Terra Incognita by Ruth Downie

I do not know what it is about this series of books. I like them very much, in fact this is the second one I have read, but I have the same problem with each one. It takes me a very long time to get into the book. This one languished on my to-read pile for months. I picked it up, read a few pages, moved on to another book. I re-started it at least eight times.

But once I started it in earnest, it only took me a few days to read it. It marks the return of Dr. Gaius Petreus Ruso, a member of the Roman legions stationed in Britannia. He is marching with the legions to a northern outpost with his trusty slave/housekeeper/lover Tilla at his side. He had been a bit bored in Deva and wanted to see some action.

The region they are headed is also Tilla’s original home. She is, as always, difficult to handle for Ruso – even more so now that she is on home turf. They wander into a new mystery when a soldier is killed and beheaded in an alley. The head is missing, the doctor who runs the outpost has lost his mind, the hospital is in disarray and someone called “The Stag Man” by the locals is sabotaging the legion.

Ruso as usual bumbles into the middle of things and figures out what is happening. Tilla and he reach a new level in their relationship and readers will learn a little more about Tilla which helps round out her character a bit more.

The chapters aren’t long – three or four pages so its not chapter length that holds me back. It is however historical fiction and you have to be in the mood to read that kind of book. Not on the same level in any way but “The Name of the Rose” gave me the same challenge. Getting into the language and historical period just took me a long time.

This book offers a lot to readers – mystery, historical fiction of an era not often represented and great characters. It is also a series (!) with at least one more book that I know of available so those that fall in love can be assured of at least three books before suffering withdrawal.

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