The Other Typist: A Novel. Suzanne Rindell. Penguin Group (USA). April 2013. 368 pp. hbk. ISBN #: 9780425268421.
Rose Baker is a staid, ultraconservative typist/stenographer for the New York City Police Department. She types reports and confessions of criminals, a responsibility which calls for quite a staunch stamina indeed! The Sergeant and the Lieutenant Detective seem to vie for her attention, but her respect definitely seems to be for the former, an attitude that perhaps foreshadows some trouble in the future. A significant change when the department hires a new typist, Odalie, who saunters into her interview and later daily appearance as if she were the most famous movie star in the world!
Initially Odalie ignores Rose and befriends the other typists who are even blander than the perfect and proper lady, Rose. That changes, however, after Odalie drops a bejeweled brooch which Rose picks up and conveniently forgets to return to Odalie the next day. Rindell’s depiction of Odalie is perfect as narrated through the observations of Rose. For Odalie reads people’s personality quickly and reacts accordingly; but she also seems adept at sensing their weakness which she exploits covertly. She then introduces Rose to a world of speakeasy rooms and parties where there’s no shortage of liquor despite Prohibition laws. It isn’t long before Rose is totally sucked into excessive drinking and dancing the latest jazz numbers. While there’s always a tinge of guilt and questioning in Rose’s acquiescence to every invitation by Odalie, it doesn’t stop Rose from eventually agreeing to be Odalie’s roommate in a very posh hotel in Manhattan. Then the trouble begins!
The possibility of raids on the places where the two friends party, the many questions that arise out of Odalie’s stories about her background and the appearance of a man named Teddy carry the rest of the novel into a tense, riveting mystery that ends in a calamitous act. The reader is stymied about who did what and actually who is the actual perpetrator of several heinous crimes.
The Other Typist is an excellent mystery that illuminates Rindell’s formidable talent at pacing a story with just the right amount of increasing intensity and dread. The characterization of both women is superb, one a foil for the other’s sociopathic personality – or perhaps it’s the reverse? Highly recommended novel about obsession and the unique facets of the criminal mind!