Title: The Other Typist
Author: Suzanne Rindell
Rating: 4.5 stars.
Done well, there are few things I find more enjoyable than an unreliable narrator. We are all the heroes of our own stories, but it can cause delightful feelings of schadenfreude to watch a narrator to get their own story so unbelievably wrong. It is of course even better to think you as a reader know where a story is going, only to have the rug ripped out from beneath you.
Rose Baker, the protagonist of Suzanne Rindell’s debut novel The Other Typist, is a slightly prudish, old-fashioned type of girl who falls unwittingly under the spell of a charismatic conwoman. Or is she? There are as many different realities in this stunning and enjoyable novel as there are characters, and it is incredibly difficult to determine what truth, if any, there is to be found.
In Roaring Twenties New York, Rose works as a typist in a police precinct, taking down criminal confessions. She thinks herself an excellent judge of character, but in most cases she is spectacularly unaware of what is actually going on around her. She also prides herself on her strict morals and decency, but very early on, even before the intriguing Odalie Lazare shows up to upset Rose’s world, Rindell drops hints that not all is right with Rose. In the story she tells us, she passes herself off as quiet, unassuming, good, but underneath there are hints of a sociopath peeking out.
Once under Odalie’s spell, Rose moves from her drab world of convent orphanages and boarding rooms to the glittering, wild paced realm of speakeasies and house parties thrown by millionaires. Odalie is beautiful, enigmatic, rich; she has a dozen stories to explain her past, but none of them quite add up. And as the novel goes on, Rose is drawn into a complicated web of crime, lies, and murder.
The real joy of The Other Typist lies in the narration, the eerie moments when the real Rose breaks through the façade she has constructed to show her underlying violence, manipulation, anger. The descriptions are so vivid that you can almost smell cigarette smoke leaking off the page, feel the seasons as they pass. And the magnificent final scene is something I’m still trying to parse out in my mind. I still don’t quite know what happened there, but I loved it.
If her first novel is this good, I can’t wait to see what else Rindell has in her future.