Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Slow spiral into - what, exactly?

Book: The Other Typist
Author: Suzanne Rindell
Published: May 2013 (Amy Einhorn Books)
Pages: 354

I loved the premise of this story – a good-girl typist at a New York police precinct is excellent at her job and faithful to the truth as she records and transcribes confessions, until prohibition hits and the police station hires another typist to handle the workload. The new typist slowly reveals herself to be a modern gal and newly minted criminal as she even more slowly seduces the good girl over to the wrong side of propriety and law through an obsessive friendship that ends in more than one innocent person getting hurt.

It’s a coming-of-age story where the protagonist has no intention of or idea that she still had desires to change, set in a unique workplace juxtaposed against more familiar New York set pieces that were yet completely new to her (fancy apartment, underground speakeasies, house at the Hamptons) that throws her off kilter so hard she eventually falls off balance and discovers her best friend is not there to pick her up.


I’ve got two major problems with the execution:
  •  It’s so overwritten. Oh my god. I understand that the protagonist is an orphan who was educated by nuns and probably overcompensates for what was considered a bare-bones education, but seriously, she talks like a Victorian graduate student. And since this is told in first person with interior monologues and exposition, you can’t get away from it. By about a third of the way through – once I’d gotten past the setup – I’d gotten used to it, and it’s not like it was super unbelievable, but I never really liked it.
  •  The ending. I’ve been harping on endings more than usual lately (and that will continue), but this story’s central mystery depends on a strong resolution to the unreliable narrator hints that build up nicely throughout the rest of the book. Well, we don’t get that. It doesn’t go Shutter Island at the end, and apparently there’s ample evidence either way, so without spoiling a book that hasn’t officially come out yet, I’ll just complain that even in the 1920s police could’ve totally and easily patched some of the bigger holes presented here (especially about their own employee).

It was a good read, and I might catch it when it goes mass market in May to see what’s changed from the uncorrected publicity proof. The character details are really good, and this is ultimately intrigue driven directly by character development and discovery, so I will put it back in the library break room from whence it came, but I’ll be reluctant about it.   

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