Book Review: Persona Non Grata by Ruth Downie (4/5)

19 Dec

I knew after I read the second book in this series that I would continue with it. These books are too fun to pass up. I’d gotten a copy of this one from a library book sale and it looks like not many people borrowed it before it was withdrawn. I’m lucky there are copies of all books in this series on Goodreads so I can enjoy them so readily!

Cover image via Goodreads

Persona Non Grata (Medicus Investigation #3) by Ruth Downie

Other books by Ruth Downie reviewed on this blog:

Terra Incognita (Medicus Investigation #2)

Summary from Goodreads:

At long last, Gaius Petreius Ruso and his companion, Tilla, are headed home—to Gaul. Having received a note consisting only of the words “COME HOME!” Ruso has (reluctantly, of course) pulled up stakes and brought Tilla to meet his family.

But the reception there is not what Ruso has hoped for: no one will admit to sending for him, and his brother Lucius is hoping he’ll leave. With Tilla getting icy greetings from his relatives, Lucius’s brother-in-law mysteriously drowned at sea, and the whole Ruso family teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, it’s hard to imagine an unhappier reunion. That is, until Severus, the family’s chief creditor, winds up dead, and the real trouble begins…

The comedy in these books is what keeps bringing me back. I love the sarcasm and backhanded way Downie insults her characters. Ruso builds himself up and tears himself down all the time and it’s so amusing to watch. I’ve also enjoyed the evolution of Tilla and I look forward to seeing what comes next from the pair. I liked the change in setting for this one. Seeing Ruso in Gaul and how uncomfortable he is in his own home made me long for Britania like Tilla. The mystery was well done and I liked all the subplots that kept this story going.

Ruso’s step-mother, Arria, and his sisters seemed unrealistic to me. Well, to be more precise, I could see how Marcia turned out the way she is if she was raised by Arria. I don’t understand how Arria became the way she is. With the fighting described between Ruso and her when he was younger, I don’t see how that led her down a path to turn into such a self-absorbed woman reliant on her step-sons. She made for some funny scenes, but she had me scratching my head, too.

Tilla is an easy favorite character in this series. She’s very modern though she’s set in ancient Rome. Her ideas of independence and a woman’s ability to speak up and do things for herself make her relatable. She’s funny and smart and it’s easy to see why Ruso likes her. I wish she’d had a bigger role in this book, it wasn’t as much as she was involved in the last mystery.

Ruso’s narration is so relatable. He expresses exasperation and disgust at the same things I do as a reader so I’m always laughing or groaning or smirking along with him. I really want to meet Downie and see if she’s this funny in real life or if it comes out when she edits. I hope it’s genuine.

Ruth Downie
Image via the author’s website

I thought the gladiator section was really interesting. It shared a lot of different opinions on the sport and the role Ruso played in it was rather neutral so we could see all of those sides. The descriptions were, of course, gruesome but also showed the reasons some of those men volunteered to go into the arena.

There wasn’t a part I enjoyed less than the rest of the book, but I wish Tilla had a bigger role. This book had a major focus on Ruso because his family was so involved in the plot. I hope when they return to Britania that Tilla can take on a bigger role.

The audiobook was narrated by Simon Vance and I thought he was perfect. He did a good variety of voices for the characters and I never felt his female voice was at all offensive, grating, or annoying. He had a wide variety of voices, too, and his inflection for Ruso’s internal thoughts was great.

These books don’t have much in terms of themes or morals to take away. If anything, it would be that you can always go home, but you might not want to. Poor Ruso. I bet he can’t wait to get back to the army.

Writer’s Takeaway: Downie has a strong understanding of her time period and she weaves it into the story so well that it barely sticks out. It’s a pleasure to read. Her humor is what always brings me back. She keeps me laughing along with Ruso and Tilla and rolling my eyes at Arria and moaning when Marcia rushes in. I just love it!

This is a great book and I really recommend this series. Four out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Persona Non Grata | S.J.A Turney’s Books & More
Persona Non Grata by Ruth Downie | searchingmysoulon2wheels
Persona Non Grata a Review | A View from Sari’s World

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