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Book Review: Caveat Emptor by Ruth Downie (4/5)

12 Dec

I stumbled across this series in college and I’ve been making my way through it faster now that I’ve realized all of the books are available as audiobooks on Hoopla. I really enjoy the characters and writing so expect this to continue for some time!

Cover image via Goodreads

Caveat Emptor (Medicus Investigation #4) by Ruth Downie

Other books by Downie reviewed on this blog:

Terra Incognita (Medicus Investigation #2) 4/5
Persona Non Grata (Medicus Investigation #3) 4/5

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

I just love this series and these characters. Tilla is very relatable and Ruso always finds himself in the best situations. The characters that surround them are amazingly diverse and fun and the detail that Downie puts into the setting brings it to life well. I don’t know much about life in Roman Britain and the ways Downie describes it doesn’t exactly make me want to move there, but I might visit.

The supporting characters are a bit unbelievable, a caricature of real people, but man are they funny. Albanus and Valens are less believable than most but they’re some of my favorite characters in the series. Tilla and Ruso are very down-to-earth and much more believable so that the whole store has an overall realism to it even with such jokesters around.

Tilla is my favorite character. She is very smart and independent, to a point where it’s almost detrimental to her. She is fine in her society of native Britains but when she comes into Roman society with Ruso, she’s very out of place. The two of them are very good together, though, and I can’t wait to see where they go throughout the series.

I related to Tilla. Her care for the young baby was very realistic and made her seem very motherly while she’s going through the struggles of trying to conceive. Her mothering instinct kicked in and I can understand how that would happen! I have a few friends with babies and I always want to be holding them and making sure they have everything they need all the time.

Ruth Downie
Image via Audible

Valens and Albanus together made my favorite parts of this book. The humor they infused was great and I got excited each time one of them was mentioned and coming into the storyline. Albanus always seems to find a way to help and Valens a way to intercede. They’re great supporting characters to Ruso and Tilla and good for a bit of fun.

I felt like this book ended before the end and I was a little frustrated until I realized that they were still solving the mystery. It seemed to wrap up so well that I was a bit thrown off about how much time was left but I still liked how it ended. So this is really a minor gripe. I really enjoyed this book.

My audiobook was narrated by Simon Vance and I thought he did an amazing job. He gave great weight to things that were heavy and a light tone to things that are funny. He used a good variety of voices for the characters, differing his pitch enough to keep them straight but not so much that it was distracting.

The underlying plot of Tilla’s infertility was really touching. It spoke to truthfulness in marriage and what love will endure. I thought it was touching how far Tilla was going to try to conceive and showed how much she cared about Ruso. I wonder if they’ll be able to have a baby together and I can’t wait to see how that plays out.

Writer’s Takeaway: Downie does a great job of balancing humorous and serious moments. When something is too silly, you can be almost certain that something unpleasant is coming. I like being able to laugh and be shocked by the book from scene to scene. It’s a great emotional rush going through one of these titles.

A really enjoyable read from a favorite series. Four out of Five stars.

This book fulfills the Pre-1300 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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