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Monday, September 5, 2016

Ruso and Tilla Look for the TaxCollector and The Tax Money!!

Caveat Emptor: A Novel of the Roman EmpireCaveat Emptor: A Novel of the Roman Empire by Ruth Downie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gaius Petreius Ruso and Tilla, newly married, return to Britannia after a visit to his family in Gaul. They have their wedding gifts all packed but, having left the Roman legions to travel to Gaul, Ruso finds himself in Londinium without a job. His fellow Medicus, Valens, has been unable to find a Medicus position for Ruso but has found him a job as an investigator for the local procurator. Ruso is not terribly happy since he is NOT an investigator and feels wholly inadequate to do the job.

It would seem that a very pregnant lady has appeared at the procurator's office to report her lover, the local tax collector, missing. Ruso is sent to a neighboring town to locate the man who, with his brother, has disappeared while on the way to Londinium with the tax monies collected in Verulamium.
Of course, the chief concern of the politician's is the location of the taxes but when the tax collector's murdered body without any evidence of the the money is found, the plot, as they say, thickens.

Seems that even in ancient times crime and vice in all its forms existed as often as today.: infidelity,illegitimacy, jealousy, thievery, murder, oh, yes, and counterfeiting all existed. And then, as today, corruption at high and low levels was intertwined. All of which, along with various " barbarian" and Roman factions muddying the situation, make Ruso's life miserable. As if those things were not enough, various attempts on the lives of various characters, insolent servants and Tilla's headstrong disobedience of Ruso's instructions in an effort to held, threaten to drive him mad.

But as usual, all of the various dead end threads eventually get woven into a more or less satisfying solution. The plot is well developed and complex enough that the reader is just as confused and frustrated as the hero. The characters are realistically complex and at times, just as Ruso, the reader sometimes trusts and at other times distrusts the same person. All of this makes the puzzle very intriguing and keeps the reader turning the page to see what happens next.

At the end, also, as a result of Tilla's loyalty to her Britannic fellows and Ruso's loyalty to Rome, as her desire to stay in Britain and his growing desire to return to Gaul, as his need to find a position as a Medicus increases with little opportunity in Londinium, the couple finds themselves at a crucial point in their relationship. Tilla wonders if they should part and Ruso find himself another wife. After four adventures with them and having watched their partnership grow and flourish, it is a decision that is as difficult for the reader to ponder as it is for them.

Where will the road lead in the next book? I'm anxious to know.

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