Funny and erudite, this story of murder is tender and shocking. Once again, Sir Terry asks us to question our own humanity through the lens of Discworld. Oh, to be able to hear the music described within.
Sam Vimes is off to the countryside for a much-resisted family holiday. Needless to say, his unerring nose for a crime ensures that he can crack a few heads, right a few wrongs, lean on a few upper class nobs and generally mix business with pleasure...
This is Terry's 39th Discworld outing and they do just keep getting better. I have strong recollections of his earliest works and I think, if you lay Snuff alongside something like The Colour of Magic you really can see how his style has matured over the intervening 30 years (THIRTY YEARS! Gods!).
Now, I know that there are plenty of fans who bemoan this progression and who yearn for the early days, but I used the word "matured" fairly carefully. So, Snuff is, like most of his more recent works, serious, dark, ironic and relevant, in comparison to the parodical, humorous and, yes, rather childish early novels. That's to be expected - he is really a far better author now than he was then; but let's be very clear, even the early Pratchett was a far better author than any of the current crop of popular fantasy authors (ahem - and authoresses, I shall name no names).
In any case, despite now being a "grown-up" author, Pratchett easily manages to retain enough of his trademark humour that reading Snuff is still fun for readers of any age, despite the serious messages he is trying to convey. As evidence, I submit Sam's introduction to the game of Crockett...
..."Vimes died. The sun dropped out of the sky, giant lizards took over the world, and the stars exploded and went out and all hope vanished and gurgled into the sinktrap of oblivion... And there, magically reincarnated, was Vimes, a little dizzy, standing on the village green looking into the smiling countenance of an enthusiast"
However, it seems to me that Snuff is about the protection and emancipation of the downtrodden (by no means a new theme for Sir Terry) and who better to take the mantle of emancipator than Sam Vimes? liberator of golems, employer of zombies and trolls, protector of dragons and honorary blackboard monitor. Ironic really because, as head of the City Watch, Vimes is really Ankh Morpork's most powerful oppressor* and perhaps Terry has another message for us here. Who can say?
All in all, this is typical, archetypal Pratchett. Beautifully written, intelligent and thoughtful but, most importantly, it is entertainment of the first order.
And watch out for the homage to Pride and Prejudice.
* You might suggest that Lord Vetinari holds that title. I'm sure he would be most eager to discuss the allegation with you. At length.