Book review: “Feet of Clay” by Terry Pratchett

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The ninteenth Discworld story once again features Commander Sir Samuel Vimes of the City Watch, with his now-dozens-strong corps of policemen that is slowly but surely coming into the Century of the Fruitbat in terms of investigative procedures.

In Maskerade it was already mentioned that Vimes had secret (undercover, or at least plainclothes) officers investigating secret crimes. Apparently he’s in a lot of trouble with a lot of rich people who are willing to pay good money to have him assassinated, but so far he’s managed to stay a step ahead of the Assassins’ Guild. Someone also has it in for Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, and someone else (perhaps) has started to lose faith in Carrot’s prospects of being crowned King and has turned his hopes toward, of all people, Nobby. And someone else yet is using golems (animated clay men who follow the orders of their master) to kill people in a string of crimes that form the central mystery of the tale.

The crime detection is aided by a new sort of CSI unit consisting entirely of a failed dwarf alchemist named (get ready for it) Cheery Littlebottom, and the sensory equipment available to the werewolf Sgt. Angua. The crimes are most perplexing. Someone has poisoned a poor old woman and her infant grandchild (fatally), AND the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork (not fatally). Someone has murdered two harmless old men in their places of business. Rats are mysteriously dying. And something has gone very wrong with the city’s work force of strong, silent golems (man-shaped, man-sized pottery that works without rest, powered by spells or prayers written on a paper “chem” enclosed in their heads).

Commander Vimes is up to his neck in this one, trying to keep the Patrician alive while struggling to figure out HOW he has been poisoned, let alone by whom. Angua is trying to think of a way to leave Carrot, but she can’t seem to break free of his magnetism. Cheery Littlebottom is trying to come to terms with her femininity. Colon is getting ready to retire and go into farming. Troll Sgt. Detritus is waging a war against drugs. Young Omnian Constable Visit-the-Infidel-With-Explanatory-Pamphlets tries to proselytize everyone at Pseudopolis Yard. And Nobby finds himself at the center of attention when the city’s nobles decide that HE may be the long-lost heir to the throne. And while the Watch increasingly becomes a melting pot of humans, trolls, dwarves, the odd gargoyle, and the undead, a truly diabolical enemy is closing in on target…

If I said any more, I would spoil the mystery, which is very exciting and which also, for the first time in Pratchett’s books, brought me to the point of tears. For further reading on golems I recommend Golem in the Gears by Piers Anthony (one of his numerous, pun-filled Xanth novels).

Recommended Age: 14+