Book Review: The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

typist

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Rose Baker is a typist at a New York City police precinct in the 1920s.  As a typist, it is her responsibility to accurately transcribe confessions and police questioning of suspects, victims, and witnesses.  She takes pride in the fact that her work is meticulous, her work ethic strong, and her error rate low.  Rose is aloof, choosing to keep to herself rather than gossip with fellow typists, and seems resigned in the fact that she might end up a spinster.  She attributes this to the fact that she was raised in an orphanage, and therefore has not socialized much with women her age on more mundane topics such as beauty and boys.  All this changes when Odalie Lazare joins the police station as another typist.  Odalie has a certain je na sais quoi about her, and everyone who meets her finds her intriguing, charming, and fascinating.  Soon, Odalie and Rose become fast friends, but the relationship is filled with adventure and decadence, but also riddled with deceit.

Days after reading this book I’m still thinking about it.  Although Rose’s character seems mundane, especially compared to that of Odalie’s, her storytelling is fascinating.  Also, it is clever how Rose is very clinical in her storytelling, at times pausing and letting the reader know that before she can retell a particular event, she must first inform the reader of the back story.  This makes Rose sound reliable and honest.  Cleverly though, she mentions that in the present, she is seeing a doctor who is diagnosing her personality, and therefore, the reader is left to wonder about Rose’s reliability in recounting her time with Odalie.

The Other Typist is a fascinating psychological thriller.  It’s best to block out time to read it, as you’ll want to keep turning to pages to figure out what happens between Rose and Odalie.  She alludes to a huge event, but takes her time in telling the story from her point of view.  Although her reliability comes into question early in the book, it isn’t until the very end when the reader will wonder, “wait-what just happened?”, and wonder whether Rose’s assessment of Odalie is correct or not.

Rindell did an outstanding job with her debut novel.  You can tell she put time into researching the historical aspects of the novel, and I got a great sense of the time and place, both which were important aspects of the story.  Although the ending is intriguing, and some may find it frustrating, I loved it because it made me think about Rose’s character, and question her perception of events. I highly recommend this for those who like a little mystery or a psychological thriller with a historical aspect.

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