Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor
Published by Riverhead
Publication date: January 3, 2023
Genres: Debut, Fiction, Cultural
Anyone else remember the good old days of Sidney Sheldon, Penny Vincenzi, Nelson DeMille, any of those authors who wrote massive novels that were so stuffed with plot you couldn’t stop reading? Maybe it’s just my reading taste, but most of the longer novels I read now are literary fiction or historical. It was fun then to fall face first into Age of Vice, a sweeping novel of India, gangsters, wealth, and corruption.
A horrible car accident that leaves 4 people dead opens Age of Vice. A drunk driver in a speeding Mercedes jumps the curbing killing the homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk. Although the car belongs to a wealthy dilettante the driver is the chauffeur. From this incident the novel spirals back to the pasts of three diverse characters: Ajay the chauffeur, Neda, an aspiring journalist, and Sunny, the heir to a massive fortune. In the novel’s four parts each tells their life story and how they came to be inextricably linked in tragedy.
Ajay begins life as the poorest of the poor in the Indian state of Utter Pradesh. His mother sells him to settle a family debt, beginning a journey that takes him across the country to the beaches of Goa, until he finds himself as the valet to Vikram Wadi, also known as Sunny. A young man of such wealth he lives and travels as freely as he desires. His grandiose plans to revitalize New Delhi’s downtown by resettling the slum dwellers who live there and building a world class mixed-use community come to the attention of journalist, Neda. She’s tired of writing fluff pieces and wants to dig deeper into Sunny, a man known only on the society pages.
From these innocuous beginnings, Age of Vice expands outwards into a series of cataclysmic events that shred whatever bonds Sunny, Neda, and Ajay have formed. Comparisons between the novel and The Godfather have been made and are well-deserved as both novels are gripping and movie-ready. Kapoor marshals her sprawling plot into a sly morality tale that snakes its way through government corruption, India’s prisons, the upper echelons of power and wealth, and the ethics of actions with no consequences.
It’s only at the 80% point of this chunkster of a story that I lose faith in Kapoor’s focus as a new character is introduced to the novel. His story is long and convoluted and at its end, I’m not sure I understand its relevance. That may come down to me, but in a 550 page book, an aside of this length should have clear meaning. It was enough to drop a half star from my rating, but beyond that Age of Vice is a welcome successor to the no-brakes drama-ramas I used to love. Even better, the end makes it seem as if a sequel is possible.
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