The BUZZ: A debut novel and psychological thriller; a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year (2013). Keira Knightley has signed on to produce and star in the film version of the novel.
The GIST: It’s the roaring 20’s, and young Rose Baker is not partaking of its fruits. Instead, she’s enjoying her unremarkable job as a stenographer for a Manhattan police precinct. She hears the confessions of criminals and types them up; at the end of each day, she returns to her shared room in a dilapidated boarding house. Having been raised in an orphanage, Rose finds the precinct to be her refuge and more than she ever expected from life. Everything changes, though, the day Odalie Lazare joins the typing pool. She takes Rose under her wing and shows her the other side of life: speakeasies and diamonds and furs, luxurious homes, and mysterious men. Odalie is a mystery herself, and the ever-observant Rose makes an obsessive study of her. The truth about Odalie – and Rose herself – is slowly revealed through Rose’s first person narration of an increasingly alarming series of events.
The WRITING: Entertaining. Rindell is a clever storyteller and presents us with an unreliable narrator in Rose. Early on, we get hints that she may not be all she says she is and that the story she’s telling is the one she wants us to hear. It is left to us, as readers, to determine the truth. Rindell leaves clues along the way to help us, and sorting it out is the fun of the novel. The ending ties things up, but not in neat packages. I’m still thinking about the what-ifs.
BUY or BORROW?: Borrow. Besides being an excellent investigation of the Prohibition era and women’s changing roles at that time, The Other Typist is an intriguing psychological study. Most of all, it’s a page turner and a complete escape.
The thing about rules is that when you break one, it is only a matter of time before you break more, and the severe architecture that once protected you is destined to coming crashing down about your ears.