The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell


I found this book on Tony's list of the best fiction in 2013 and I agree it was a great book to listen to. Set in the 1920s, it is told in the voice of Rose, an orphan who becomes a typist in a police precinct in Brooklyn. Though she is a very proper person herself, through her job she has seen it all and has become inured to the miscreants of the world. 

One day a beautiful and sophisticated woman named Odalie shows up to apply for the new typist position created to deal with the large caseload relating to illegal liquor sales. As she is a captivating person, her shortcomings as a typist are overlooked. Some in the precinct are suspicious that she is there from the liquor interests, but Rose is among those captivated by Odalie and she dismisses the gossip. Eventually Odalie chooses the dowdy Rose for a friend and she moves into Odalie's apartment and the world of taxi rides, nice clothes, and speakeasies. Although Rose denies what she sees, she tells us enough so we know that Odalie is a big player in illegal liquor business and that her reason for being at the precinct is to protect those who work for her. 

The unfolding of the story is pleasing with lots of foreshadowing so that you know all will not end well. Rose tells the story looking back and we know that she has not landed in a happy situation. The very end of the book has what appears at first to be a major plot twist. It has been much discussed online and Tony does not discuss it but provides a link to a blog that does. I found much of the speculation on that blog to be questionable, but one commenter did have what I considered a plausible reading of the end.


This "spoiler" won't make much sense unless you've already read the book. I was initially confused by the end and was reassured to read the comment giving an explanation for the odd end of the book. Odalie was formerly a woman named Genevra and she groomed Rose to take the fall for her when her Genevre persona was going to be uncovered. This was the clear picture until the very end when Rose seems to admit she killed Teddy. A reasonable interpretation is that Rose, who idolized Odalie and was betrayed by her, was eventually unhinged enough to think she was free to become just like Odalie and adopt her thinking. 

Suzanne Rindell, The Other Typist, Army Einhorn Books, 2013, 356 pages (I listened to the audiobook). Available at the public library and from Amazon.

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