Monday, May 23, 2011

Caveat Emptor (by Ruth Downie)

Following on from Tuesday's interview with author Ruth Downie, today I'm reviewing her latest release, the fourth in her series featuring Gaius Petreius Ruso, physician and investigator. It's called Caveat Emptor in the States, and Ruso and the River of Darkness in the UK. I'm going with Caveat Emptor, partly because it's more closely related to the plot and partly because it's quicker to type. The review copy was kindly sent to me by Hasan Niyazi over at Three Pipe Problem, with Downie's permission. Spoilers follow.

When I reviewed Thornton Wilder's The Ides of March, I talked about the various different ways of approaching historical fiction. Like The Ides of March, this novel fits into the third category of works of historical fiction, the kind that is, more or less, a story about twenty-first century people in Roman clothes. This is not a critcism and not a negative quality - as the comparison with Wilder indicates, this is a deliberate choice on the part of a novelist to create an entertaining story with a likeable hero (and heroine) for a modern audience. And unlike The Ides of March, the resolution to this story depends on Roman issues and Roman problems. It could not have happened in the twenty-first century, and so it is not so far along the extreme end of the imaginary scale as Wilder's novel (which, while based around the death of Caesar, used a twentieth-century political incident as part of its final plotting).

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