Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Other Typist

Suzanne Rindell’s The Other Typist, the author’s debut novel, is a highly atmospheric book set in New York City in the midst of the Roaring Twenties.  As seen through the eyes of Rose Baker, the book’s narrator, however, nothing much is really happening.  Certainly, for Rose, a young police stenographer who was raised by nuns in an orphanage, this is pretty much the case.

Rose sees herself as somewhat of a groundbreaker when it comes to women in the workplace.  As one of the few women working so directly with the NYPD, she takes pride in her ability to stomach even the goriest details contained in the confessions she transcribes for the official record each day. But at the end of the workday, she is content to haul herself back to her boardinghouse, where she shares a room with a rather unlikable young woman, for dinner and another evening of reading.  Rose Baker is a sober, responsible young woman vey much formed by her childhood. 

Everything, though, changes the day that Odalie, a beautiful and charismatic young typist, joins the office pool.  Be it for entirely different reasons, Rose is as taken with the new girl as are any of the men in the department, and she almost immediately begins plotting subtle ways to gain Odalie’s attention – and, ultimately, her friendship.  As the story progresses, and Rose, Rindell’s  narrator, reveals more about herself, what she is able to learn about Odalie’s past, and the unusual nature of their evolving friendship, it seems more and more likely that none of this can end well.  Now it becomes more a question of how badly damaged Rose will be by the process of reaching that end. 

Suzanne Rindell
But it is precisely at this point that The Other Typist becomes something other than what the reader has come to expect. Rindell shows us that she has more than one pitch in her arsenal.  She, as it turns out, also has a pretty decent changeup, and she saves it for exactly the moment she has her readers expecting just another fastball.

Bottom Line: This one, although it begins rather slowly, soon enough becomes enough of a mystery to keep readers turning the page.  Rindell’s writing is likely to remind readers of some of the genre’s masters – but this might be seen as a bit of a negative when the book’s ending leaves the reader with at least a sense of déjà vu.  

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