S. Jammu and two other Indian women enact a complex real estate scam in St. Louis by seducing and manipulating their political opponents into submission. S. Jammu is a police commissioner from Bombay who manages to secure a post as police chief of St. Louis. The corrupt Jammu has sought her position of power in order to push ahead a proposed merger between the city and county, an occurrence from which she could derive profit. To this end, she and two other Bombay women in her employ variously seduce and manipulate key St. Louis officials to support their goals. The police chief inflames stories of a local Native American terrorist organization to pull together support for her office when she brings them to their knees. Politicians who do not come around this way she dominates with blackmail. There is general suspicion among many community members, but in the end Jammu's only powerful opponent is Martin Probst, a powerful construction entrepreneur.
Jammu believes she can induce Probst into a mindset she calls "The State". A person in "the State" is malleable because he has lost everything of importance to him. To this end, Jammu arranges for Probst's daugther Luisa to run away from home to have an affair with a much older man. Jammu also pays a man to seduce and then kidnap Probst's wife Barbara who he is led to believe has left him to have an affair with another man. A shattered Probst is finally seduced by Jammu even though he still disagrees with her proposed merger of city and county.
Jammu kills herself when the merger doesn't go through. Her endless conniving has taken its toll on her health and her failure pushes her over the edge. Her death further hurts the already traumatized Probst. When his wife is found dead, his mental break is complete. By story's end, he still has no idea that all of these horrible things happened to him because of Jammu.
Best part of story, including ending:
This book was way longer than it had to be. Very dry reading at times. It's Franzen's first novel so this is excusable, I guess, but the whole thing is actually kind of silly.
Best scene in story:
There is one preposterous scene where Jammu flies a place through St. Louis's arch just to show us readers how much she's the boss of this place. Dumb but memorable.
Opinion about the main character:
Jammu is not admirable in any way.