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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Persona non Grata--Thank Goodness You're Home, Brother!

Persona Non Grata (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #3)Persona Non Grata by Ruth Downie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this third installment, Gaius Petreius Ruso has returned home to the South of France from Britannica having received a short " Come home! " message from his brother. He and Tilla take the long journey only to find that his brother not only did not send the message but also is quite annoyed that Ruso has appeared more or less unannounced.
As usual, Gaius finds himself trying to control Tilla and, in this case, finds himself beset by several other women--his stepmother, who will not accept that the family is debt-ridden and has no spare money for her many home improvements; his two younger sisters, primarily 16 year old, Marcia, who demands her dowry and who is in love with a gladiator!; his ex-wife Claudia, whose present husband visits Gaius in order to work out the debt owed him and who proceeds to drop dead, apparently poisoned, in the study without witnesses. Each of these women are distinctively portrayed both physically and emotionally, with several humorous situations breaking up the really serious mystery of the neighbor's death. Add to this, Cass, his sister-in-law, Galla the nursemaid, Lucius, his brother and five toddling nieces and nephews and one can easily see why Gaius frequently searches out the peace and quiet of an empty bathouse, with the doors securely bolted.

There are various Roman neighbors, workmen, slave, murderers and, oh, yes, the lovely widow next door. Tilla finds herself surrounded by family and acquaintances who aren't quite sure where she fits in the scheme of things and worries about the fetching neighbor and ex-wife. She is also overwhelmed by the treatment of foreigners by the Romans, either as slaves or as players in the deadly games in the local amphitheatre. Add to these oddities she is also taken my the nursemaid to a meeting of the followers of Christos and finds their beliefs and practices quite puzzling.

The family dynamics are amusing as well as realistic--two teenage girls and an unmarried uncle trying to set them up for marriage!! The solving of two murders, the description of the masses cheering the death of gladiators at the attack by wild animals, the birth of a new religion and the telling of the story matter of factly as a Roman and simultaneously through the eyes of the so called barbarian, Tilla, are all threads that keep the reader involved and interested until the very last clasp of Tilla's and Ruso's hands as it appears they are preparing for a lifetime commitment

At the end, Persona non Grata and his barbarian woman have saved the day.

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