Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Sophia Rose Reviews Prima Facie by Ruth Downie narrated by Simon Vance

Today I'm turning the blog over to my pal Sophia Rose who is going way back to the Roman Empire reviewing a historical mystery on audio.

Prima Facie by Ruth Downie, Narrated by Simon Vance
#8.5 Medicus Investigation
Historical Mystery
Publisher:  Tantor Audio
Published:  11.19.19

Time:  3 hours 6 minutes
Rating: 4
Narrator Rating: 5
Format:  MP3
Source:  Publisher
Sellers:  Amazon

It's AD 123 and the sun is shining on southern Gaul. Ex-military medic Ruso and his British wife Tilla are back after a long absence - but it's not the reunion anyone had hoped for.

Ruso's brother has left him in charge of a farm he has no idea how to manage, a chronic debt problem and a gaggle of accident-prone small children. Meanwhile his sister Flora has run away to rescue her boyfriend, who's accused of murdering a wealthy guest at a party.

Can Ruso and Tilla save the boyfriend from the murder charge - or should they be saving Flora from the boyfriend? Will any of the guests tell the truth about the fatal party before it's too late? And meanwhile, how long can Ruso continue to lie about what's inside the bath house?

Sophia Rose's Review:

A Medicus to the Roman army with a wife who was a former Britain slave solving mysteries together?  Oh, you know it!  I was eager to give this new-found series a go.

Prima Facie is book 8.5 in the series and is a standalone mystery that is part of an ongoing personal story for Ruso and his wife, Tilla.  I found it quite easy to jump in with this book, but also could tell that this was part of an ongoing series arc.

Ruso and Tilla were in Rome, but now returning by way of a stopover to visit with his family at his home villa.  They no sooner arrive than they are accosted by family because his youngest sister as has gone off trying to save the young man who was courting her because he stands accused of murder.  Ruso is forced to step in and give aid in the form of discovering the truth before it’s too late for the young wheelwright.

I do love reading stories set during the Roman Empire so I was thrilled to see a mystery series set during the period.  I soon got a surprise.  This read like a light historical cozy mystery that had no issue with wedging in modern terms and slang all over the place.  I should have realized when I saw the word 'boyfriend' in the blurb.  It didn't go completely off the rails and there was some attention paid to historical setting and culture, but, yes, don't go in expecting a meticulous authentic historical.

It probably sounds like that was enough to put me off entirely, and I confess that in some cases, it would be.  However, the tone was that of a mystery romp at times so I just went with it because I was enjoying the characters and the mystery.  Ruso and Tilla were quite easy to enjoy as main characters and I would love to go back and get all their stories since it seems the series beings with their meeting and goes from there.  I thought the rest of Ruso's family were the comic relief between his self-interested middle sister and his overly dramatic youngest, his step-mother who practically gives him a rash, and the wild antics of his nephews.

The murder mystery struck the sober note and had some good twists, brought out social issues and even ethics.  Ruso and Tilla attacked the mystery from two different angles and used their strengths to get to the truth.  There were some good twists.

Simon Vance, a very prolific narrator and one I am familiar with for his voice to several fantasies and classics, is the series narrator.  I enjoy his voice and the flexibility he showed to do all characters of gender, age, class, and temperament.  He caught the right tone and pace so well.  He gave Tilla an accent different from the rest since she wasn't Roman and gave Ruso a low and methodical voice that reminded me he was a physician.

All in all, it was a great intro to the series for me and I'm definitely going back for more.  I'm not sure if the whole series has the lighter amusing moments like this novella, but it felt like a cozy so I'll recommend it to those who like historical cozies.

My thanks to Tantor Audio for providing the book in exchange for an honest review.

Author Bio:
I was lucky enough to be born in the West Country, in beautiful North Devon. Some people know from a very early age that they are going to be writers: I wasn’t one of them. I fear this will upset some readers, but I left university with an English degree and a plan to get married and live happily ever after. Perhaps it was all that Jane Austen.
Some of my earliest ventures into creative writing were attempts to type up my indecipherable shorthand in such a way that the boss wouldn’t realise I was making it up. As secretaries were replaced with computers, and my higher-flying contemporaries discovered to their horror that they were expected to type their own letters, there were fewer and fewer outlets for creativity in the office. Finally I took the plunge and started working on my own material.
And then came the Romans. I wasn’t looking for them: we only went to Hadrian’s Wall because we thought our children should do something educational on holiday. Sheltering from the rain in a museum, I read, “Roman soldiers were allowed to have relationships with local women, but they were not allowed to marry them.” Obviously, here was a terrific story waiting to be told. All I had to do was find out everything there was to know about Roman Britain, invent things to fill the gaps, and work out how to put it all together in a novel…
I’ve been accompanied throughout this impossible mission by a patient husband. We have two grown-up sons, two three two cats at the last count, and an unknown number of badgers who live down a dark hole in the garden.
When I’m not researching or writing the Ruso novels, I spend the occasional joyous week grovelling in mud with an archaeological trowel, because Roman Britain is still there. Underneath our feet.

Sophia’s Bio:
Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.
Sophia’s Social Media Links:


  1. It sounds interesting Sophia Rose I think I might like this, I'm glad the present day language didn't put you off and I agree it's all determined by the tone of the book. I can see where it wouldn't have worked if everything else was attention to historical detail. Thanks for putting this on my radar!

    1. Yes, it turned out that the modern lingo didn't hurt the story for me. I had a good time with it, Debbie. I think you'd get a kick out of it.

  2. Interesting that this has modern slang in it. Glad you enjoyed this and was able to jump right in!

    1. I was startled when modern words would crop up. I might be wrong, but I think the author knew the right term to use, but didn't want readers to be lost maybe. She sure had lots of other details that showed she'd done her research. :)

  3. Glad to hear that you enjoyed this one. Not sure it would be the right one for me though.
    You sure seem to be all over the blogosphere today. lol

    1. Yeah, you'd have to dig the old Roman stuff, but I have a feeling you'd laugh at his family's antics. They were a hoot.

      Oh man, I had posts up at four different blogs today so I'm totally hogging the web. Haha!

  4. To rescue her boyfriend just sounds so modern, lol

    1. Yep, that should have been my first clue that there was going to be some of that. LOL I found it funny to spot that sort of thing more than irritated.

  5. Hmm a modern Roman historical. Would be strange to have those modern words thrown in. But seems like a good story!

    1. It does hit one at odd times, but I just let it go because I was enjoying the story plus there were plenty of authentic historical references, too. :)