Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor @littlebrown @lucy_martin20

Source: Review copy
Publication: 3 January 2023 from Little, Brown
PP: 560
ISBN-13: 978-0708898888

This is the age of vice, where pleasure and power are everything, and the family ties that bind can also kill

New Delhi, 3 a.m. A speeding Mercedes jumps the kerb, and in the blink of an eye five people are dead. It’s a rich man’s car, but when the dust settles there is no rich man at all, just a shell-shocked servant who cannot explain the strange series of events that led to this crime. Nor can he foresee the dark drama that is about to unfold.

Deftly shifting through time and perspective in contemporary India, Age of Vice is an epic, action-packed story propelled by the seductive wealth, startling corruption, and bloodthirsty violence of the Wadia family-loved by some, loathed by others, feared by all.

Age of Vice is a big book and I hung on every word. This is a prime example of how crime and literary fiction merge together to create a huge story of political and social significance. Seen through the eyes of 3 people, it is told from the perspectives of Ajay, Sunny and Neda. A vast, sweeping narrative of politics, corruption and the power of gangsterism in India, it is uncompromising.  Ajay is the character who provides the central core of this novel and the story begins with him as he emerges from a fatal car crash and is taken to prison.

Born into poverty in Uttar Pradesh, Ajay and his family are conned out of what little they have until his mother has no choice but to sell Ajay to child traffickers in order to have enough to feed the rest of her family. Sonny keeps his head down and works hard, making himself indispensable until he finally attracts the attention of playboy Sunny Wadia.

Sunny loves to party and as the son of Bunty Wadia, a corrupt and venal politician whose tentacles spread throughout Delhi and further afield, he is never short of drugs, money and alcohol. Ajay becomes his servant, rolling his joints, procuring his drugs, cleaning up after his legendary parties, even taking care of the women Sunny so carelessly discards.

It’s a hedonistic lifestyle and Sunny is caught between wanting to please his father and yet realising that he needs to be his own man with a way to realise his own dreams and aspirations even though they do not accord with his father’s wishes.

Neda is a journalist. She comes into Sunny’s life and sees him for what he is. Yet she is also deeply attracted to him, perhaps because of his flaws as much as anything. She can see that he battles silently with his need to be his own man, though his father exerts an iron grip on Sunny, determined to mould him into his successor.

But Bunty Wadia is not the only villain of this piece. Vicky Wadia, his brother, has none of the social veneer that Bunty uses to present as a businessman in New Delhi. Vicky is an out and out gangster, operating in the shadows, ruling through violence and fear, clearing the way for the Wadia family to run every aspect of legal and illegal commerce throughout the region.

Age of Vice is a story of extremes; extreme poverty and child trafficking; extreme wealth and venality; corruption and terrible violence. It is the story of how power corrupts and offers evidence of how absolute power corrupts absolutely but political power is where the money is to be made. The capitalist dream lives large in India and however shallow and meaningless it often is for those who ‘succeed’.

Age of Vice depicts so clearly the consequences of what Sunny has to do to help his father gain and retain power, and how that impacts him and on those closest to him. It’s a heart-breaking, brutal story of epic proportions, told with a literary flair and a really searing philosophical undercurrent that exemplifies what really matters. It is also a story of friendship, loyalty and love and how easy it is to lose your way when all around you are lying not just to you, but to themselves.

Verdict: I adored this story. Deepti Kappor is a visual storyteller and her characters spring to life on the page. It is a story of how easy it is to be sucked into the middle of a vortex and how impossible it is to get free of the maelstrom. There’s something about this first car crash that symbolises everything that is to follow. Sunny’s life is a car crash just as India’s political and economic system is an accident waiting to happen. Age of Vice is a brilliant *must read* start to the New Year.

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Deepti Kapoor grew up in northern India and worked for several years as a journalist in New Delhi. The author of the novel Bad Character, she now lives in Portugal with her husband.

Published by marypicken

Passionate book reader. Love all kind of books from 19th century novels to crime thrillers. My blog is predominantly crime, psychological thrillers and police procedurals with a good helping of literary fiction thrown in.

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