Snuff is the latest Discworld novel, (#39 in the series) and the first since Thud to focus on Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh Morpork City Watch. I’ve been a life long fan of the Disc, but my favorite stories are always the ones that center on the Watch. I consider Jingo and Night Watch to not only be two of the best Discworld books, but two of my favorite books in any genre. So when I rank Snuff as 4 stars its not that Snuff is bad, its that the bar is incredibly high and I can’t give all of PTerry’s books 5 stars. It wouldn’t be fair to the truly exceptional ones like the above mentioned titles, as well as Hogfather, Guards! Guards!, Thief of Time, etc.
Snuff finds Commander Sam Vimes taking a holiday with his family to the country to visit the ancestral estate of his wife, Lady Sybil Ramkin Vimes. While there, as usually happens to Sam, a murder occurs and all manner of nefarious dealings begin to make themselves known. While Sam tries to track down the culprit and unravel a conspiracy with his trusty – and deadly – gentleman servant, Willikins, the City Watch has problems of their own. While out for his daily gratuity, Officer Fred Colon managed to get infected with a goblin soul that was residing in a cigar he received gratis. Cheery, Carrot, Angua, Nobby, and Wee Mad Arthur all get involved and soon enough both Sam’s case and the others are crashing in to each other for a blockbuster conclusion.
That’s sort of what happens. There are details of the book that are a bit difficult to grasp, especially if you didn’t read Thud, like the fact Sam is possessed (sort of) by a vengeance demon that helps him see in the dark and helps him with the case. While the narrative does get a bit muddy, the classic Pratchett satire is razor sharp and serves as an allegory against the mistreatment for any marginalized people. He does a great job of making you care about the victims and feel Sam’s righteous rage at the injustice that must be corrected at all cost.
For a Watch novel it is all standard stuff, but taking Sam out of the City does make for a new setting for him to get in to scrapes. The book moves fast and, as happens in nearly all Discworld novels, around the half way point the momentum picks up considerably and maintains a breakneck speed all the way to the end.
If you’re a fan of Discworld, then definitely read Snuff. If you are new to the series, start with Guards! Guards! to get a feel for who the characters of the Watch are. The books are stand alone, but it helps to know the backgrounds of the characters and how they got to where they are by this point in the chronology.