Brittany's Reviews > Six Suspects

Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup
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Aug 14, 09

bookshelves: international-flavour, mystery, fiction
Recommended to Brittany by: Me
Recommended for: Fans of the films Babel and Slumdog Millionaire
Read in August, 2009, read count: 1

How I Came To Read This Book: It was a gift.

The Plot: Vicky Rai is the playboy son of a corrupt Indian bureaucrat - he's also newly acquitted from a murder he was clearly guilty for, a verdict that has the entire country of India up in arms. When Vicky throws a party to celebrate his freedom, he's subsequently murdered - and a motley crue of 6 suspects are taken into custody for possessing guns. A deeply dedicated investigative journalist concedes he will do what it takes to uncover the murderer of Vicky - not because Vicky himself is particularly important or deserving (within the story and to the reader) but because Vicky Rai represents all that is wrong within the Indian justice system. From there, Swarup divides each section of his book (background, motives, evidence, aftermath) into six stories written in six unique styles surrounding the six suspects. The stories are as diverse as following a tribal man on a spirit quest to a Bollywood sex symbol to a backwoods American seeking his mail order bride, while the styles range from diary entries to omniscient third-person to written almost entirely in dialogue.

The Good & The Bad: I liked this book quite a bit - a fair bit more than the last murder mystery I read, DB Shan's "Hell's Horizon" (which I also gave 4 stars). Its main strength lies in the focus on the murder suspects over the crime and victim, which are really incidental in the exploration of how someone can be driven to murder (or is really just in the wrong place at the wrong time). Indeed, as the book lays out in its first few pages and resolves in its conclusion, the story is never really about Vicky Rai so much as India as a whole and the corruption that runs rampant in all systems that exist there. It was also fun to get into these six different stories - some were more successful than others - and I learned to appreciate them all at one point or another. Knowing that they'd end up Vicky's party as murder suspects, you spent a lot of each story being like "How is this ever going to happen?" but Swarup successfully positions all 6 gun-wielding guests in a sense that they could indeed have pulled the trigger (conveniently) - but even then the suspect is not so easily fingered.

I think some people might be turned off by some of the style variations in the book, but I felt it was fascinating to see the challenge laid before Swarup - this is an ambitious book and I felt like it mostly succeeded. The book often reminded me of the film Babel in its circular nature, and provided plenty of "Ah-ha!" moments of connections and links that were either previewed or revealed or surprising. I suppose others might be overwhelmed by the integration of Indian culture in this book - if you've never read a book set in India I can definitely see this story as more challenging to grasp...but I still liked it. A lot.

The Bottom Line: A fun book on many levels - writing style, character development, guessing games - that ends with a surprisingly poignant message.

Anything Memorable: Nope.

50-Book Challenge: Book #34 in 2009.
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