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Caveat Emptor: A Novel of the Roman Empire

Caveat Emptor: A Novel of the Roman Empire

Written by Ruth Downie

Narrated by Simon Vance


Caveat Emptor: A Novel of the Roman Empire

Written by Ruth Downie

Narrated by Simon Vance

ratings:
3.5/5 (29 ratings)
Length:
10 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jan 31, 2011
ISBN:
9781452670874
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

Ruso and Tilla, now newlyweds, have moved back to Britannia, where Ruso's old friend and colleague Valens has promised to help him find work. But it isn't the kind of work he'd had in mind-Ruso is tasked with hunting down a missing tax man named Julius Asper.

Of course, there's also something else missing: money. And the council of the town of Verulamium is bickering over what's become of it. Compelled to delve deeper by a threat from his old sparring partner, Metellus, Ruso discovers that the good townsfolk may not be as loyal to Rome as they like to appear.

While Tilla tries to comfort Asper's wife, an anonymous well-wisher is busy warning the couple to get away from the case before they get hurt. Despite our hero's best efforts to get himself fired as investigator, he and his bride find themselves trapped at the heart of an increasingly treacherous conspiracy involving theft, forgery, buried treasure, and the legacy of Boudica, the Rebel Queen.

Publisher:
Released:
Jan 31, 2011
ISBN:
9781452670874
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook


About the author

Ruth Downie is the author of the New York Times bestselling Medicus, Terra Incognita, Persona Non Grata, and Caveat Emptor. She is married with two sons and lives in Devon, England.

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3.7
29 ratings / 20 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    Not as good as the other in the series, but did enjoy. Looking forward to the next book.....
  • (4/5)
    Ruso and Tilla have arrived back in Britain, newlyweds and in need of a place to live and a job for Ruso. Ruso's old friend Valens, from his army medic days, has found him one--as an investigator for the procurator, to locate the missing tax money, not to mention the missing tax collector, Julius Asper, from the town of Verulamium.

    Asper's lover Cama (spelling optional since I listened to the audiobook), traveled the twenty miles from Verulamium to Londinium to report Asper's disappearance and what she believes to be the perfidy of the town leaders. She quickly winds up at Valens' house, giving birth to Asper's baby with Tilla as mid-wife.

    Meanwhile, Ruso is tracking down Asper, and instead finding his corpse. That's not nearly so unpleasant for Ruso, though he's not pleased, as discovering that his old enemy Metellus is also interested in the case, and also expects a report from Ruso. Soon Ruso is off to Verulamium "to help the town council," and Tilla is also, accompanying her patient Cama and her baby. The tight bond between Ruso and Tilla, and the counterpoint of their disagreement about nearly everything, including marriage, relationships, and investigating crimes, ensures that they are often working at odds even as they have much the same goals in mind.

    This is a nicely complex mystery, with enough but not too much Roman and British history layered in, and the continuing growth of Tilla and Ruso as characters. I've enjoyed every one of these stories so far, and I expect to continue doing so.

    Recommended.
  • (3/5)
    This fourth volume in the series finds Ruso back in Britain and reluctantly as usual on the case of a missing tax collector. I say as usual because he seldom has his way with anything, it seems, and for a Roman citizen with a trade is rarely pleased with the way his life is going. His discontent is wearing off on me as a reader, and I slogged through this book like a legionnaire does mud.Downie makes the atmosphere feel real, and her descriptions are usually right on. The cast of co-stars is rather large, something I don't enjoy, but most of the major players were well-identified. I don't like the fact that Ruso is left in the dark for so long while he bumbles about looking like a amateur. Tilla is constantly causing more trouble, which I realize is fuel for the fire.I would like something more positive from this series in order to continue. Ruso as the inept detective may have been fun at the beginning, but has now worn off as a plot device.
  • (4/5)
    This is the fourth in a solid, if not mind-blowingly impressive series of novels featuring Gaius Petreius Ruso, a doctor in Roman Britain. Returning from solving some problems for his family in Gaul, the newly-married Ruso just wants to find a job practicing medicine and settle down; besides, Tilla, his wife, wants children -- badly. Neither seems likely to get what they want, however, as Ruso ends up being assigned the task of what happened to a vanished tax collector, his brother -- and the missing taxes from the community of Verulamium. It turns out that community isn't terribly eager to assist him in finding the real culprit -- they would much prefer a nice cover-up, at any price. The novels are interesting, if only for their setting, which Downie depicts with flair -- sometimes more vividly than she does her characters. After reading all four of the novels over the last six months or so, I'm now a bit weary of Ruso's all-pervasive discontent and Tilla's knack for trouble-making; sometimes, I felt I wanted to shake them both. If this novel hadn't been set in the Roman Empire, I found myself wondering, would I have bothered to slog through it? The answer by book #4 was, sadly, probably not. There are a few dramatic twists and turns, but a lot of them are fairly well telegraphed in advance. Nor was this my favorite book in the series: I much preferred [Persona non Grata] in which Ruso must solve the murder of a neighbor or watch his own family take the blame. The characters in that were more convincing, interesting and well-rounded. This was a book that was OK, but I like a mystery to be more than that, if possible. 3.4 stars.
  • (3/5)
    This book sounds like it should be right up my alley. I love mysteries, I love historical fiction, I love cozies (and that's really what this series is). But this one just didn't grab me. I understand that the whole point of cozy mysteries is the "amateur" investigator, but Ruso just seemed too totally clueless for me. The last part of the book - after page 200! - was better. Ruso began to figure out what was going on and the story moved faster.I really don't have anything against the author or the series - the book is well written and the characters nicely drawn. I just didn't happen to enjoy the characters.
  • (3/5)
    I have mixed feelings about this mystery. On one hand, I think it was a well written and researched book. I enjoyed the setting in second century Roman Britain. I like the idea of an "investigator" during this time period.On the other hand, this book was hard for me to get through. The writing was sluggish for me. I read three other books while trying to plod my way through this one. The characters were not as well developed as I would have liked, but this is part of the Medicus series and perhaps if I had read the other books first it would have been better. By the latter part of the book I didn't really care who killed whom or why. I just wanted to finish the book. If I had not agreed to review this book, I'm not sure I could have made it through. It's not necessarily a bad book but Ms. Downie's style of writing is just not for me.
  • (2/5)
    I received this book from the Early Reviewers program and since it was the 4th in the series, I first read the first book, Medicus to learn about the characters. After reading both books, I do not think I will return to the series. I am a fan of historical fiction, and these books, specifically provide a view of ordinary life in Roman-led Britain in the first century C.E. The characters are interesting but there is little emotional investment in their survival. The main character, Ruso is a doctor who is a reluctant investigator into mysteries. Throughout the book, you want to continue reading to see how it ends, there are many twists and turns that maintains your interest, however, the ending is unsatisfying. The investigation goes through a series of events and side stories with twists and turns that keeps you wanting to read. The disappointment is how the mystery is resolved, finding out whodidit leaves you with little more than a shrug rather than a great AHA moment.
  • (2/5)
    Caveat Emptor features many charming aspects to recommend it. The humor, characters, and great details of its setting kept me reading. However, I felt that the pacing did not work for me. The pacing felt plodding and while I enjoy a slow-paced mystery, this time the pace felt so slow that I stopped caring who killed Julius Asper and why. Ruso mentions in the book that investigating is "tedious" but I did not want to feel that as a reader.
  • (4/5)
    Ruth Downie's "Medicus" series of novels is similar to coffee: the books are either a full bodied blend or a milder decaf. "Caveat Emptor" offers the reader a solid, full- bodied story and is, by far, the best of the author's orfferings since her initial Medicus story.Downie is true to her characters and continues to develop them throughout the novel. The story moves easily through the "short chapter" format with a lightness that highlight's the authors subtle humor and caring for characterization.Gaius and Tilla provide another adventure that is entertaining and an easy read.
  • (4/5)
    A doctor turned investigator in Hadrian's Britain investigates the murder of a tax collector. It's a decent story with likeable characters. If you pick it up, you'll probably want to finish it, but it won't keep you up into the wee hours. Many short chapters means its never difficult to find a place to stop reading for the night.
  • (4/5)
    This review is for Library Thing Early Reviewers: The author has converted a mystery story that could take place anywhere in the contemporary world--murder, forgery, deception--into something much more charming. Her mystery series taking place during the Roman occupation of Great Britain (1st century) is delightful. This is the fourth volume in her series. The individual books do stand alone although they continue with the same principal characters. Ruso, the Medicus, is drawn into becoming an investigator in each story. As a physician, he is not trained to solve mysteries and thereby stumbles his way through each mystery. The result increases the tension and intrigue. And he has his romantic interest: a "pagan" woman who is his wife at the time of this fourth book. I recommend the book. I recommend the series.
  • (4/5)
    There is always a body...Then another, but we knew that was coming. At least we could strongly guess it. Then another, and another. Kind of adds up. Throughout the tale we sense more character development in our hero, Ruso. A one time Doctor and surely bent on becoming a full time sleuth though he does not want to be one. The series continues to get better and each time I read one of these I feel that I learn a little more of this period of Roman culture. Not just history but how the Romans lived in Briton and Gaul at the time.Ruso though is not the only lead character here, but we have his native Briton wife, Tilla. Her growth is equally as important to the story as is their relationship. The two together with a few others solve these crimes that we see. And they are not straightforward, else why a mystery. Politics both high and low, greed, lust, all seem a part of the plot and to entangle all of that is well done. Even the political nature of the ending is a surprise and then a surprise again.It leaves you wanting the next to know what Ruso and Tilla will find to do in Londinium and Briton.
  • (4/5)
    Caveat Emptor is Ruth Downie's fourth book involving the beleaguered medic, Gaius Petrius Ruso. The setting moves back to Britannia. Ruso has married Tilla, and returned thinking his friend, Valens has found him a position as a doctor. The job Valens has found for him though is that of an investigator for the Procurater's office. Ruso reluctantly takes the position and investigates the disappearance of a tax man and his brother. I have enjoyed the series so far and this book is no exception. If anything, no longer encumbered by the world building, the pacing of this book has been better than the previous three. Ruso is still bumbling his way through things, but now he seems to have a direction. What is still somewhat perplexing is Ruso's relationship with Tilla. Downie shows many instances of the problems with their relationship, but does little character building as to why they are together. That aside the characters are all fully realized. The settings are rich with historical trivia of the time. All in all an entertaining read that I recommend to others.
  • (4/5)
    Recently returned to Londinium from Gaul, Medicus Ruso is in need of work. A helpful colleague, knowing that Ruso has been involved in investigations in the past, arranges for Ruso to be offered an investigative assignment for the procurator. The tax money from the town of Verulamium has disappeared en route to Londinium, along with the tax collector. Ruso and his British wife, Tilla, head for Verulamium, where Ruso quickly senses that all is not as has been represented to him.While Ruso does investigate some murders and uses his medical knowledge for forensic purposes, the book is more of a political thriller than either a detective story or a forensic procedural. I wasn't familiar with the terminology for various government officials, but it was fairly easy to pick up rank and function from the context. The plot is complex, but there were no loose ends left hanging at the end of the story.This is the fourth book in a series, but the first one I've read. While there are hints of a back story in Ruso's relationships to some of the characters, I didn't feel like I lacked any information that would shed light on his current investigation. It seems to work as a stand-alone. The book had a special appeal for me because I lived for a while in St. Albans (the modern name for Verulamium), and I've spent time among its Roman ruins and in the Verulamium Museum. I very much enjoyed the mystery and its setting in Roman Britain, and I plan to go back and read the earlier books in the series. This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.
  • (4/5)
    Having received the third book in the series in a previous ER batch, I was pleasantly surprised to find I had won the forth in the January batch. I enjoyed it as I did the previous three books, but I still don't find the series captivating. Russo is an engaging protagonist, but I can't warm up to Tilla and I still find their relationship improbable. I look forward to the next book even if I'm not anxiously awaiting it.
  • (4/5)
    I received this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. Having read Ruth Downie's previous novels, I was pleasantly surprised by Caveat Emptor. I found it to be a better read than her previous books, as it seems like Ruso, the main character, has settled into an identity. This book is set in Roman Britain and involves murders, missing tax money, blackmail, and corruption. I found the pace of the story to be perfect, and the short chapters enticed me to read "just one more" before putting the book down. All in all, a good read, especially for fans of historical fiction set in ancient Rome.
  • (3/5)
    I enjoy this series more for the characters and the worldbuilding than the mystery. This entry is no exception. Ruso and Tilla are their own lovable selves, and the series continues to explore the effects of the Roman occupation of Britain in interesting ways. The mystery itself seemed fairly by-the-numbers. I read the book in one go, because I was eager to see if something unexpected might happen, but everything fell out along fairly predictable lines. Though I think I may have missed the explanation for why Asper and the brother weren't ever the suspected counterfeiters, even though the coin mold was found in their house?
  • (4/5)
    Ruso is back in Britain and is looking into the disappearance of the tax money collected by a British municipality.
    Although the townspeople feel that the person responsible for the money has run off with it, there is also the strong possibility that the man has met with foul play.
    Politics and corruption reign while a decent man and his wife try to do their best work out what's going on in the mucky mess that is left by theft, murder and revenge.
  • (4/5)
    Missing tax collectors, stolen tax money, murder, corruption, warring tribes, political intrigue in Roman Britain, and a possible link to Boudica… sound interesting? It probably would to most fans of historical fiction and mystery; however, this book may not be to everyone’s liking. Lovers of Ruth Downie’s Medicus series will no doubt rejoice, while others may wonder why they should bother reading the series.In "Caveat Emptor," the fourth installment of her Medicus series, Downie returns her hero Gaius Petreius Ruso the Medicus and his new wife (and ex-slave) Tilla to Roman Britain where they plan to start their new life together. Ruso’s old friend Valens has promised to find work for him, but much to Ruso’s disappointment, Valens was unable to find him work as a doctor. Instead, he secured Ruso a position as an investigator for the Procurator’s office looking into the disappearance of a local tax collector named Julius Asper, his brother, and the town’s taxes owed to the Roman government. As Ruso grudgingly pursues the investigation, the bodies keep piling up and the investigation quickly becomes more and more complicated with a wide range of characters involved.While the two central characters, Ruso and Tilla, are both relatively well developed, most of the characters in Downie’s novels remain flat and elusive, and at best they seem like simple characters from a novel and not real people. Even though Ruso and Tilla seem fully developed when compared to other characters in this novel, they are still difficult to understand at times. In fact, the biggest mystery in the novel may be their very relationship and the fact that they are even married. At one point, Tilla refers to her husband, Ruso, simply as “the Medicus” (the Doctor), which comes off rather awkward (or is that just a result of their relationship in general?). Did wives in Ancient Rome refer to their husbands as “the Doctor” or “the Wine Merchant,” or is that just an old habit from Tilla’s days as a slave earlier in her life. Regardless, these two can often feel awkward together, which leaves readers wondering if they will be able to continue their lives together in any future novels by Downie.Without a doubt, Ruth Downie has her own style of writing, and it is clear in this book that she has fully developed her style. The writing and development in this novel seem much more natural, especially when compared to the first book in the series and her first novel, "Medicus." In that book, many of the descriptions and dialogue felt rather contrived, while those in "Caveat Emptor" have a simple, natural flow that is much easier to read. Some of the best moments in "Caveat Emptor" come during the friendly banter between Ruso and Valens, but unfortunately Valens only rarely makes any appearances. It may also help Downie that by now she has provided the basic historical setting and character development and therefore does not need to include it in this book, whereas a large portion of "Medicus" was setting up the background, in which Downie provided many interesting facts about second century Roman Britain. Without the need to provide background description, Downie is able to focus more on the central mystery and can move the plot along quicker; although it may still be too slow for some. And while the loss of historical detail and descriptions may disappoint some readers (myself included), it may make Downie’s work more accessible to a wider audience. While "Caveat Emptor" may have a few drawbacks, Downie is still able to transport readers to second century Roman Britain, which should delight many historical fiction fans. It is good to see Ruth Downie becoming a more confident writer, and it should be fun to watch her further develop her skills in future works.
  • (4/5)
    Ruso has arrived back in Britannia with his wife. He is looking for a living and a place to live. His ever helpful friend, Valens has promised Ruso’s services to the Procurator to investigate a tax man’s disappearance. Now Ruso and Tilla are caught up in something which is difficult to see clearly. He struggles to untangle the clues trying to keep those he loves safe while dead bodies are piling up around them.I enjoyed reading this. I find Ruso and Tilla’s emotional restraint to be refreshing. What is unsaid, is often more important than what is said in their relationship. The story of Londinium and the surrounding villages is interesting, touching on Boudica and the legacy left behind her. The resolution of this tale was messy and complicated, which bothered me at first, but after thinking on it awhile I realize that life is often like that. Shades of gray prevail and one must sort them as best one can.