"As usual, Downie can be relied on for crisp, balanced prose and a sharp eye for historic detail. The inclusion of a map, period quotations, and a cast of characters not only aids armchair detectives, but enhances authenticity." - Kirkus Reviews
"Downie is masterful at depicting life in ancient Rome, and the setting of Aquae Sulis (still open to tourists) is a crime-scene coup." - Booklist
"Characters are charming even when they are disagreeable and entertaining as they charge into dangerous situations. As a Roman citizen married to a Briton ex-slave, Ruso navigates the political and cultural waters in a way that adds an intriguing dimension to the plot . . . Highly recommended for series fans and readers of Lindsey Davis’s Roman mysteries, but it also serves as a worthy stand-alone." - Library Journal
"Wonderfully done. [The novel] is full of charming and delightful characters... and of incident leavened with the right amount of humor... Historical fiction enlivened by a well-crafted puzzle... Engaging." - The Washington Independent Review of Books
"Wonderful . . . It has all the twists and turns we would expect from a top-notch murder mystery, all while nestled deep into the world at the fringes of Imperial Rome. Though not needed to enjoy this novel, I’d recommend reading the first booksthey’re worth it" - Historical Novel Society
"Downie writes with her usual humor and depth . . . Perfect for fans of the Falco novels by Lindsey Davis, this entertaining New York Times best-selling series and its endearing characters deserve as long a run." - Booklist, on VITA BREVIS
"The seventh adventure for Downie's physician hero (Tabula Rasa, 2014, etc.) masterfully draws out its suspense, painting a vivid portrait of ancient Rome that feels persuasive and authentic." - Kirkus Reviews, on VITA BREVIS
"Downie’s plotting is as engaging as ever, as she weaves the threads of a murder mystery into the very character-driven story of Ruso and Tilla. While marital strife under the pressures of a new home and a new baby in the household could have proven tedious, these two characters and their relationship are so charmingly portrayed that every domestic scene seems of a piece. The tension between Tilla’s rebellious nature and the ideal of a ‘Good Roman Wife,’ and the tension between Ruso’s outer gruffness and inner integrity make this Medicus installment much more than a mystery novel." - Historical Novel Society, on VITA BREVIS
"Crammed with pithy characterisation (notably the intuitive Ruso), mordant humour and beautifully integrated historical detail." - Financial Times, on VITA BREVIS
"A Ruth Downie novel offers many pleasures, not least of them the humorously conflicted marriage between Roman citizen Ruso and the Briton Tilla . . . but where Vita Brevis really scores is in its contemporary resonances with Ruso and Tilla’s immigrant experience . . . Meticulously researched, the Ruso novels are historical mysteries to rank alongside those of Lindsey Davis." - Irish Times, on VITA BREVIS
Opening with the New York Times best-selling Medicus, Downie's entertaining series featuring legionary medic Gaius Petreius Ruso's misadventures in Roman-occupied Britain has reached its eighth outing. Ruso and his British wife, Tilla, must deal with the murder of close friend Valens's wife, found stabbed to death in the sacred hot springs in Aquae Sulis, known today as Bath. Big trouble: the goddess could lose her temper, the tourists could stay away, and Valens could get executed.
In ancient Rome, a busy doctor and sometime sleuth puts himself at risk to save an old friend from a trumped-up murder charge.The year is 123 C.E. Physician Gaius Petreius Ruso is interrupted mid-sheep butchering by the news that Serena, the wife of his fellow doctor and friend Valens, has been stabbed to death and Valens arrested for the crime. Reports of discord in the marriage are common knowledge, shared by Ruso and his wife, Tilla, in private conversation. After going to the sacred spring where Serena's body was found floating, Ruso visits Valens, who blames his incarceration on his father-in-law, Pertinax, a retired centurion who's never liked him. Strangely, on the same night that Serena was killed, Terentius, her presumed lover, disappeared. Valens makes things even harder on himself and Ruso when he goes on the run and a reward is placed on his head. Unsure how to proceed, Ruso naturally turns to Tilla, who's long played Nora Charles to his Nick in seven previous whodunits (Vita Brevis, 2016, etc.). Witnesses tell Ruso of a fire that directly preceded (or covered up?) Serena's murder and of Valens' calm demeanor during this crisis. Tilla, meanwhile, gets an earful about Pertinax's concerns over an heir and Serena's presumed lover. If Valens is as innocent as he seems, who's guilty? And why did the good doctor go on the run?As usual, Downie can be relied on for crisp, balanced prose and a sharp eye for historic detail. The inclusion of a map, period quotations, and a cast of characters not only aids armchair detectives, but enhances authenticity.