Title: Six Suspects
Author: Vikas Swarup
Release Date: July 7, 2009
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Mystery, Multicultural Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5
Vicky Rai, the son of a prominent government official, has been murdered at a party at a farmhouse outside of Delhi. There are many people who wanted him dead – after all, the party was hosted by Vicky in celebration of his acquittal for a murder everyone knew he committed. Six people at the party had guns that matched the bullet that killed Vicky. The book takes the reader through each suspect’s background and motives for wanting Vicky Rai dead.
Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup has a very interesting premise. There really is no overall narrative; it begins with a journalist, who is covering the Vicky Rai case and outlines the six suspects in his murder. Then, the narrative shifts between each of the suspects, allowing each to tell their story in their own words. It’s not a very traditional way of telling a story, and I can’t say that the experiment really worked, but more on that later. First, I’ll focus on the laudable parts of the novel.
Six Suspects really works as a satire on Indian society, the legal system, and the current pop culture. It’s also very funny – Swarup errs on the side of humor, rather than seriousness, and it works well for the tone of the book. He also does take the reader on twists and turns, to the point where they’re sure of who the murderer really was. Then he throws a kink in what seems to be ironclad reasoning, and the reader must start all over again.
The problem is that Six Suspects doesn’t really work as a mystery. It’s too loosely plotted; things only really start to come together at the end of each suspect’s narrative, at which point the reader has to start all over again with a brand new person. As I went into the book expecting a mystery, it didn’t really satisfy me. Additionally, none of the characters are likeable. It makes sense that people the reader is investigating for murder might not be easy to like, but it made the novel difficult to read. In particular, the unbelievably stupid American’s story is both frustrating, slow, and pushes the limits of any credulity. As this book is a satire, I can justify it in my mind, but it still didn’t really make for an enjoyable reading experience.
I really wanted to like Six Suspects, but it just didn’t work for me in the end. The mystery wasn’t tightly plotted enough to carry the story, and it’s too much of a satire for a satisfying armchair visit to contemporary India. There are definitely people who might enjoy this story, especially if you’re looking for a good satire on India, but I have to say that it left me wanting.