Disclosure: I got an ARC copy through the GoodReads giveaways.
Though not my usual genre, I quite enjoyed this book. The mystery isn’t too much of a mystery – the baddie is revealed almost immediately, and then it’s just a matter of finding out just how much various other characters might be complicit, and the details of what happened.
But the writing is very compelling, and I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to the main characters.
Ruso has just bought a slave. He didn’t mean to, of course, but her master was treating her so roughly and she looked half-dead. Her arm is shattered and he doubts that she will live much longer, but still he bought her. Meanwhile, a woman’s body has been found and ,whether he likes it or not, Ruso must solve the mystery of her murder.
It is difficult to call Medicus a detective novel because Ruso really doesn’t do any investigating. Mostly, he just fumbles around in the dark, hopelessly inept in every area other than medicine, until the culprit is so unnerved by Ruso’s questions that he reveals himself. Those clues that Ruso does take credit for tend to be uncovered by his slave, Tilla, or openly confided to him. This bumbling detective style makes Medicus a delightfully whimsical and ironically funny story. It’s a novel only a Brit could have written.
I’m really not sure what attracts me so much to Medicus, but something certainly does. I couldn’t put it down and I ordered the next book in the series within minutes of finishing the last page. I loved that while the setting was so exotic, the issues dealt with in the novel are completely relevant today.
I have no idea how accurate the information in this dictionary is because I know just about zilch about Celtic mythology. However, I do like the book based on a purely “how interesting is it?” criterion. While it may be read through from cover to cover (as I did in about two days), I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. Because it’s a dictionary and because each entry is intended to stand along, many of the stories and ideas are repeated several times. It would be much better used as a reference book.
The entries are fairly short, ranging from about a paragraph or two as the norm to about a page as an extreme. Because of their shorter length, they obviously are not terribly detailed. Each entry gives a general overview of its concept and includes other terms and names that may also be looked up. In essence, it’s a great place to get a vague idea to start with, but other books are needed if a more in-depth study is to be conducted.
With very little information available about peasant life, I can imagine that it must have been difficult to stretch out an entire book. Certainly, I felt that it was the chapter on the village from Life in a Medieval Castle with only a few extra details. I did find those extra details interesting and I made good use of the images. All in all, I think that if you are doing research on Medieval life but are strapped for time, read Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel, City, and Castle, but skip this one. If, on the other hand, you have plenty of time, by all means give it skim through.
The book covers what it can about the daily life of peasants, usually from criminal records and so the book is full of amusing stories about drunken farmers hacking at each other with sickles. It also talks about marriage traditions and the church’s efforts to control that. The interaction with the manor, both in law and in harvest feasts, dominates much of the information in the book. There is also a good deal of information on farming – the plants, the seasons, the methods of sowing and reaping, bylaws about grazing, and so forth.