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    Review of CAVEAT EMPTOR by Ruth Downie (see her website)


    Bloomsbury USA, December 2010

    Back in Britain after a stay in Gaul, Gaius Petreius Ruso hopes for a comfortable situation as a doctor. Instead, his Londonium friend wangles him a job as an investigator. The town of Verulamium always pays its taxes on time and is hoping for a visit from the Emperor himself. But a woman arrives in Londonium claiming to be the (very pregnant) wife of the tax collector who has gone missing--along with the tax money. Missing locals isn't a huge problem, but missing taxes is a big deal. Ruso finds himself packed off to Verulamium with the instruction to find the money (finding what happened to the missing tax man is not nearly as important).

    Ruso finds a well-run city. Its guards are well-equipped and polite. The local politicians are politicians...loud, self-centered and opinionated, but much like politicians anywhere. Even his chief suspect seems to be a nice enough fellow, in his own way. Still, the money is missing and it doesn't take Ruso long to discover that the missing tax man isn't just missing, he's been murdered.

    Author Ruth Downie creates an engaging historical mystery. The reluctant investigator makes for an interesting character while Ruso's wife, Tilla, threatens to steal the limelight with her opinions, her solution to the noisy rooster next door, her willingness to stick her neck out for others, and her desire for a child. Downie gives us a convincing look at a province at the edge of Roman rule, where tribal customs remain strong and where Romanization remains incomplete.

    CAVEAT EMPTOR is part of a continuing series. It is the first book in the series that I've read and can be enjoyed independently.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 3/09/11

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