Persona Non Grata by Ruth Downie
It is best to read this mystery series in order starting with: Medicus and Terra Incognita, but it’s also fine just on its’ own – there is some background information you need but it’s not wholly necessary to understand the plot in this novel.
At long last, Gaius Petreius Ruso and his companion, Tilla, are headed home to Gaul. But with Tilla getting icy greetings from Ruso’s relatives, a family member having mysteriously drowned at sea, and the whole Ruso household teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, it’s hard to imagine an unhappier reunion. That is, until Severus, the family’s chief creditor, winds up dead, and the real trouble begins… (From Amazon.ca)
I enjoyed reading the first two and it seems with each book I’ve read from Ruth Downie, they improve each time. Although I found the first two a little on the dry side at times, Persona Non Grata was different. I was more interested in the book, and felt myself turning the pages a lot more quickly than the first two in the series.
I really had to sympathize with Gaius. Not only does he always get the short end of the stick in life, but you can’t help but laugh at his predicaments because things just seem to go from bad to worse when he’s around. His family isn’t the most supportive either but they were such a fun read and there was more than one moment where I found myself chuckling out loud. (Try reading Gaius and his fight with his brother oh my, that was a good laugh.)
There is more of a development in the relationship between Gaius and Tilla. I like how their character development is never quite finished but they develop enough so the reader is satisfied with the way they are throughout the novel. I enjoyed reading about both of them in this book much more. There’s more feeling and emotion between the two. I love how Gaius just wants to take care of Tilla, but she goes out on her own anyway. I like her independence and her strength. The two really do compliment each other nicely.
I enjoyed the plot. Suspects were great and each had a good motive. I was kept guessing although I did have a hunch about the last third of the book. Nevertheless I did like how the book ended and there was more action mentioned to make the plot more exciting and the pace was faster. It was also interesting to note, that early Christians are introduced into the story. I thought that was well done and it did give the plot a much more historical feel to it. When it comes to historical accuracy, I liked it and it seemed pretty accurate to me. Downie’s descriptions are well written and the setting is pictured clearly. I believe she does provide an Author’s Note at the back to explain certain inconsistencies and provides more information.
I do wish there was more to the ‘Dramatis Personae’ at the beginning of the book. It is a little hard to keep track of all the characters (Gaius has a family that could rival The Brady Bunch) plus the suspects, plus other secondary characters. It’s a lot to figure out and I thought the list of characters in the beginning could use a little more clarification.
To fans of Gaius, it’s a great book. I absolutely enjoyed this and the way the book ended paves the way for much more to look forward to. I believe the change of setting is what helped a lot for this book (and quite possibly the series). It’s a great addition to this series, and I’m looking forward to the next one. Ruth Downie just gets better and better with each book!