Feet Of Clay (1996) by Terry Pratchett

Father Tubelcek and Mr Hopkinson, a priest and a baker, had nothing in common, apart from the fact that they were both dead – murdered. In a city like Ankh-Morpork, not many people care about the deaths of people like them. Thank goodness for the City Watch – Commander Vimes and Captain Carrot in particular. But they have other concerns as well – someone has managed to poison Lord Vetinari, the ruler of the city, despite all of the security in place.

As the Heads of the City Guilds pull together to plot the future of the city should Vetinari actually die – a future that obviously involves them in roles of the highest importance – something dangerous is roaming the city, something with glowing red eyes that seems to be indestructible. And even worse – it seems that the new heir to the throne of Ankh-Morpork is Corporal Nobby Nobbs…

Hang on, I hear you cry, this is supposed to be a crime fiction blog, isn’t it? Well, you possibly haven’t been around for long enough, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times that Terry Pratchett’s Men At Arms is, for me, one of the finest mystery novels that I’ve ever read. Saying that does spoil part of the reason I love it so much, because one of the main charms is that you don’t even realise you’re reading a mystery until the solution presents itself – you just think it’s the story of a crime. There are some other books that pull this trick, usually inverted mysteries with a twist, but Men At Arms has always stuck with me.

In fact, to varying degrees, the City Guards portion of Pratchett’s Discworld book all have some element of the mystery novel about them. This one has a lot going on, what with the odd behaviour of the golems, the story about Nobby’s elevation to royalty, the poisoning of Vetinari, the personal tribulations of Carrot and Angua… but it never feels cluttered. At the heart of it, there is a clued mystery as to who is ultimately behind the events as well as to how the poison is being delivered, but at one of these is very guessable. The other is hardly revolutionary, but it does work well with regards to the overall plot.

Most of all, though, this is a fun read. Sam Vimes was, I think, Pratchett’s greatest creation, and stories about him, coupled with the writer’s sense of humour and wonderful writing make this a great book – just the sort of thing when you need an easy read.

So apologies for the diversion from the norm – we’ll be back to normal with the next review. But I can’t promise that we won’t be heading back to Ankh-Morpork in the future…


  1. This is an absolutely brilliant book! I remember discussing it with John Curran one breakfast at Crimefest as an example of how flexible the Classic detective story could be. And there’s so much more to it than mystery. This is Terry Pratchett at the top of his game and they don’t get any better!


  2. It’s a great book and very deserving of being read as a detective novel – I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this one. I, for one, will be very happy if you do return to the Discworld as you hint.


  3. I love the City Watch books as well (especially the characters) and this was an excellent read. I don’t usually think of these when I think mystery but you’re right, all of them do have an element of mystery which turns out quite surprising.


  4. Gur zheqre vf n evss ba na vzcbffvoyr pevzr pbairagvba: vg frrzf gb unir orra pbzzvggrq ol n perngher yvtugre guna nve, gung pbhyq syl. Bs pbhefr, va guvf pnfr, jung frrzf na vzcbffvovyvgl vf n pyhr – gur zheqrere PBHYQ syl, orpnhfr vg’f n inzcver!


  5. Serious question (i.e., not sarcastic) … Is this a children’s book? Or some supposedly funny read? Or some high-concept Dada-esque absurdism? Names like Captain Carrot and Nobby Nobbs make me wonder.


    • Not a children’s book, although I imagine many children have read them. The Discworld series (of which the Guards books are a subset) is comic fantasy, but with mature (not smutty) themes. But there are childish jokes as well

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the informative answer. Having also read your review of Men at Arms, I may give either of those a try!


      • I’d be curious to see the reaction to someone approaching the books as crime novels and discovering Discworld, rather than the other way round which I think is how most people would read them


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