Aravind Adiga emerged as a powerful new voice in literature with his debut, The White Tiger, a tale of the terrible lengths to which one poor Indian man will go to rise above his station, which went on to win the Man Booker Prize. Adiga’s third novel, Last Man in Tower, delves into the streets of Mumbai to reveal the city through the eyes of the middle class.
It focuses on a battle between an old teacher, Masterji, who refuses to sell his apartment, and a developer, Mr. Shah, who is making an inarguably generous offer to buy the building. On the sidelines are Masterji’s 20-some neighbors from Vishram Society Tower A, depicted with precision and humor. Each member of the Society has been offered a substantial selling price for their portion of the crumbling building, but without Masterji’s signature, no one will get any money.
Masterji and Mr. Shah’s battle is ultimately over the caste system: Masterji is traditional, a believer in “the idea of being respectable and living among similar people,” while Mr. Shah has built his success on change. Each is absolute in his belief. Adiga heightens the intrigue by making neither man’s narration trustworthy, as Masterji is delusional and Mr. Shah has a builder’s reputation for unreliability.
Last Man in Tower races along with unstoppable suspense, going beyond the gaze of The White Tiger to explore even more of the rapidly changing India. The result is as compelling as it is complex.