Favorite genres are traditional mystery, police procedurals, espionage, Eurocrime, literary fiction and nonfiction history, especially WW2 and Cold War. I write about crime fiction at Read Me Deadly (www.readmedeadly.com)
The competitive world of New York publishing in the 1950s comes to life in Suzanne Rindell’s second novel, after The Other Typist. Rindell illustrates the time and place through the stories of three characters:
Cliff, the son of privilege who is convinced he will show The Old Man up by publishing the next great American novel;
Eden, who burns with ambition to be a book editor knowing how hard that will be considering the restricted prospects of women and Jews in the professional workplace;
Miles, a black son of Harlem, a graduate of Columbia, a young man who is compelled to solve the secrets of his late father’s time in the military and to understand himself.
This book is a lot longer than Rindell’s first, which always makes me wonder if it will be a case of second-book bloat. I do think this could have been tightened up with some judicious editing. And editing might help get the book off to a better start. It’s quite a slog at the beginning, I think in part because she starts with Cliff, who is a self-absorbed, minimally talented brat.
But the book does finally draw the reader in, and once it does it’s compelling reading. The three first-person narratives fit neatly together and the plot in which each plays a part is satisfyingly intricate. But it’s not just a puzzle to be solved; it’s emotionally affecting.
Thinking about the book after reading it, I realized that it’s about fear and the consequences of acting out of fear; consequences that are visited on more people than Cliff, Eden and Miles, and that these three must live with the rest of their lives. This fits in well with the larger, fear-based issues of the characters’ time and place as well, including anti-Semitism, homophobia and the Red Scare.