The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
Published by Berkley ISBN 9780425268421
Trade paperback, $16, 368 pages
The timing for Suzanne Rindell's The Other Typist couldn't be better. Set in the 1920's in Prohibition New York City, it it the perfect companion for those who enjoyed Baz Lurhmann's spectacular film of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby.
As the title character in The Other Typist, Odalie Lazare is the female equivalent of Jay Gatsby. She mysteriously shows up one day to apply as a typist at a police precinct. It is a job that men reluctantly allow women to fill, as they are not as good as typists as the women.
The other main character in the novel is Rose Baker, as unassuming and plain as Odalie is vivacious and beautiful. She grew up in an orphanage and had a boring, lonely life until Odalie walked into her life.
"On that particular day, she entered very calmly and quietly, but I knew; it was like the eye of a hurricane. She was the dark epicenter of something we didn't quite understand yet, the place where hot and cold mixed dangerously, and around her everything would change."
Rose becomes enchanted by Odalie and is thrilled when Odalie befriends her. Odalie takes Rose to wild parties in hidden speakeasies, lends her gorgeous clothes and even invites Rose to move into her fancy Park Avenue apartment with her.
Soon a spider's web encompasses Rose. Seduced by the fanciful lifestyle and believing that Odalie thinks of her as a sister, Rose nevertheless has nagging suspicions about Odalie. She catches Odalie telling different stories about her past, and when they run into a man who claims to know Odalie by a different name, things start to unravel.
The story is told by Rose, who is writing this from some sort of institution. Something bad has clearly happened, and Rose is unspooling the turn of events from her point of view. The mystery of what has occurred is not immediately evident, we must wait (im)patiently for Rose to complete her story.
The Other Typist seduces the reader just as surely as Odalie seduces Rose. Rindell weaves her story, keeping us turning the pages with her fascinating characters and cat-and-mouse plot. The setting of a 1920s NYC police precinct feels fresh, and who knew that women worked as typists there back then?
I found it interesting that when one of the women became pregnant, she continued to work well into her pregnancy, even when she was clearly showing. It never occurred to me that women were allowed to be seen outside of their home obviously pregnant, let alone continue to work back then. But I guess if a family depends on a women's income, she'd have to work.
The end of the story is literally jaw-dropping. I read the last few pages several times, and I'm still not sure that I completely know what happened. It has been called a mashup of The Great Gatsby and The Talented Mr. Ripley, but I also think that the many people who liked Gone Girl will like this book, although I think The Other Typist is much better. It is the best literary mystery of the year, and it didn't surprise me to find that it is an Amy Einhorn imprint. No one finds better debut novelists that Amy Einhorn.
rating 5 of 5
Suzanne Rindell's website is here.