The Other Typist
By Suzanne Rindell
Review By Jarad Johnson
Manipulation, intrigue, and alcohol all coalesce into an enticing cocktail in this enthralling novel. Set in the 1920s during Prohibition, the story follows a typist working at a local police precinct, and the manipulative bootlegger- in-disguise whom she becomes obsessed with. The entire story is told from one point of view, so the reader is intentionally made to doubt the credibility of the narrative. It is an intricate and all-encompassing read that should not be read hastily.
The novel’s main focus is justice; specifically, what forms of justice are valid and questioning whether some laws are unjust, and can they be broken? Prohibition, for example, is almost universally considered and unjust and ineffective law, and only stayed in place for thirteen years. So, if the law was unjust, were the bootleggers justified in breaking it? That’s a tricky question. And that perspective will affect how you see one of the main characters, a complicated person, and ultimately a manipulative and cruel one, but the charge of criminality (at least on the charge of selling alcohol) is really up to the reader. Bootlegging, to me, seems similar to some of the drug laws regarding marijuana that our country imposes now. It is a crime, but it seems draconian and outdated. The other main character, arguably the exact opposite of their counterpart, who starts as a straight-laced rules devotee, helps the reader(s) question perceived justice. She is the typist working at the precinct, and her job is to transcribe the confessions of criminals. However, she metes out her own form of justice when confronted with a serial killer, by transcribing his confession for him. Can justice be served by circumventing the judiciary process? Through this, the author asks us to examine how we see justice, and how we view the law.
The novel is in some ways a story about rebellion. The typist rebels against the strict moral code that had been instilled in her since childhood, and the bootlegger rebels against almost everything. Moral code, the law, and expectations of women in that era. Taking a stance on whether this is right or wrong or some gray area inbetween depends on perspective, which is part of what makes it so interesting, and fitting as well, because the 20s were all about rebellion, with jazz, and flappers rejecting old ideas about how one should, act, dress, etc. However, even though women had been in the workplace for some time, sexism and misogyny permeated the workforce and society at large, as it still does today. For example, the Seargent, a person who the typist admires and looks up to, says at one point that he would rather not have the women work at all, if only of course to spare their sensitive ears from such heinous misdeeds confessed by the criminals. Yikes. The lengths that some people will go to justify their prejudice was and is astounding.
As for the plot itself, it is engrossing, and something that I did not want to end, nor did I want to put it down. Even though it was a little slow to start, I enjoyed it a great deal. I think that this was a great debut, and I look forward to more from this obviously talented author.
Jarad attends Middle Tennessee State University, loves tea, and tries to spend every spare second reading. Jarad is majoring in English. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!
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