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The most recent Discworld novel, published after I Shall Wear Midnight. His Grace Commander Sir Samuel Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch cheerfully volunteers for a holiday along with his family in that most dreaded of locations: the countryside. There are always things rustling through the undergrowth, you can never be sure that someone isn't hiding behind that hedge, and there are no streets. Or are there?

His wife entertaining the local gentry and his son becoming obsessed with poo, Vimes goes for a walk, visits the local pub, gets into a fight with a blacksmith, and discovers that a murder has been committed. No one cares - after all, the victim was just a goblin. But to Vimes, a crime is a crime and there must be a punishment. However, he has no jurisdiction, no body, and no clues. His only allies are his wife and his Battle Butler. Then the local police, who have jurisdiction, turn up to arrest him. And his wife still won't let him eat bacon sandwiches.

Continuing with themes introduced in Unseen Academicals, Snuff heavily deconstructs Fantastic Racism in an even more Anvilicious manner, although Your Mileage May Vary (and of course, Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped). In contrast to the usual Watch novels this is a more Vimes-centric tale à la Night Watch, although the rest of the Watch do feature sporadically throughout the novel. Hell, Nobby Nobbs gets a goblin girlfriend. The second Discworld novel not to feature Death as a character.


Tropes:

  • Actually, That's My Assistant: Stratford tries to deliberately trick Vimes into this, but Vimes isn't fooled.
  • Arc Words: "Murder is murder." Also, "Murder. The capital crime," and "Not all sins are forgiven."
    • And don't forget "Hang", the goblin word meaning survive. Hang tight, hang in there, hang together or hang separately, but most importantly, hang on.
    • Also, "The Dreadful Algebra Of Necessity".
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The Shires magistrates, but very averted with the Colonel.
  • Ascended Extra: Ensemble Darkhorse Willikins becomes a full and developed main character in this novel, after largely remaining in the background in the past.
  • Badass: Sam Vimes kicks ass and takes names even more than usual.
    • Badass Abnormal: The Summoning Dark from Thud has... left its mark on Vimes, meaning he can see in the dark, understand goblin language and have a reliable witness to any events happening under the cover of darkness.
    • Badass Bureaucrat: A.E. Pessimal, even though he's only mentioned briefly. He's now the Ankh-Morpork version of the IRS / SEC, keeping an eye on businesses and absolutely terrifying them just by showing up.
    • Badass Normal: Vimes is still mostly a man. Also, Willikins. Dear God, Willikins.
  • Badass Creed: The Ramkin's Family motto is "What we have, we keep".
    • Badass Crew: Basically Vimes's Watch, family (Sybil) and staff (Willikins). Taking Willikins and Detritus on a walk meant Vimes and his son were accompanied by "enough firepower to kill a platoon."
  • Batman Gambit: The entire plot may or may not be one massive Batman Gambit by Lord Vetinari.
    • Vimes' impromptu lecture/rant to the Gordon girls turns out to have been one by Sybil for the benefit of their mother, and the whole party was organized around causing it.
    • Sybil gets a second one by hosting a music recital.
  • Battle Butler: Willikins has finally all-but given up the 'Butler' aspect, in favour of the 'Battle' part.
    • Let us not forget that he still finds the time to make a mean cocktail. Without alcohol, at that!
  • Battle in the Rain: Taken Up to Eleven with a battle in a storm, on a battered ship, on a raging river about to experience a tidal wave.
  • Berserk Button: The devious puzzles of the Times's new crossword maker are the only thing that can drive the normally composed Lord Vetinari to what, from him, passes as a rant.
  • Big Bad: Gravid Rust
  • Brick Joke: Jane Gordon's novel. Pride and Extreme Prejudice.
    • Also, early on Vimes isn't sure how you can own a mile of trout stream, because surely the bit of the stream that's yours is moving onto your neighbour's land? Much later, Colonel Makepeace reflects that he rents half a mile of stream, but can no longer run fast enough to keep up with it.
    • Sybil's huge and exhaustively maintained list of friendships have been a running joke since The Fifth Elephant, complete with Vimes thinking that she and the network of women like her wield tremendous behind-the-scenes power if they felt like it. We finally see that in action here.
  • Busman's Holiday: As stated in the blurb. Played with. Vimes is relieved to have a crime to deal with... at least at first.
  • Call Back: It's mentioned that the grounds of Ramkin Hall have a hoho (like a haha, but deeper), as mentioned in Men At Arms. (As well as a "hehe", though whatever that may be is left to the imagination of the readers.)
    • Also, Zoons are mentioned for the first time since Equal Rites.
    • The line "Sybil will go librarian" is a callback to the phrase "going librarian-poo" from an earlier book, which of course is itself a version of "going apeshit".
    • Merkle and Stingbat's Very Famous Brown Sauce was previously mentioned in Guards Guards.
    • The bridge with the sculptures of artistically naked ladies. Urns means it's artistic.
    • Vimes's comment that he's never drunk starboard echoes a conversation from Jingo.
  • Cheerful Child: Young Sam, poo expert, instant friend to goblins.
  • Children Are Innocent: Young Sam is practically a saint.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Only by comparison to the other Discworld books, which have generally avoided outright swearing, but the repeated use of 'shit' and 'bitch' is quite noticeable.
  • Combat Pragmatist: There are continual references to the Marquis of Fantailler Rules (the Disc's version of Queensbury Rules). Nobody in the book fights according to them.
  • Continuity Nod: Plenty.
    • The goblins, first mentioned waaaay back and slightly elaborated upon in Unseen Academicals are fully fleshed out.
    • Wee Mad Arthur has embraced his identity as a Nac Mac Feegle.
    • An elderly Lord Rust puts in an appearance.
    • The Low King apparently even gave him Blackboard Monitor as a real title since Thud, and given the dwarven reverence for the written word it's the highest honor he can bestow.
    • A.E. Pessimal is now the Watch's feared forensic accountant.
    • Events in Thud have left their mark on Vimes (see Badass Abnormal).
    • Vimes' botched one liner reply "Burleigh and Stronginthearm" (to "on whose authority?") in Night Watch is repeated more successfully by Willikins.
    • Vimes's schoolroom had the same book of fairy tales as the Aching family, and he had the same reaction to the goblin on page seven as Tiffany.
  • Contrived Coincidence: A very special Unggue Pot manages to end up in a cigar which is sold to Sergeant Colon. It's said that this is why Fred and Nobby are still on the (now quite respectable) force -- this happens all the time to them.
  • Cricket Rules: Parodied. It apparently takes so long to explain the rules of 'crockett' that the universe can end and be reborn in that time.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Feeney's badassery even takes Vimes by surprise.
    • Meanwhile, Vetinari is beginning to notice just how much Sybil can get done when she puts her mind to it.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: In-universe, this leads to the goblins being emancipated. Lampshaded by Vetinari: "One song!"
    • Even more awesome it was only one girl playing a harp for thirty minutes.
    • This music even inspires Vetinari to have the villain of the book killed off screen. "Not all sins are forgiven," indeed.
      • And this, from a man who'd always preferred reading music to listening, as he'd never encountered a musician who lived up to his standards of precision or refinement. As Vetinari says, it touched people's souls, and reminded more than a few people that they actually have one.
  • Darker and Edgier: Boy howdy. Even more so than Night Watch, I Shall Wear Midnight and Thud which are usually seen as the darker ones.
  • Disney Death: Stinky. No explanation is given, but it is slightly implied that the Summoning Dark may have saved him.
    • The reference to Vimes' picture-book suggests he's a manifestation of childhood scary-goblin fears, like the bears and Scissor Man that Susan intimidated in Hogfather. One that's actually taken an interest in the normal goblins it was imagined to resemble.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The enslavement of the local goblins calls to mind both the Holocaust (the neighbours turn the other way) and the African slave trade.
    • Not to mention the treatment of Australian Aborigines.
  • Easy Evangelism: It takes about five minutes for any recurring Watch character to accept that goblins deserve the same rights as any other species, including Sergeant Colon. Of course, given the make-up of the Watch (it's mentioned that goblins are pretty much the only sapient species not currently included), they're bound to be more understanding of the odder species on the Disc--they employ Nobby Nobbs, after all. The rest of the Disc comes around once they see that goblins can create absolutely beautiful musical works, and therefore are not simply "vermin" to be ignored, enslaved, or exterminated.
    • Although with Colon it takes having a goblin soul accidentally get shoved in his head for a period of time to get him to come to terms with it all, and the music wasn't just "absolutely beautiful", it was enough to make Vetinari of all people take pause.
    • Vetinari felt sympathy for the Goblins before the song was played, and in the opening pages, is discussing with Drumknot, his secretary, how terrible he finds their plight, that an entire race is regarded as vermin. And Vetinari is not a person typically known for having sympathy for anyone.
  • Eats Babies: Everyone knows that goblins eat their own young. They actually do, occasionally. As a Mercy Kill, when the famines get so bad that there is no way the child would survive anyway, and it's the only way for the grieving mother to survive and, hopefully, have another. They do save the babies' souls in a Soul Jar, however.
  • Fantastic Racism: In spades, directed towards the goblins. They're officially seen as vermin, and killing them or even enslaving them and shipping them off to another continent is entirely legal. At the end of the book, most major powers are passing legislations to regard them as sapient and under the protection of common law.
    • Not surprisingly, the actions that the Goblins are forced to perform just to survive are used to "justify" the fact that they are treated the way they are. The thing is, the goblins are stuck having to perform these acts quite literally because they are hanging on the edge of survival. Let's put this in perspective: if a race is given no means of making an honest living, is hunted zealously where ever they are found, and is only, say, two feet to three feet tall and typically extremely malnourished due to poor diet and lack of a steady food supply, is it any surprise that they turn to thievery, will threaten uninvited strangers on sight, and are extremely "cowardly"?
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Quirm for France, as before.
  • Five-Man Band: OK, admittedly, you have to squint and maybe tilt your head a little, but assuming Vetinari is, as implied, masterminding everything, you can get:
  • Foreign Queasine: Averted, the Morporkians all like Quirmian cooking, but they do use too much avec.
  • Foreshadowing: At the start, Vimes is given a bucket and spade as a joke by the Watch, even though he's not going to the seaside. He retorts that he wishes it was the seaside, there's smuggling and piracy at the seaside. Smuggling proves to be the impetus of the entire plot, and the most holidayish part of his holiday is when he ends up on the Quirm coast with Young Sam, catching winkles.
  • Freudian Slip: Vetinari of all people has one when he refers to the good ship Wonderful Fanny as, well...the Enormous Fanny.
  • The Ghost: Gravid Rust, the man behind the entire evil plot, who is introduced, plans, is arrested, exiled and assassinated, without ever appearing on the page. In his stead, the most visible villain of the piece is Stratford, who, like Carcer, is an Evil Counterpart to Vimes.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Implied between Vimes and Sybil.
  • Happily Married: As usual, Sam and Sybil. If Sybil is ever annoyed at Sam, she's happy again by the end of their next conversation.
  • Henpecked Husband: The Colonel. Until he un-henpecks himself. Also, to a smaller degree, Vimes.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Gravid Rust.
  • Interspecies Romance: It's mentioned that a troll and a dwarf have struck up a relationship. Also, Nobby Nobbs gets himself a goblin girl.
  • The Jeeves: Averted spectacularly by Willikins. He is the old school brutal thug as a butler. But he can act like this when he wants to.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jethro. He's one of the few residents of the Shires who considers goblins to be people.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Even though Vimes is technically the lord of his lands, he has no jurisdiction as a police officer - that belongs to the appointed magistrates. Of course, the magistrates appointed themselves...
  • Knight Fever: Harry King, of The Truth and Making Money fame, is now Sir Harold King.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Defied. Willikins serves the same role as Pepe in Unseen Academicals, when the Psycho for Hire escapes from custody again, instead of apprehending and returning him to police and having the justice system hang him, Willikins slits his throat in the night for going after young Sam. Vimes wanted to, and Vetinari asked if he gave the order, but Vimes' inner Watchman is still in control.
    • And then played frustratingly straight with Gravid Rust. Maybe. Then again, Lord Vetinari's people are watching him, and XXXX is a dangerous country, plenty of poisonous spiders...
      • Not played very straight at all. The "lady" responsible for watching him is an Assassin, and after making the decision to send him, Vetinari remarks that "not all sins are forgiven."
    • Played straight with most of the magistrates.
  • Kidanova: Young Sam is (innocently) quite popular with ladies of every age. As well, Vimes notes he has a habit of taking the hand of any female he meets, one which will "serve him well in later years".
  • Mama Bear: Sybil. Vimes warns Stratford that if he were to try and harm Young Sam, Sybil will do things to him that even Willikins would think of as extreme.
  • Meaningful Name: Subverted with Captain Murderer, who is a smuggler. That being said, he's still a horrible person.
    • Played straight with Arachne, one of Vetinari's clerks who is very fond of spiders.
  • Mega Manning: Vimes is a quick learner, apparently, but even he's surprised when he manages to perfectly replicate a martial arts move used on him by Feeney.
  • Memetic Badass: An in-universe example. Vimes' reputation for being one comes in handy several times.
  • Mr. Exposition: Willikins and Sybil act as this for Vimes, who is unfamiliar with how things are done in the country.
  • My Friends and Zoidberg: It's mentioned that the Watch "appears to include at least one of every known bipedal sapient species, plus one Nobby Nobbs".
  • The Nondescript: Startford, until he gets mad.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Stinky. Serves as human-goblin liaison, is made special constable, keeps Vimes' secrets and helps him with the horse, and learns how to operate the clacks. He also may or may not be an avatar for the Summoning Dark, or some other supernatural entity.
  • Noodle Incident: An account of how Fred and Nobby keep serendipitously stumbling onto major clues includes a case that was solved thanks to something that tried to lay its eggs in Nobby's nose.
  • Not with the Safety On, You Won't: Invoked by Vimes, who gives Stratford a sabotaged crossbow to let him think he has the upper hand.
  • One Feegle Army: Wee Mad Arthur takes on a batch of slaveowners with characteristic ease.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Gravid Rust never makes a single appearance. It's implied that he isn't really even in the area where most of the story takes place. He doesn't have to be. He's an aristocrat of a wealthy and prestigious family and the heir to the title and fortune of the family. He can afford to hire people that hire the people that hire the people that hire the people that hire the people that hire the people to do the job for him.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: Continuing onward from Unseen Academicals. Here you have scavenging cave goblins as well as more-or-less-human city goblins. Oh, and some of them are fantastic musicians.
  • Out-Gambitted: Stratford is surprisingly cunning for a Psycho for Hire. Fortunately, Vimes is even more cunning and manages to foil him at nearly every turn.
  • Papa Wolf: Vimes, as usual. Willikins is his backup. Between them and Sybil, Young Sam is the safest boy in the world.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Wee Mad Arthur is this even more than usual.
  • Precision F-Strike: Sybil referring to someone as a bitch. It's actually quite jarring, given previous characterisation.
  • Prison Rape: Alluded to by Vimes when explaining why the Watch House lockup is infinitely preferable to the 'Tanty'.
  • Psycho for Hire: Stratford, to a tee. Definitely not the brains of operation, but doesn't flinch from killing to get a job done. When he marks Vimes as an enemy, he tries to sneak into young Sam's room at night.
    • Also something of a deconstruction; none of his murders or threatened murders are actually called for under his orders, and it is his actions that gets Vimes so involved and motivates his terrified allies to give King's evidence just to bring him down.
  • Psycho Sidekick: Willikins fully qualifies in this one.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Flutter and some of the hirelings count as this, as they're mostly smugglers who have been dragged into a murder and slavery plot, and for the most part give up as soon as Vimes has identified himself. Brassbound, however, portrays himself as this but is actually Stratford in disguise.
  • Raised By Goblins: Subverted. The Poo Lady is the daughter of a woman who was raised by goblins, and was forced to watch as a party of human "rescuers" brutally murdered the entire colony of goblins that had raised her with love all her life. Said child was then beaten, often, by her "rescuers" whenever she spoke in goblins (the only language she originally knew), did anything "goblin-like", and was forcibly educated to being more "normal". Said child escaped custody the second they let her out of the house.
  • Riddle for the Ages: The exact nature of Stinky is never explained, but he's clearly no ordinary goblin.
  • A Round of Drinks for the House: Vimes several times buys a round for all the patrons in the local pub, generally as a way to earn their gratitude, and once in an attempt to avert a Bar Brawl.
  • Running Gag: Vetinari vs the Times crossword compiler, carrying over from Moist's books. She seems to be getting to him.
    • Also, Vimes' tendency to accumulate increasingly-impressive and unwanted titles culminates (sort of), with him being declared King. But (to his immense relief) only of the River, for his role in bringing the Fanny in safely.
    • Specific to this book, the fact that any small child will be instantly and enormously entertained by any mention of disgusting bodily functions.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: When Vimes decides to take a relaxing bath, Sybil... joins him.
  • Shout-Out: A rather blatant one; a young country noblewoman named Jane, who wants to be a writer... The themes of Pride and Prejudice are decontructed by Vimes with extreme prejudice...
    • Also a bit of a Stealth Pun; The Bennets become the Gordons who go on to design and wear Gordon's Bonnets. ('Gordon Bennett' being a rather British exclamation of surprise or shock.)
    • Other shout-outs to classic British fiction in a rural setting include, but are not limited to, Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm, Thackeray's Vanity Fair, Trollope's Barchester Chronicles, Orwell's Animal Farm and the long-running BBC radio soap opera The Archers.
    • Adamantium is mentioned briefly.
    • The real-life case of Lord Lucan, who mistakenly murdered his children's nanny thinking she was his wife, and who disappeared without trace, thought to have escaped to Australia or South Africa with the closed-rank collusion of the British aristocracy (who together confounded and snarled up a police investigation by refusing to co-operate), is used here to illustrate the Discworld nobility's refusal to accept they are subject to the same law as anyone else. Even Sam Vimes had to give up investigating the Marquis of Fantailer's murder and flight to Fourecks in remarkably similar circumstances to Lucan's. Lucan's disappearance, amidst the absurd privilege enjoyed by British nobility, happened in 1974. And could so easily happen again tomorrow.
    • The smith's name: Jethro Jefferson - although "Jefferson" might, in context of slavery, also refer to Thomas Jefferson.
    • Entrepreneur and Self-Made Man Harry King has now been knighted, and he enters by throwing someone out of his office and telling them "You're fired!" It sounds a lot like a reference to Sir Alan Sugar, of the UK version of The Apprentice.
    • At one point, when a sworn-in country lawyer attempts to arrest Vimes, he decides not to let him do so that day. Immediately after, on his way to see the town constable, he informs Willikins that as a civilian he shouldn't get involved. Willikins tells Vimes that that is a hell of a thing to say to him.
    • After being sworn in as a special constable, Stinky tells Vimes that anyone who gets in his way will find he's their worst nightmare. "A goblin with a badge?" (No, says Stinky: "Stinky worst nightmare all by himself.")
    • Stinky don't need no badges.
    • Though previously mentioned in Thud!, one of the Watch's more recent constables is named Precious Jolson.
  • Sincerity Mode: Vimes is surprised to hear Nobby call a goblin girl a young lady without putting inverted commas around the word lady.
  • Single-Stroke Battle: The fight between Willikins and Stratford
  • Soul Jar: Literally. Colon finds one in a cigar.
  • Title Drop: Played with. Snuff is mentioned several times, but never in a context that is important to the plot.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Vimes chooses good right away, but he does get a bit angsty over it with hindsight. It is suggested this is the corruption of the Summoning Dark taking hold, as previous books had him firmly on the Lawful side of Lawful Good. In many instances in this book, he's doing outright unlawful things for the greater good.
  • Toilet Humor: The subject of a Running Gag.
  • Took a Level In Badass: Feeney goes from a nervous, brow-beaten rookie to doing things that make Vimes explicitly compare him to a young Carrot.
    • Two of Carrot's first acts were to (misguidedly) arrest the head of the thieves guild and knock out Detritus. Feeney outdoes him, achieving both at once by (misguidedly) arresting Vimes and knocking him flat on his back when he resists.
  • Unfortunate Name: Gravid Rust. The colonel considers that clearly no-one involved in choosing it knew animal husbandry. Also, Captain Murderer and the riverboat, which the captain named after his daughter Francesca: the Wonderful Fanny. Everyone else is hit in the face by Accidental Innuendo. [1]
  • Verbal Judo: Paradoxically, this time using this technique involves Vimes deliberately getting into a fight. It's just that he makes sure it doesn't have to really get real, and his opponent comes out subdued, if anything more so than if Vimes had just smashed his face in as he could have.
  • Wham! Line: "Inside that pot is the soul of a goblin child, and it's yours! Congratulations!"
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: What sets off the entire plot. No one seems to care that a goblin has been killed. For Vimes, on the other hand, murder is murder.
  • Would Not Hit a Girl: Both Flutter and Willikins. But especially Flutter, who doesn't tolerate goblins, but even he was truly horrified when Stratford killed a defenceless goblin girl.
  • You No Take Candle: Subverted. The goblins speak like this in their own language, at least as far as the Summoning Dark's translation is concerned. However, the two goblins we hear speaking Morporkian are both fairly fluent; one talks as though she was taking the words out of a filing cabinet and carefully slotting them in place, and the other sounds like a typical working-class city boy.

Notes

  1. If it's bad enough that American readers will see it as "nice ass", it's even more profane in British English.
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