This is a beautiful book. It is set in the Second Century, during the transition time between the death of Emperor Trajan (117 CE) and the take over of Hadrian. The hero, Gaius Petreius Ruso, a doctor in the Roman Legions, decided to transfer from his North African post (considered easy duty except for the scorpions) to the XX Legion in Britannia, cold, wet, and populated by uncivilized barbarians. At least the army had killed off the Druids.

Ruth Downie writes with great wit as we watch Ruso stumble into and out of one disaster after another.

Yes, it is a mystery. The opening line establishes that detail. Someone had washed the mud off the body. Even in his sleep-deprived state Russo discovers that the young woman died of strangulation. He turns the case over to the proper authorities who allow the investigation of the death of a local to lapse. Ruso could not let it go. He continued to ask questions, even after attempts were made on his life.

Did I mention he bought a slave girl?

4.5 stars

Mike Lawrence

Bryant & May and the Burning Man

This was my first read of Christopher Fowler, yet another great London author. This is number 12 of the 14 so far written in the series. I plan to go back and read the first of the series: Full Dark House.

This story is set in London of 2015 and features the two lead detectives of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. When a man is caught on CCTV dousing a man sleeping rough with petrol and lighting him up, the PCU is called to investigate. It is only by the application of the trained minds of Bryant and May is the case finally solved.

This is a good read if you like off-beat stories. Fowler’s other books appear to all be collections of short stories which could have appeared  on the Twilight Zone. I like a change of pace.

Mike Lawrence