Six Suspects: Detective Fiction Paperback – 26 Feb 2009
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Audio CD, Audiobook, Unabridged
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"I do not normally recommend crime novels more than 500 pages long, but I am making an exception with Vikas Swarup It's unusual, witty, quirkily, cleverly plotted, intelligent, and along the way it's an informative satire on Indian politics and values...a rollicking good read" (Marcel Berlins Times)
"Gleeful, sneaky fun" (Janet Maslin New York Times)
"Fascinating, multi-voiced slice of Indian life across the castes with political corruption at its centre...a lovely, lovely book" (Sarah Broadhurst Bookseller)
"A page-turner of a mystery" (Waterstones' Quarterly)
"Neat, clever and loads and loads of fun" (Daily Sport)
An Indian Agatha Christie...a page turning murder mystery in the bestselling tradition of Alexander McCall Smith, by the author of the bestselling SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.See all Product description
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The novel focusses on each of the six in turn, in two sections. The first sets the scene for each of the characters, the second describes the events that give each a motive. This takes up most of the novel, with just a short section at the end to tie things up and of course, reveal the culprit.
This provides a fascinating portrait of disparate aspects of life in modern India, however some sections are wildly implausible and some of the characters are too extreme to be believable. I suspect this is intentional in the writing - i.e. it's meant to be slightly grotesque. But that style never works too well for me. I think the main problem with this book though is the structure. The chapters are just too long. It would have worked better in my opinion to have shorter chapters and move more frequently between the characters. By the time I'd finished the very long section on each suspect, I'd forgotten all about the others and found myself trying frantically to remember the background to the character I was reading about.
Certainly 'Six 'Suspects' has many good aspects, and I often enjoyed reading it and found particular sections very intriguing. If only it could all hang together better to give a smoother reading experience.
In between these bookends are 4 sections each comprising 6 chapters, one for each of the suspects. The sections are headed:SUSPECTS; MOTIVES;EVIDENCE; and finally SOLUTIONS.
The suspects come from all parts of society, a bureaucrat; a politician; a Bollywood star; a graduate slum-dweller; an American redneck and a young tribal man from the Andamans. As the stories of the characters are developed we get transported all over India and experience sights and sounds of Mumbai; Delhi; Chennai; Kolkata; Srinagar; Varanasi; Lucknow; Jaisalmer; and little Andaman, no name a few. It is a very enjoyable galloping journey around India and full of drama.
The lives of the rich and poor alike are riddled with cruelty and corruption as they scrabble to get to the top or stay at the top of their pile. Innocence, kindness and care for others is only to be found on the fringes of their societies. The author pours scorn on the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, the police, the judiciary and the business world. There is none that doeth good, no not one. At times it is a very stark portrayal of wickedness but the author writes with humour too so you get the message without feeling hectored. The American is the clown in the book but doesn't he do well!
In the end a man gets a bullet in the head and no-one sheds any tears for him, he is not the real victim of the story as you will discover if you endure to the end. A good read.
The characters include a bureaucrat whose body is invaded by a spirit, a Bollywood actress, a member of an ancient tribe attempting to locate a sacred object stolen from them, a mobile phone thief, a politician, and a hapless American. Although this novel has much that will make you think and feel, it is also extremely funny. Larry Page, the American who arrives in India hoping for a mail order bride and is then kidnapped by some terrorists only slightly less useless than he is, brings humour to situations that you feel few other authors have been brave enough to tackle. All have their reasons for wanting the unlikeable Vicky Rai dead - but who pulled the trigger? I have to say, the story is in the journey and this is a very entertaining and thought provoking read.
At times very clumsy, but it does give a good insight into parts of modern Indian culture, and is quite memorable (I read it a few months ago).
7 / 10
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'