Deepti Kapoor bursts onto the crime scene with Age of Vice a compulsively readable descent into a world where money and crime are practically synonymous. Kapoor explores corruption in the Indian business and political systems.
The action for most of Age of Vice revolves around a car accident in which five people are killed. Ajay, a servant goes to prison for the deaths but it is clear there is something not right about this. The narrative then follows Ajay’s story – from being a child essentially sold into servitude to becoming the personal servant of Sunny Wadia, the wealthy and profligate son and nephew of a pair of dangerous and corrupt men. This story introduces Neda, a journalist who ends up in a secret relationship with Sunny. The second section of the book then builds up to the car accident from Neda’s perspective, putting a different spin on some of the scenes told from Ajay’s point of view. When the action catches back up to the aftermath of the accident, Kapoor’s attention turns to Sunny and his attempts to ingratiate himself with his father while also trying to chart a new course.
Behind and around all of this is the corruption and violence that Kapoor sees in modern India. A country in which the rich get richer on the backs of the poor. In which corrupt businesses work hand in glove with corrupt politicians to ensure that everyone’s pockets are lined. Kapoort describes a world that runs on money, violence and drugs. She presents it all in a way that is extremely engaging even while the nastier elements are not sugar-coated.
While many narratives of this type focus on the corrupt themselves, Kapoor is more interested in those caught up in their wake. Characters who start with some spark of goodness but soon find themselves compromising. Ajay has the least chance of the three, but through it all he is trying to do right by his family, even if this drive too is taken and misused. Neda slowly comes to understand the depths of corruption of the Wadia clan but is bound to it through her connection with Sunny. And Sunny has at times convinced himself that he is doing the right thing, that he is coming out of his father’s shadow, only to find that shadow is much more expansive than he previously understood. But she is also interested in all of the hangers on – the people who do nothing but profit from the misery of others.
Age of Vice becomes a bit muddied as it hurtles towards its conclusion. But this is the first of a trilogy so it is likely that many of the threads that just feel abandoned are actually minor cliffhangers which will be resolved in a sequel. And given the engaging nature of the narrative and the issues still in play, a sequel cannot come soon enough.