It is a truth universally acknowledged that a policeman taking a holiday would barely have had time to open his suitcase before he finds his first corpse. And Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is on holiday in the pleasant and innocent countryside, but not for him a mere body in the wardrobe. There are many, many bodies and an ancient crime more terrible than murder. He is out of his jurisdiction, out of his depth, out of bacon sandwiches, occasionally snookered and out of his mind, but never out of guile. Where there is a crime there must be a finding, there must be a chase and there must be a punishment. They say that in the end all sins are forgiven. But not quite all…
It’s a big day in Ankh-Morpork. His Highness, Duke of Ankh, Sir Samuel Vimes is going away. He’s giving up his badge, packing up his things, his wife and his son and going away. The Watch will miss him, though the criminals won’t. It’s set to be a heart wrenching fair-well. Vimes will head off in to the country to live on his estate in peace and harmony, without the hustle and bustle of city life; no crimes to worry about, no one to chase or to attempt to kill him. It’s a well-deserved rest after a lifetime of service to the city of Ankh-Morpork: a two week holiday.
Sam Vimes will be bored, and forced to eat healthy food, and take in the disturbingly clean country air. Distressingly, there will be butlers and servants to do everything for him. And most distressingly of all, he will have no power or authority; his badge (which he has managed to keep with him despite the Patrician’s insistence to the contrary) will be meaningless.
The countryside is the countryside, though. No crimes every happen there, right? Everyone knows their neighbours and no one could ever or would ever want to be villainous in such an idyllic setting. Wrong! Sir Samuel is soon on the trail of a conspiracy; he has no idea who it behind it, or what their aims are. All that matters is the he is on the hunt.
Snuff is a Vimes book, though not really a guards book. It focuses mainly on Sam, Sybil, and young Sam and brings to greater prominence Wilikins the butler. As Pratchett has done on several occasions in the past now, Vimes is moved out of his comfort zone in the city quite early on and transferred in to an area in which he has very little power or authority.
The story introduces a new species to the Discworld menagerie, one that has only been touched on in one other book: Unseen Academicals. The countryside around the Vimes estate is riddled with goblins, who are being exploited by the local population. Sam eventually discovers this and embarks on a crusade to right the wrongs of his peers, vassals and everyone within the range of his trusty watch truncheon.
As has been the case for the last few Vimes books, Pratchett’s trademark humour is a mere veneer over a story that is actually quite dark. When compared to a recent Discworld book such as Going Postal, Snuff is positively sombre. Snuff is well written and enjoyable to read. One can’t help but get the feeling though that something is missing. In nearly every other Discworld book, there has been a dramatic twist or a scene or line that stuck in the memory and made the reader grin to themselves like a loon whenever they recalled it. Snuff doesn’t seem to have this quality.
The plot is fairly predictable once the injustices are discovered, and there isn’t a huge amount of humour in the book. As such, while the book is still enjoyable to read, it fades in to the background somewhat once the cover is closed. When thinking back over the great Discworld books, titles like Going Postal, Reaper Man, Interesting Times and Thud! come to mind. Sadly, Snuff doesn’t make the list.
The ending the book also occurs rather abruptly. In just a few pages, things go from being all messy and tangled to neat and sorted out. While not unsatisfactory per se, it does feel as if the conclusion was slightly rushed and could have done with slightly more foreshadowing and elaboration.
Over all, Snuff is worth reading at least once. It’s a Vimes book, and if, like most Pratchett fans, you have been following the guards series and hanging out for the next instalment, then almost nothing will keep you from reading Snuff. If you are new to Discworld, or the Vimes saga, this is not a great place to start.
For readers who are new to Discworld, it is recommended that you begin with Going Postal. It’s great. For readers who are new to the guards and Sam Vimes, it’s probably best to start from the beginning. Guards! Guards! is the best place to start in that situation.
- Genre: Fantasy
- Demographic: Young Adult and up
- Rating Out of Five: 3
- Format: Hardcover
- Find At: The Book Depository
- Published: October 2011