The basic premise of this novel is that a first person narrator, Balram Halwai, writes a series of letters to the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who hears on the radio that he wants to "know the truth about Bangalore." Balram Halwai, in his unique and rather sarcastic voice, seeks to provide the Premier with the truth from his perspective as he reveals the troubling inconsistencies and terrible cruelties in India.
Stylistically, the major aspect of the novel is the voice of Balram Halwai and how he manages to present India to us whilst also showing himself to be a sympathetic character with disarming elegance. This is something that is no mean feat when we remember that Balram is a self-confessed and unashamed killer. He lays before us the gritty realities of modern-day India with its terrible poverty and presents the situation of trying to alleviate any of those conditons as being absolutely hopeless. The voice of Balram is certainly very captivating as he leads us through his journey from rural poverty towards urban success and the various characters and events he sees along the way.
Adiga's narrative is framed as several letters written by Balram Halwai to Wen Jiabao, the Prime Minister of China. Balram, a self-described Indian "entrepreneur," writes to the Chinese Prime Minister to explain the way in which a poor man in India can achieve success in the teeming city of Bangalore.
Adiga's writing is filled with dark humor and irony. For example, Balram writes, "And our nation, though it has no drinking water, electricity, sewage system, public transportation, sense of hygiene, discipline, courtesy, or punctuality, does have entrepreneurs" (page 2). This sentence has many layers of meaning. Adiga is making fun of the way foreigners see India as backward and rude, and he is also poking fun at the way foreigners believe that "entrepreneurship" (which in Balram's case means that he has stolen money from and murdered his previous employer) is alive and well in India. In fact, as Balram goes on to explain in his letters, "entrepreneurship" in India often entails graft, violence, and other forms of cheating; it is nothing like the entrepreneurship imagined by foreigners.
Adiga also uses a series of symbols and metaphors in his writing. For example, Balram writes about "the Darkness." He says that India is composed of two parts--Lightness and Darkness. The Darkness encompasses the rural land around what Balram, using a metaphor, refers to as "the river of Death" (page 12), or the Ganges. It is the part of the country that is poor and in which people struggle to survive not only poverty but corruption, violence, disease, and lack of education. Adiga uses many such symbols that stand for larger parts of his country and its way of life.