I received this book for free from Book Tour in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
Published: Berkley Trade Paperback (2013), Paperback, 368pg
Source: Book Tour
Genres: Fiction, GLBTQ, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Confessions are Rose Baker’s job. A typist for the New York City Police Department, she sits in judgment like a high priestess. Criminals come before her to admit their transgressions, and, with a few strokes of the keys before her, she seals their fate. But while she may hear about shootings, knifings, and crimes of passion, as soon as she leaves the room, she reverts to a dignified and proper lady. Until Odalie joins the typing pool.
As Rose quickly falls under the stylish, coquettish Odalie’s spell, she is lured into a sparkling underworld of speakeasies and jazz. And what starts as simple fascination turns into an obsession from which she may never recover. (from Goodreads)
I love flappers and mysteries and mysteries with flappers, so when I was given the opportunity to join in a blog tour for The Other Typist, which has all those things, I jumped at it!
The narrator, Rose, is unreliable like woah. I feel weird about not believing someone who is presented as a victim, but her narrative voice is very hinky. She just oozes “I am lying and/or delusional,” so I pretty much automatically distrusted her. It started off as little things that pinged my “something is off” meter, but it quickly escalated. For example, she keeps a diary of Odalie’s movements. In a normal mystery, that might be okay. In a mystery with a narrator who gives off creepy vibes, it comes off as obsessive and weird.
However! Just because she’s untrustworthy doesn’t mean she still isn’t a victim. More on that later.
The whole time I was reading The Other Typist I kept trying to remember the name of that mental illness where you obsess over someone and put them on a pedestal and they can do no wrong, etc., until they DO do something wrong (or what you think is wrong) and then you have to kill them to make yourself feel better. I’m pretty sure I read another book about it or watched a movie or something. Anyway, that’s totally the vibe I get from Rose in this book. She idealizes the Sergeant, for instance, saying over and over again that he’s a super moral man who would only do good things. And THEN it turns out he’s sleeping with Odalie (or heavily flirting with her and he’s married besides) and Rose can’t take it OR the betrayal from Odalie and so she snaps.
I think she’s also got a bit of that thing where you mix your personality up with another person’s. What is that thing? Where you have no boundaries and you subsume yourself more and more into their life until eventually you try to become them? It’s another thing I’m sure I’ve read about or seen on TV or SOMETHING. Rose has got shades of that, too.
There’s some reader questions in the back of my copy, and one of them is “do you think Rose is Odalie?” The story is so confusing (because of the unreliableness) that it’s all up in the air re:what really happened, but personally: I don’t think she started out as Odalie, not really, but she becomes her in the end.
Kinda. It’s a little confusing. If she’s delusional-crazy, then she’s Odalie and she’s killed at least two people. If she’s only no-boundaries-crazy, then Odalie pulled a Fingersmith and switched lives with her. Great stuff!
That said, The Other Typist is much more interesting if you read it as a chronicle of someone’s descent into (further) madness than as a mystery/flapper adventure book. The mystery part was really only “who is Odalie” and it took a backseat for all the other stuff– like “is Rose crazy and/or lying or what.” There’s a murder at the end, but nobody’s trying to solve it and that was disappointing for the mystery fan in me.
If you like books about narrators who are probably lying the entire book, then you’d definitely like The Other Typist. As a bonus, it’s got fun flapper/Prohibition-era things in it, with mobsters and short dresses and bathtub gin!
Read: March 24-29, 2014
Here’s your chance to win a copy of The Other Typist for yourself! Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy of the book; they’ll be sending it out, so this giveaway is US-only.