“Welcome to Black Harbor, you’ll love it here!” said no one ever, as quickly becomes evident in Hannah Morrissey’s gritty gothic-noir thriller, Hello, Transcriber, which is set in a fictional Wisconsin city with the highest crime rate in the state and a rising suicide rate to match.
People frequently leap from Forge Bridge, a spot that Hazel Greenlee finds herself drawn to time and again. The 26-year-old has been in Black Harbor for two years as the trailing spouse of aquatic ecologist Tommy. They’ve been together since they were 16, but romance has long since departed. Their lives orbit around his drinking and hunting, and the terrible sex he demands every three days. Her vivacious influencer/radio DJ sister, Elle, is no safe harbor: The two are often at odds, not least because Hazel feels bland by comparison.
When she takes a night shift job as a transcriber at the police department, Hazel hopes to find fodder for the novel-in-progress she believes will help her escape Black Harbor at last. During one shift, Investigator Nikolai Kole’s alluring “Hello, Transcriber” fills her headphones—and Hazel’s drug-addled neighbor, Sam, writes a message in the frost on her office window with a severed finger that isn’t his. To Hazel, this is terrifying but intriguing. After all, she reminds herself, the saying is “Write what you know.” If she helps Nik investigate Sam’s ties to a mysterious drug dealer called Candy Man, she’ll know plenty.
Time squeezes in on them: Children are overdosing, Hazel feels like she’s being watched and she and Nik are undeniably attracted to each other. But as Nik often says, everybody lies in Black Harbor. Will Hazel see the twisted truth before it’s too late?
Thanks to its finely tuned bleakness and unflinching exploration of human depravity, Hello, Transcriber is a suspenseful, often shudder-inducing series kickoff that will appeal to fans of atmospheric thrillers or true crime, as well as anyone curious about what it’s like to be a police transcriber. Morrissey, who was one for a few years, makes it sound truly interesting, horrors aside. One hopes real-life transcribers’ shifts are far less eventful than Hazel’s.