Take a dollop of Alfred Hitchcock, a dollop of Patricia Highsmith, throw in some Great Gatsby flourishes, and the result is Rindell’s debut, a pitch-black comedy about a police stenographer accused of murder in 1920s Manhattan.
Typing criminals’ confessions, Rose admires the precinct’s conservative, mustachioed middle-aged sergeant while she is critical of his superior, the lieutenant detective Frank, who is closer to her in age and a clean-shaven dandy in his white spats. An orphan raised by nuns, Rose lives in a boardinghouse and leads a prim spinster life far removed from the flappers and increasingly liberated women of the “Roaring Twenties.” She seems destined to a life of routine solitude until a new typist is hired. Odalie wears her hair bobbed, dresses with panache and lives in a posh hotel. Rose voices disapproval at first, but she is clearly drawn to Odalie, even obsessed with her. When Odalie invites her to share her hotel rooms, Rose moves right in. Soon, Rose is accompanying Odalie on her adventures, which include bootlegging, among other vices. Sometimes Rose borrows Odalie’s clothes, sometimes she runs errands for Odalie. But who is Odalie? Where does her money come from? And if she has money, why does she work as a police stenographer? At a house party on Long Island, a young man from Newport thinks he recognizes Odalie as the debutante once engaged to his cousin, but she denies knowing him. By the time he turns up dead, Rose has been sucked into Odalie’s world so deeply that their identities have merged. Who is using whom? Recalling her recent life, revealing only what she wants to reveal in bits and pieces, Rose begins her narration archly with off-putting curlicues she gradually discards. She is tart, judgmental, self-righteous and self-justifying. She is also viciously astute. Whether she’s telling the truth is another matter.
A deliciously addictive, cinematically influenced page-turner, both comic and provocative, about the nature of guilt and innocence within the context of social class in a rapidly changing culture.