The 39th 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
heavily deconstructs Fantastic Racism
in an even more Anvilicious
manner (and of course, Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped
). In contrast to the usual Watch novels this is a more Vimes-centric tale ŕ 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.
Preceded in the series overall by Unseen Academicals
, and in the Watch series by Thud!
. It is followed by Raising Steam
- Actually, I Am Him: The chicken farmer asks "Who do you think you are? Bloody Commander Vimes?" when told the boarders are police. Vimes asks him if he's always this lucky.
- Actually That's My Assistant: Stratford tries to deliberately trick Vimes into this, but Vimes isn't fooled.
- Arc Words: "Murder is murder," usuallly in proximity to "Murder. The capital crime," or "Not all sins are forgiven."
- "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".
- "The ball dropped."
- Aristocrats Are Evil: The Shires magistrates, but very averted with the Colonel.
- Also defied by His Grace, His Excellence, His Blackboard-Monitorship, the Duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, Lord of Ramkin Hall. And, by the end, King of the River.
- Also by Lady Sybil and the Gordons. Mostly averted by the first (she has the Sympathetic P.O.V., but it's a mistake to cross her) while the latter are nice enough if you're in the club.
- Lord Rust senior. He's incompetent, yes, but not actually evil.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Vimes completely overturns the Gordon sisters' proprieties, perspectives, and futures, by asking them what it is they actually do.
- Ascended Extra: Ensemble Dark Horse Willikins becomes a full main character in this novel, after largely remaining in the background in the past.
- Awesome but Impractical: Col. Makepeace's old regiment, the Light Dragons, used to breed swamp dragons for use in warfare. It never worked, and inspired him to title his memoirs Twenty-Four Years Without Eyebrows.
- Awesome Mc Cool Name: Captain Murderer.
- Awesome Music: 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.
- It should also be noted that, while Vetinari has had plenty of people killed for pragmatic reasons, this is the first time he has ever killed someone purely out of moral outrage.
- 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. The fact that it was her own piece may also have been a factor, since the other reason he read his music was that it was closer to the mind of the composer.
- Badass: Sam Vimes kicks ass and takes names even more than usual.
- Empowered Badass Normal: 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 Intimidating Revenue Service, keeping an eye on businesses and absolutely terrifying them just by showing up.
- Badass Normal: Willikins' past as a hard-fightin' kid off the streets is well established.
- 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: 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.
- Batman Grabs a Gun: In this and other books, Vimes frequently worries that he could become a monster if something ever pushes him to act outside the law, and hoped that he'd never come across something horrifying enough to push him across the line. In this book, he finally does encounter something that, while technically legal, is horrifying enough to make him take action anyway, concluding that a crime is still a crime, even when there's no law against it.
- Battle Butler: Willikins, showing more of the "battle" side than the "butler" this time. 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 compiler are the only thing that can drive the normally composed Lord Vetinari to what, from him, passes as a rant.
- Big Bad: Gravid Rust
- Bilingual Bonus: The 'avec' gag - The British-derived Ankh-Morporkian characters say that Quirmin (French) food is good, but uses too much "avec" - is never explained, but pretty easily found in the dictionary.note
- Bizarre and Improbable Ballistics: Vimes tells Willikins an anecdote about Pelvic Williams, a snooker player who specialized in sinking balls via this trope.
- Blatant Lies: So blatant that even Colon and Nobby spot it, when the tobacconist claims he's barely breaking even while sporting a new diamond tie pin and gold tooth.
- Book Ends: Early in the novel, Willikins tells how one of Sybil's ancestors bet he could see the smoke rising over Ankh-Morpork from atop Hangman's Hill in the Shires. When Vimes lights a bonfire to draw attention to his proclamation near the end of the book, the narrative bets it can be seen all the way to Ankh-Morpork.
- Booby Trap: Lady Sybil's ancestors took their security seriously, and the Ramkin Hall strongroom has multiple locking mechanisms guarded by some of these. Guillotines are involved.
- Brick Joke: Jane Gordon's novel. Pride and Extreme Prejudice.
- Young Sam asks about the naked lady statues that decorate the bridge at the Ramkin estate. When the damn slam appears behind the Wonderful Fanny, Vimes catches an improbable glimpse of a naked female form within the debris, as it's destroyed the bridge and swept up the statues.
- 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" and a "ho-hum", though whatever these might 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 long-established running gag also appearing as 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.
- Also, this isn't Gravid Rust's first encounter with the long arm of the law: In Feet of Clay mention is made of how Lord Rust's son got into a lot of trouble for shooting servants for putting his shoes on the wrong feet (most likely why he was made to leave Ankh-Morpork proper for the countryside). As Vimes put it then, "He'll have to learn right from left like the rest of us. And right from wrong, too." Apparently, the lesson didn't stick.
- The notion of hermits sitting on poles is dismissed as impractical, due to the poor restroom options. In Small Gods, St. Ungulant solves this dilemma by having a second pole with a privy on it.
- Willikins's favorite music-hall entertainer mimics country and farmyard sounds, including that of a farmer whose boot has come off in a dung-coated paddock and who has nowhere to set his unshod foot down but muck. Mort contemplated a similar dilemma twenty-nine Discworld books ago, or thirty-four if you count the young adult novels.
- Vimes mentions that dwarfs allegedly eat horses on the quiet. In Soul Music, Gloria was accused of salivating while looking at another student's pony.
- 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.
- One of Beedle's books is titled The Wee Wee Men. This is both a reference to the title of The Wee Free Men, and to the same corruption of the title used in the book itself.
- Cheerful Child: Young Sam, poo expert, instant friend to goblins.
- Chekhov's Gag: 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.
- 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.
- Cold Equation: Brought up specifically in A.E. Pessimal's concept of the "dreadful algebra".
- Collector of the Strange: Inspired by a book, Young Sam begins making his own poo collection. Back in Ankh-Morpork, a fad for collecting smells has become popular enough that Dave's Pin and Stamp Emporium is extending its sign again.
- Cool Old Lady: Granny Slick / Regret of the Falling Leaf.
- 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. Not even the Marquis fought according to them, given how he stabbed his wife to death.
- 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, er lowest, er let's just say "most important" honor he can bestow.
- A.E. Pessimal, the bureaucrat looking over the Watch in Thud! is now the Watch's feared forensic accountant.
- Events in Thud! have left their mark on Vimes.
- 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.
- The book Vetinari reads at the beginning, whose author is actually willing to acknowledge Goblins having a culture and religion is Mightily Oats, whose religion-inspired liberal views had already been displayed with Mr Nutt.
- This is the second time that a performer's self-composed piece of harp music has touched the souls of an Ankh-Morpork audience.
- Willikins mentions how Young Sam enjoyed the game of looking for Dad when they were observing Vimes through a telescope. As mentioned in Thud! and shown in the Defictionalized Where's My Cow?, Vimes once reduced Young Sam to delighted, squealing giggles by revising the latter to "Where's My Daddy?".
- The goblins are a good example of "edge people", as defined by Rincewind in The Science of Discworld II. In this case, they're unfortunately in the process of being pushed over the edge.
- Dr. Lawn has been hiring Igorinas at his hospital. In Monstrous Regiment, an Igorina enlisted as an Igor because as a female she'd only been allowed to close up after operations, not initiate them.
- When Wee Mad Arthur takes on a group of guards at a plantation, he's described as a force that runs up your trouser leg and leaves you in no condition to fight whatsoever. No, not a Groin Attack, but a reference to his very first appearance in Feet Of Clay, where he takes down two humans, one of which where he runs up a trouser leg... and breaks the man's knee.
- 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 — contrived coincidences happen to them all the time.
- 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 notices just how much Sybil can get done when she puts her mind to it.
- Darker and Edgier: On par with Night Watch, I Shall Wear Midnight and Thud! which are usually seen as the darker ones.
- Dead Guy on Display: The gibbet in Dead Man's Copse still has a pile of crumbling bones beneath it as a legacy of this trope.
- 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.
- ‘Stinky don’t need no badges, fellow po-leess-maan! Stinky worst nightmare all by himself! Remember a little boy? Little boy open book? And he see evil goblin, and I see nasty little boy! Good for us, little boy, that we were both right!’
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The enslavement of the local goblins calls to mind both the Holocaust (the neighbours turn the other way), the African slave trade and the treatment of Australian Aborigines.
- The tragic experiences of Miss Beedle's mother are similar to those of non-Native children or young women taken in by Native American tribes in the 17th to 19th centuries, only to be forcibly "rescued" and "re-educated".
- On a more mundane note, the plot of this book has more than a little in common with Feet of Clay.
- The ominously ticking owl clock that troubles Death/Bill Door in Reaper Man is also present in Miss Beedle's cottage to worry Vimes. Like Death looking out over fields of corn, Vimes has an epiphany looking down on the Ramkin land from a high place. Whether he wants to be or not, he is Lord of the Manor and has a responsibility to the land and the people to govern fairly. That means everyone, including Goblins.
- Double Meaning: Vimes muses that all married couples probably have their own unique phrases they use to send each other covert messages, such as Sybil employs to warn him not to antagonize their dinner guests. Sure enough, he overhears one of the couples he'd been antagonizing use such Non Sequitur phrases to scold one another as they're departing.
- Drink Order: Vimes' and Willikins' growing camaraderie is demonstrated by the latter having devised an alcohol-free beverage which entirely sates the former's lingering taste for booze, if not his body's yearning.
- 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 Drumknott, 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.
- He does have very strict standards, however, as discussed in several other books.
- A more cynical way of looking at it is that, since Ankh-Morpork is a very rich superpower, the other rulers know better than to continue abusing a group they've recently extended full rights to, especially since it came about on behalf of the famous Samuel Vimes.
- 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.
- Entitled Bastard: Gravid Rust, who first came to Watch attention in an earlier book for whipping a servant who laid out his shoes the wrong way round. Vimes commented then that Gravid's learning right from wrong was more important than the servant knowing right from left.
- Equivalent Exchange: "Hearts must give", and Vimes must loan his picture of Young Sam for one of Tears of the Mushroom's unggue pots. Both are equally personal, and equally precious to the giver.
- Even Evil Has Standards: "I'm a scallywag, not a damn murderer!"
- Even Hotheads Who Pick Fights Love Their Mamas: Jethro insists that Vimes go on record promising not to retaliate against his mum before their fistfight begins.
- Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: Igor describes a tropical weevil that's been known to lay its eggs in people's brains, entering them through the ears and then exiting their skulls via the nostrils. Also, the Noodle Incident in which a crime was solved because something tried to lay eggs in Nobby's nose.
- Fantastic Drug: The bad guys are involved in smuggling Crystal Slam, a very dangerous troll drug.
- 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.
- Flanderization: Willikins, formerly a model manservant with a perhaps somewhat checkered past (perhaps even a chessed and backgammoned one, at that), now cannot let a paragraph in which he figures pass by without it containing some or several references to his myriad methods of maiming menfolk, though at least he only seems to show this side of himself around Vimes.
- Stephen Brigg's reading of the audiobook gives Willikins an appropriately posh butler-type accent, but that makes his dialogue a little jarring.
- Foreign Queasine:
- Averted, the Morporkians all like Quirmian cooking, but they do use too much avec.
- Folks around the Ramkin estate are also partial to a bit of Bang Duck Suck (or Man Dog Suck Po on Sundays).
- 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. He also commits what is arguably piracy in seizing Captain Murderer's ship, although it turns out not to be, since kidnapping Jethro was illegal even if kidnapping the goblins wasn't.
- Describing Colon's illness, Angua mentions that he acts as if he's very hot, even though his room is at a comfortable temperature. The goblin infant whose Soul Jar has afflicted him had died in a sweltering slave-shack in tropical Howondaland.
- Gravid Rust first came to Watch attention in an earlier book for whipping a servant who laid out his shoes the wrong way round. Explaining this to Vetinari, Vimes remarked that there was a lad who needed to know right from wrong as well as right from left.
- 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.
- Good People Have Good Sex: Implied between Vimes and Sybil.
- Hamster Wheel Power: The Old Treachery riverboats are powered by oxen on treadmills.
- Hand or Object Underwear: The master bathroom's decorators used the ever-popular convenient piece of gauze to prevent its sculptures from becoming pornography rather than art. Why they bothered isn't clear, considering how the same bathroom's frescoes avert this trope. A lot.
- Hate Sink: For a guy who doesn't appear in person so much as once, Gravid Rust manages to be even more odious than his father ever was. Even Stratford hates him and wants to turn evidence just to get back at him.
- 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.
- Hold Your Hippogriffs: One of the culprits is told he can't expect to be let off Feegle free.
- Horsing Around: Subverted. Vimes expects to make a complete fool of himself when Feeney and he have to ride overland to catch the Wonderful Fanny, but Stinky does something to his horse to make it cooperate and facilitate Vimes's not falling off.
- Darkest Howondaland: the slave farm is deliberately located in one of the remotest, darkest and most inaccessible places on Disc.
- I'll Pretend I Didn't Hear That: Vimes speculates aloud at the "remarkable coincidence" that a Burleigh and Stronginthearm Piecemaker Mark IX could wind up in the hands of one of the mob outside Feeney's lockup, when the only one still existent is sealed up in his cellar at home. He knows that of course it's there, because Willikins and he sealed it up themselves. Just like of course he knows it'll still be there when he gets home and — after a suitable delay for Willikins to put it back — checks. Then he offers Willikins a raise.
Vimes: You may think you see me lighting a cigar, Willikins, but on this occasion, I think, you eyes may turn out to be at fault, do you understand?
Willikins: Yes, and in fact I am deaf as well, commander.
- In the Blood: Willikins, presuming his own criminal tendencies to be an example of this, speculates that he could find out who his father was by visiting the cemetery at the Temple of Small Gods, shouting "Dad, I'm going to be a copper", and seeing which of the headstones starts revolving.
- Interspecies Romance: It's mentioned that a troll and a dwarf have struck up a relationship. Also, Nobby Nobbs gets himself a goblin girl (though the jury is still out on whether this actually counts).
- 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: The Shires are not subject to the law of Ankh-Morpork. Even though Vimes is technically the lord of his lands, he has no jurisdiction as a police officer - that belongs to the self- appointed magistrates. To Vimes, though, the only jurisdiction he needs is that a murder has been committed, because murder is a universal crime.
- 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.
- Kick the Dog: Vimes cites a case when a man did something much worse than kick his dog, which Vetinari took as an indication of his personality and ordered his house searched for evidence of worse behavior. The man was hanged, but not for the dog.
- 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".
- Knight Fever: Harry King, of The Truth and Making Money fame, is now Sir Harold King.
- Lampshade Hanging: Discussing Jane Gordon's literary efforts, Vimes goes off on a tangent about how an author might examine the psychology of police who must think like the criminals they pursue. Essentially, this is what Pterry has been using Vimes himself to do, all along.
- 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.
- The Man in the Mirror Talks Back: Vimes has a moment like this while taking the Black-Eyed Susan back to the Shires, where his reflection warns him that Stratford won't stop at killing Vimes.
- 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.
- Col. Makepeace ponders aloud whether his name is Meaningful or Non-Indicative, given his military background.
- Meaningful Rename: Mr. Jiminy's pub is called The Goblin's Head. By the end of the novel, it's become The Commander's Arms. Very meaningful, when you think about it.
- 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.
- Mercy Kill: Wee Mad Arthur gives one before doing what he does best.
- 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".
- My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Vimes suggests Feeney use "the old Bang Suck Cling Buck" on some villains, and Feeney remarks that that's a recipe for shoe polish. Played with when Vimes mis-remembers the name of one of Mrs. Upshot's Bhangbhangduc-style dishes, but the erroneous name turns out to be a different dish that's just not what she's serving today.
- Mythology Gag: Miss Beedle mentions having written fifty-seven books at the time she meets Vimes. The "Also by" page of Snuff lists fifty-seven titles, not counting the graphic novel adaptations of the first two Discworld books.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: The Summoning Dark shows up out of nowhere to give Vimes a way of understanding Goblin language.
- The Non Descript: 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.
- At some point in his law enforcement career, someone Vimes was arresting tried to kill him with a very large salmon.
- The Nose Knows: Billy Slick pegs Angua for a werewolf immediately, claiming he can smell it's so.
- 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.
- Offscreen Karma: Gravid Rust is strongly implied to be assassinated by one of Vetinari's Dark Clerks in the wake of the exposure of his shady dealings.
- One Feegle Army: Wee Mad Arthur takes on a batch of slave-owners with characteristic ease.
- 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.
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Wee Mad Arthur's response to a slave-keeper on a tobacco plantation telling him there's no law out here? "Guess again."
- Precision F-Strike: Sybil referring to someone as a bitch. It's actually quite jarring, given previous characterization.
- 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 and Judy: "Feeney not only looked pleased as punch, but pleased as Punch, Judy, the dog Toby, the crocodile and, above all, the policeman."
- 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 the goblin tongue (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.
- Vimes mis-naming the various Bhanbhangduc-style recipes that Feeney's grandmother introduced to the region, all of which have names that sound like rude Word Salad in Morporkian.
- Saving The World With Art: Tears of the Mushroom's stunning harp performance convinces the elite of Ankh-Morpork and many visiting dignitaries that goblins like her are worthy of all the rights and legal protections extended to other sentient races. This saves her kind from ignominy, enslavement, and likely extinction.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: When Vimes decides to take a relaxing bath, Sybil... joins him.
- Shamu Fu: Apparently, someone once tried to kill Vimes with "a very large salmon".
- Shaped Like Itself:
You learned to smell blood. It smelled like metal. Now, people would say that metal doesn't smell, it does, but it smells like blood.
- 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 deconstructed 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.
- 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.
- 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 (now Lord) Alan Sugar, of the UK version of The Apprentice.
- Tombstone: 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 don't need no badges, fellow po-lees-man! Stinky worst nightmare all by himself.")
- Though previously mentioned in Thud!, one of the Watch's more recent constables is named Precious Jolson, a large Howondan-Morporkian woman and possibly a reference to either The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency or Precious. (Snuff was written shortly after the film of the latter came to the cinemas.)
- Wee Mad Arthur's method of acquiring a steed for his flight to Howondaland is identical to the technique used in James Cameron's Avatar, though not the first time something like has happened in the series.
- One of Sybil's ancestors won a bet by having Hangman's Hill made taller, a la The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain. Another had a run-in with a falling apple which satirizes the pop-culture account of Sir Isaac Newton.
- Shown Their Work: Living entirely on rabbits, as the goblins were doing before Miss Beedle intervened, really does lead to severe malnutrition due to vitamin and fat deficiencies.
- 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. A fists-only version occurs between Jethro and the Queen's first mate.
- Sophisticated as Hell: Willikins is prone to switching from "gentleman's gentleman" to "street thug" here, especially when it's just him and Commander Vimes.
"No, sir, it's your house, and since I am your personal manservant I, by the irrevocable laws of the servants' hall, outrank every one of the lazy buggers!"
- Soul Jar: The "pot of tears" is a literal example; it's used to contain the soul of a mercy killed goblin child. Colon finds one in a cigar.
- Spit Take: Vimes' reaction to a Quirmian guard telling him the goblin slaves from the Wonderful Fanny have been put on the Queen of Quirm, bound for Howondaland.
Never in the field of coffee-making had so much of the stuff been sprayed so far and over so many.
- Tempting Fate: While trying to catch up with the Wonderful Fanny during a storm, Feeney tells Vimes that they shouldn't have to worry about the storm unless it causes the build-up of a Damn Slam. Three guesses as to what eventually happens.
- 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. The fact that he's out of his jurisdiction might also have been a factor in this.
- Toilet Humor: The subject of a Running Gag, with Young Sam's keen interest in poo.
- 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 is just as impressive, achieving both at once by (misguidedly) arresting Vimes and knocking him flat on his back when he resists.
- Twisted Ankle: Pleasant Contrast, the goblin whose murder Vimes sets out to solve, stepped into a rabbit snare while fleeing her attacker.
- Unfortunate Name:
- Gravid Rust. The colonel considers that clearly no-one involved in choosing it knew animal husbandry.
- Nor, presumably, did the parents of riverboat captain Gastric Sillitoe own a dictionary.
- Also, Captain Murderer and the riverboat, which Mr. Sillitoe named after his wife Francesca: the Wonderful Fanny. Everyone else is hit in the face by the Accidental Innuendo. note
- Mr. Praise-and-Salvation False feels compelled to explain the origins of his awkward name upon first meeting Vimes, even though they're in an extreme life-or-death situation at the time.
- Vapor Trail: Vimes soaks a wooden tower in brandy and then leaves a trail of brandy leading away from it. He ignites the tower by dropping his cigar in the trail of brandy.
- 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.
- Virgin in a White Dress: Sybil mentions that a particularly ridiculous tradition (the maids must turn to the wall when being spoken to by a man) happened so the girls "wouldn't feel ashamed of wearing white on their wedding day.")
- Vomiting Cop: Vimes comes pretty close while pursuing the Queen of Quirm offshore, but averts this trope because he finally has bacon sandwiches and refuses to let seasickness forfeit his chance to enjoy them. And also, possibly, because Stinky helped him endure it.
- 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.
- Written by the Winners: For the goblins, all of history is this trope. According to Unseen Academicals, even The Empire wrote them off as too stupid and petty to be usefully evil. Pastor Oats' treatise is the closest anyone has gotten to a proper ethnographic description of their culture...because so many people refuse to believe they have one.
- 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.
- Eloquent In My Native Tongue: Their language is actually richly textured, with an enormous number of words for emotions, how colors mix together, and the like, but it doesn't necessarily translate well.