Caveat Emptor: A Novel of the Roman Empire - Ruth Downie, Simon Vance The fourth book in Ruth Downie’s mystery series about Gaius Petreius Ruso, erstwhile medicus of the XX Legion, finds him and his new bride Tilla (aka Darlughdacha) back in Britain. Wanting to get as far away from his family as possible, Ruso has returned to Londinium looking for a job. His friend Valens, another former legionary doctor, helpfully “volunteers” him for an assignment with the Procurator’s office. An assignment that has nothing to do with medicine: Julius Asper, Verulamium’s tax collector, and his brother have disappeared, as have the taxes, and the Procurator wants to know where the money went. Without an immediate means of support, Ruso reluctantly takes up the case.

In addition to Valens, we again meet up with Albanus, Ruso’s clerk when they both were stationed in Deva, who is now getting by as a tutor. He leaps at the chance to help his old officer. Less happily, Ruso also crosses paths with Metellus, the provincial governor’s spymaster. He’s got Tilla’s name on a list of possible insurgents and blackmails Ruso to supply him information regarding the investigation.

This volume felt more “intense” than the first three. The mystery’s a bit more complex than the earlier ones, and the antagonists more ruthless, and there was less humor that I noticed (that may have been an artifact of listening to it on CD rather than reading it, however). There was also Ruso and Tilla’s developing relationship. Neither is an ideal spouse (one of the things I like about Ruso is that I see a lot of me in him).

Overall, this was a fine addition to the series, and I’ll keep my eye out for the sure-to-come sequels.

Audiobook quality: Simon Vance, who reads the book, is OK but a lot of his voices didn’t synch with my conceptions of the characters, most gratingly with Valens. He is of an age with Ruso but Vance makes him sound like an asthmatic old man. His “Metellus” had an annoying nasal twang, and his female voices were “adequate” at best.