Author: Terry Pratchett
Publisher: Harper (October 11, 2011)
Available: $15.84 at Amazon
Rating: 4 stars
Plot summary: Sam Vimes is going on vacation. To the countryside. And Sybil and Young Sam are, of course, coming along. But things here aren’t all quiet nights and milking cows. Something is afoot: something that smells (and it isn't just Young Sam's new favorite hobby). Before Sam can shake a walking stick, he’s pulled into a mystery wrapped up in a country-bred blanket.
The good and the bad: Let me first say that Sam Vimes is perhaps my favorite character – ever – by any author outside my own storytelling. I love Sam, adore him, identify with him, and fervently wish I knew him. But there are parts of this book where I don’t even recognize him. Or Sybil, his wife, for that matter. For instance, at one point toward the beginning, Sybil makes some remarks about how Sam “matters” now, and how maids do not, and I had to take a step back. I nearly put the book away then.
One of the things I love about these characters, this writer, and this world is Pratchett's razor-sharp insight that pierces “things” – beliefs, usually – most of us never even realize are there, much less examine. Often that means peeling back the skin of some pretty fundamental ideas, like religion, and class. And one thing Pratchett is not is an apologist for the peerage, and that’s one of the things I like most about him.
However, I read Pratchett not for insight, but for comfort. His characters are, at heart, profoundly good, and there is an underlying sweetness and redemption to all he writes. When things in the real world push me down, I hide in an alley behind a cardboard box and devour Sam Vimes.
Despite its shortcomings, the story redeems itself, and I felt touched before the final pages, but, and while I’ll keep the book, this is not a story I’ll read again for a while.