An unreliable narrator is all the vogue in fiction these days. In Suzanne Rindell’s beautifully rendered debut novel, The Other Typist, the rich time period of 1920s New York City comes alive with prohibition and bootlegging, jazz and zoot suits. We meet Rose, a quiet young police stenographer in the New York Police Department. She confidently does her job each day but soon realizes that she has the power to change the outcome of certain trials by editing an accused person’s official testimony with the stroke of her typewriter in this age before computers and audiotaping. While this would make an interesting plot, in, and of itself, it only plays a small part in setting up Rose’s character and future actions.
The story unfolds along with her developing relationship with Odalie. Odalie is a new employee at the Police department who soon works alongside Rose and becomes a favorite of their male coworkers. Initially, Rose looks upon her with suspicion and skepticism for many reasons-Odalie’s beauty, sophistication, clothing and upper class airs and mannerisms. But, Rose cannot resist Odalie’s continued attempts at friendship and eventually falls under her spell as Odalie allows her entrance into her life with all its elegant trappings, danger and excitement.
An odd couple from the start, plain Jane Rose and glamorous Odalie are two misfits as they begin a friendship that starts with distrust and lies and ends in tragedy and deceit. Rose finds Odalie irresistible while Odalie uses this to her advantage reeling Rose in and seemingly controlling her actions. Or, does she? The story is chilling and keeps the reader off kilter as the plot moves along deliberately and consistently like a slow runaway train. At the end, you may be confused by what actually happened, in which case, open the book to the beginning and repeat reading. The author’s language and settings are rich enough to sustain a return trip back to the 1920s. New York glistens under Rindell’s spot on descriptions as she peels back the unsettling world of these two memorable young women.