DOUBLEDAY, £12.99, Order for £11.69 (FREE P&P) on 08700 798 897

Six Suspects, By Vikas Swarup

Exposé fails to open a passage into the real India

If a Martian sent a postcard from urban India after watching the country's highly competitive television channels, he might focus on its crime. A wealthy industrialist gets away after crushing people, asleep while he drove; an irate rich brat at a bar guns down an attractive hostess who refuses to serve him that last drink; or a Bollywood star shoots a rare animal and, when prosecuted, wonders what the fuss is all about.

Put these scandals – all real – together in one dislikeable character, Vicky Rai. Have him murdered, and create six suspects, each with a motive. There's a corrupt bureaucrat who claims to have become Mohandas Gandhi, India's founding father; a US tourist who thinks he is about to marry a pen-friend, not knowing what lies ahead; an Onge tribesman who tries to recover a stolen relic; a superficial Bollywood sex goddess who quotes Sartre; a thief who steals mobile phones and finds himself mired in something bigger than he can handle; and a politician who will stoop as low as needed to conquer (he is Rai's father). Each character has a weapon: a British Webley & Scott, an Austrian Glock, a German Walther PPK, an Italian Beretta, a Chinese Black Star pistol and a locally improvised katta – perhaps a comment on India's rapid globalisation.

If our Martian friend wrote all that, you might commend his grasp of a new language and his interest in an alien culture. But Vikas Swarup, who has written this curiosity described as a novel, is an Indian diplomat who has already published one successful novel, Q & A. Six Suspects does not need Hercule Poirot, because the crimes Swarup draws on are real, and he does not sufficiently fictionalise them to make them interesting.

Urban India may seem superficial, but it can be fascinating, and a roman-à-clef can be charming. Shobhaa De, India's bestselling novelist, has documented the racy reality of its upper class for nearly two decades. And Salman Rushdie magically transforms urban events into mythical drama. Six Suspects does none of this. It pretends to be an exposé of what Indian newspapers call "page-three celebrities", a fully-clothed urban élite whose lives revolve around parties. But the plot is thin, the language insipid and abounding with clichés. And what about the six characters? They are in search of an author. They remain cardboard cut-outs.

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea