Thud! (Discworld series, Volume 34)
by Terry Pratchett
I feel the book's title needs an explanation. Thud is a game sort of like chess combined with Risk or Stratego that's played by trolls and dwarfs on the Discworld. The object of the game is to reenact the legendary battle of Koom Valley, in which dwarfs and trolls fought each other over a thouand years earlier. There's been bad blood (or whatever trolls have) between the two races ever since.
And thud is also the sound made when a troll club whacks a dwarf over the head. That dwarf is a rabble-rouser in the metropolis of Ankh-Morpork who has been rallying dwarfs to fight trolls on the eve of Koom Valley Day. The murder takes place deep underground in a dwarf mine, which complicates things for Sam Vimes and the City Watch, as the dwarfs are not keen on outsiders wandering around their mine.
The murder is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, though. Even as the whole city seems ready to explode, a strange dwarf sign begins cropping up all over the place. As well, a priceless painting of the battle of Koom Valley has disappeared from the city museum. Somehow Vimes has to put all these pieces together to find out who murdered the dwarf--and why. Oh, and he has to do it all by six o'clock when he must read Where's My Cow? to his infant son--with all the appropriate noises.
This installment of the series I take it was supposed to be like The Da Vinci Code (or a lesser extent the National Treasure movies) in that there's a murder that leads to the unraveling of an important historical mystery. While I think overall Pratchett is a much better writer, Brown's story probably moved along a little better; Thud seems to plod along until an ending that generally makes it worthwhile. It probably needed a couple of good chase scenes thrown in there to get things moving.
On problem I had in particular was I really became bored with the Angua werewolf character. This is the fifth book that features her in a significant role, but all she ever seems to do is whine about being a werewolf--that and smell stuff and threaten to rip people's throats out. By now it's like, "I GET IT! Being a werewolf sucks! Let's move past it, shall we?" But that's the problem is that none of the secondary characters are really allowed to grow much. The relationship between Angua and Captain Carrot hasn't really moved forward since the beginning. You'd think after what's probably ten years or more they'd be getting serious, or something.
Vimes is the only character who seems to be given any development. Since appearing in "Guards! Guards!" (volume 8) he's gone from a lonely drunk to a civic leader with a wife and son. That kind of growth is what allows you to like the character more, not to mention it keeps him from stagnating like the others. It's too bad some of the others (like Angua or Carrot) aren't really given this same opportunity to develop.
Anyway, it was still an entertaining book, with a good message about racial tolerance and all that. And as I said earlier, it picks up in the end to make up for some of its deficiencies in the thrill department. It really could use a better title, though if you look at all 36 series titles, none of them really seem especially clever. I suppose it's what's on the inside that counts--isn't that what they always say?That is all.