Alternate title: Vimes Takes a Holiday, in which Terry Pratchett’s uber-cop Sam Vimes (who by this point has become the Discworld’s Jack Bauer) retreats to his wife Sybil’s country estate on an enforced vacation. Naturally, the countryside proves less idyllic than it seems.
But it takes forever to get the less-idyllic-than-it-seems point. A ruthless editor could cut Snuff down to a novella and still have time to leave work early. Pratchett takes his time letting you know what kind of game he’s playing here, and the build-up is more infuriating than intriguing. Yes, Snuff is ripe with Pratchett’s usual narrative cleverness, but the longer the plot took to materialise the more I wanted to rattle the book to force it to fall out.
Eventually, a story emerges: Vimes’s nasty upper-crust peers are exploiting goblins, one of the last Discworld species still considered beneath humanity. This – “lower race promoted to equal footing as Discworld society is dragged into something resembling the modern day” – is well-trodden Pratchett territory. His long-time readers will be entertained by the plot-turns, but they won’t be surprised by any of them.
Same goes for Snuff‘s black-and-white characters. Vimes, for all his concern about the darkness inside him that threatens to erupt any moment, is a straight-up good guy. There’s never any real worry he’ll slip into darkness. And his opponents are straight-up bad guys, cardboard villains with little motivation beyond Being Evil. (Notably, the goodies are mostly drawn from or associated with the grubby lower classes; the upperclassmen are generally rotten to the core.) “The Sociopath” has become a stock Pratchett character, and there’s not a lot separating Snuff‘s Stratford with someone like Hogfather‘s Teatime.
Previously: Book review: Unseen Academicals, Terry Pratchett