It’s pretty much impossible to be an avid fantasy reader and not know of Terry Pratchett (or, as of 1998, Sir Terry Pratchett). Best known for his parody-laced Discworld novels, Pratchett was the United Kingdom’s most-read author for much of the 1990s. (Some kid with glasses and a lightning-shaped scar bumped Pratchett from the top spot in the decade that followed.)
Snuff is the 39th installment in the Discworld series, which began in 1983. (Pratchett puts the “pro” in “prolific.”) Over the course of the series, the city of Ankh-Morpork has become practically a character in and of itself, clawing its way from a corruption-riddled burg to . . . well, something a little more modern, at least. And there are plenty of characters whose own fortunes mirror those of the city. Among these, Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch stands out. Vimes is a familiar face to the well-traveled Discworlder—Snuff marks the eighth Discworld novel featuring him as the central protagonist, and he’s made appearances in several others.
Commander Sam Vimes is forced to take that most dreaded of excursions— a country holiday.
In Snuff, Vimes is forced by his patron, Lord Havelock Vetinari, to take that most dreaded of excursions—the country holiday. Sure, the bucolic life may seem just the thing after the hustle, bustle and tussles of big-city policing, but for Vimes, the absence of criminal activity is itself a criminal waste of his time and attention.
For a first-time reader, the first 100 pages of Snuff will provide ample opportunity to feel Vimes’ pain. The writing is lively enough—Pratchett’s sense of wordplay is as frolicsome as ever—but the plot sets out at a leisurely pace that seems to count on reader familiarity with and enjoyment of its protagonist.
Fortunately for Vimes, as well as for the reader, something’s rotten in this stretch of countryside—blood has been shed and the law broken—and just as Vimes latches onto the first lead, the pace accelerates. By story’s end, established Pratchett fans have been given ample bang, and new readers will be tempted to read some of Commander Vimes’ earlier adventures.