SIX SUSPECTS is far from a traditional mystery. It does start out like one, though. Vivek (“Vicky”) Rai is the playboy son of the gangster-turned-politician Home Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Vicky is used to being able to do exactly as he pleases and uses his money and his father’s position to get away with any crime he chooses to commit, including murder. At a party he throws to celebrate his acquittal in a case in which he murdered a young woman in front of dozens of witnesses, the lights go out and Vicky is shot dead. Six of the guests are found to have guns and it remains only to determine which one’s gun shot the fatal bullet straight through Vicky’s body.
If motive, means and opportunity are the elements examined in your usual mystery, forget about that in this one. Means and opportunity are identical for all six suspects. Four hundred of 470 pages in this book are spent delving into the lives of the six suspects and how each one came to have a motive to murder Vicky. Each suspect’s story is compelling. As in SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, wildly improbable events occur for good and ill that bring each character to Vicky Rai’s party on the fateful night, prepared to kill him.
In her New York Times review, Janet Maslin called SIX SUSPECTS “a Bollywood version of the board game Clue with a strain of screwball comedy thrown in.” This book is as over-the-top as any Bollywood movie, but the comparison to Clue is misplaced and you’re better off forgetting that reference. It will be disappointing if you think of it as a mystery. It doesn’t fit any genre. It’s a dizzying ride through modern Indian society bookended with a murder and its solution. Even the solution is far from traditional, though.