In the eighth part of Snuff, Vimes tries to track down the truth but finds his life immediately complicated. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of racism, specifically anti-Asian stereotypes.
Pratchett literally told me through Vimes that Vimes would be suspected of Jethro’s murder. I just… didn’t expect the fallout to be so immediate? But now that I’m thinking back on what I just read, Pratchett is doing all of this on purpose. There’s a brief aside in the video for this split where I discuss how impressed I was with his decision to make Jiminy so unwilling to help Vimes. The easier creative path here would be to have Jiminy and Vimes bond over their shared career experience and that would be Vimes’s way into the thorny, labyrinthine mystery at the heart of this society.
Instead, Pratchett is building a world that feels intensely impenetrable. It’s why we keep seeing references to how things don’t work the same out in the country. Vimes is having to adapt to the fact that none of his normal techniques are working here, and let the first scene in this split be evidence of that. Vimes thought that his normal technique—using his power to intimidate, referring to a shared past—would be effective. Vimes’s has long used his street smarts and wisdom gleaned from being a copper for so long that I’m just used to him being more clever than everyone else in the room. So I initially thought this would work and Jiminy would let him inside the Goblin’s Head. But nope! And I love this little acknowledgement on Vimes’s part that maybe, just maybe, he may not get what he wants:
Vimes heard the tiny whine of fear in the man’s voice, but old coppers were tough. If you weren’t tough, you never because an old copper.
It’s like a game of chicken, isn’t it? Who will budge first? Can Vimes out-tough Jiminy? Turns out… nope:
“Look, I came here to retire, Vimes, and staying alive is part of that. I do not poke my nose into that which does not concern me.”
Vimes might have a dead body on his hand, but Jiminy simply doesn’t want to be dead. In that logic, I see why Jiminy comes out as the “winner,” so to speak. He doesn’t back down despite how much pressure Vimes puts on him! And so, Vimes is left alone in his quest to discover what’s going on with goblins in this community. I do want to note that there’s a very short line not long after this where Vimes refers to goblins in a fascinating way, and I think it helps explain one of the many reasons he is interested in solving this:
“Animals don’t wear jewelry,” said Vimes.
Most people characterize goblins as anything other than vermin. (Wasn’t that exact word used in the past?) But here, Vimes points out that the goblin ring suggests that he doesn’t see them as animals. This is a crime worth investigating because it’s not about the slaughter of an “animal.” The existence of a ring suggests an appreciation for art, or a desire to be perceived in a specific way, or that maybe goblins act like humans more than we’d like to admit.
Anyway! Some little things I want to also bring attention to: I love that Sybil and Vimes just get to be in love and there’s no threat to that. Neither does Pratchett avoid calling attention to it. It’s so damn refreshing! And there’s this great line, too:
Vimes was old enough to know that the senior staff got to eat the leftovers and therefore made certain there would be leftovers.
BRAVO, VIMES. I love shit like this!!!
And then we get to Feeney, and I’m reminded how often Pratchett has treaded in familiar fantasy tropes, only to then stomp all over them. I expected Feeney, the local Chief Constable, to be an older gentleman, one who ran a local farm and helped solve comparatively smaller crimes than Vimes was used to. I did not expect a TEENAGER, and I did not expect someone so nervous and uncertain of themselves. Well, uncertain to a point! Because while Vimes confuses Feeney so much that Feeney lets Vimes walk out of his home while trying to serve an arrest, Feeney surprises EVERYONE, including me. Turns out that he’s a lot tougher than he looks, and after Vimes takes his truncheon, Feeney pulls some weird move on Vimes that puts our Commander on the ground. I loved the reveal of a mixed, non-white character here, though I gotta say I was shocked to still see Pratchett use the same humor regarding “Asian” languages and puns. Like… okay, I don’t understand its use in the past, but this book was published much more recently, and I am less willing to overlook that here. The joke still seems to be at the expense of people whose language is “funny” and “foreign,” you know? And seriously, associating any sort of Asian-ness with dogs or eating dogs or cooking them is a HUGE no-no, so I could have done without all of this.
So, anyway, Feeney was otherwise a very interesting character. He is uncertain and nervous, and part of that comes from him knowing who Vimes is because of The Times. In a way, he’s meeting a hero or an idol! Except the context of that meeting is that he has to arrest Vimes on suspicion of the murder of Jethro. (Does that mean there’s a body???) He does so WHILE SYBIL WATCHES. So the entire exchange is written by Pratchett with an intense nervous energy. Poor Feeney is in way over his head! It doesn’t help that Vimes realizes at the end of this split that Feeney is most likely a pawn of the local magistrates. Did they order Feeney to arrest Vimes? Are they willing to sacrifice Feeney to keep something a secret??? VIMES IS ONTO SOMETHING!!! I totally believe his claim that Feeney is in danger, too. But why? What is he a part of?
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