestine slave ring is kidnapping freeborn girls and then selling them into slavery. As he reluctantly begins to look into the case, more young women turn up dead, his plans to supplement his income with a written first-aid guide become derailed, and dangerous involvements threaten to turn deadly.
"Downie's auspicious debut sparkles with beguiling characters and a vividly imagined evocation of a hazy frontier," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. A Kirkus Reviews commentator concluded that "the real achievement here is the lavishly, often hilariously detailed portrayal of the world that absorbs Ruso's exhausted wits and energies," and called the book "a charming novel." The book's story line is "suspenseful and fluidly told, but the evolving bond between master and servant is at the heart of this excellent first work," commented Library Journal reviewer Barbara Hoffert.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 1, 2006, Allison Block, review of Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire, p. 33.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2006, review of Medicus, p. 977.
Library Journal, November 1, 2006, Barbara Hoffert, review of Medicus, p. 67.
Publishers Weekly, October 2, 2006, review of Medicus, p. 35.
BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (April 24, 2007), Hilary Williamson, review of Medicus.