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Last updateSun, 14 Jan 2018 3pm

Carol Lea Benjamin's Fall Guy & The Hard Way

Fall Guyby Laura Hayes

Fall Guy and The Hard Way are the seventh and ninth books, respectively, in Carol Lea Benjamin's series of Rachel Alexander & Dash mysteries. Rachel Alexander is a private investigator and former dog trainer (not unlike her creator, who's a dog trainer, author, and former detective). Her sidekick Dashiell, or Dash, is her pit bull.

I'm going to start this review with a confession: I was a little leery about mystery novels featuring a dog as a protagonist—especially a pit bull. Would the stories be too cute? Would the dog be some sort of canine superhero? Would enthusiasm for pit bulls translate to choir preaching or tired stereotypes? I'm pleased to say that the answer to all of these questions was a resounding no.

Ms. Benjamin's prose is crisp and conveys a real sense of place (New York City). Her characters and their dialogue are believable and, for the most part her characters are sympathetic. The plots of both books were engaging—with misdirections, twists, and surprises—and kept me interested until the very end.

The Hard WayWhile both books are pretty quick reads, neither of them are light reads. In Fall Guy, Rachel is surprised to discover that she's been named the executor of the estate of a police detective she barely knows. The characters are weighed down by the lingering sadness of post-9/11 NYC, the unshared experiences of police officers, and the burdens of family tragedies.

In The Hard Way, Rachel and Dash go undercover amongst NYC's homeless population to find a suspected killer. The portrayal of the homeless is both brutal and compassionate and you may never look at a homless person and his or her dog the same way again.

If Dash is a master of all trades, I'll forgive him—first, he's a fictional character after all and second, he fits very naturally into both stories whether Benjamin is describing the mundane rituals of dog ownership or Dash finding a key clue. Benjamin's observations of dog behavior are spot on too: Dash sneezes when he finds an interesting smell, stiffens his tail when wary. Benjamin works in a sentence here and there about the problems facing pit bulls but mostly Dash is portrayed not as a "pit bull" but as a well trained, versatile, and beloved canine companion.

I recommend these two book and appreciate the recommendation from the Pit Bulletin Legal News fan who pointed them out to us. I've already downloaded a sample of a third book in the series!

Have you read Fall Guy, The Hard Way, or any of the other Rachel Alexander & Dash mysteries? Share your thoughts below.

Tom Krepitch 17.07.2014 22:50  
Fall Guy Yes No   Christa,

I\'m 57% finished, so I\'m not quite done, but I\'m really enjoying it. I don\'t know how it is going to end, so that is good, but I really like how the author describes the scenes with Dash. You can tell she has a good connection with dogs because of how she writes those scenes. The one where Dash was confused about what another character was doing, then looked to Alexander for guidance was so easily to visualize. I\'m looking forward to finishing this book, then reading the others in the series. :)
Christa Velbel 26.06.2014 09:00  
Fall Guy Yes No   I\'m with Tom. I ordered these 2 and 3 other books from the series. Sounds like great entertainment; the urban atmosphere combined with \'cozy\' attitude appeals to me. Summer reading!  
Tom Krepitch 25.06.2014 01:26  
Fall Guy Yes No   I\'ve decided that Fall Guy will be the first book I read for the PBLN book club. I\'m in the mood for fiction, it is only 99 cents on the Kindle, and I\'m pretty sure the dog doesn\'t die in the end (and I really hate when that happens).

Should be a good start and I hope to read the other books soon. :)
Christa Velbel 09.07.2014 13:26  
Fall Guy Yes No   Okay, Tom, let\'s compare notes! I read Fall Guy over the long holiday weekend. Perfect summer reading. I find it fascinating that the author is a former detective and current dog trainer; I envy her those groovy pursuits! And her knowledge of human misbehavior and dog behavior both really shine through in her prose. I get a great sense of place in Greenwich Village, a really clear picture of Dash on the job, and a connection to a person who sometimes prefers canines to humans (with good reason). And the mystery itself played out in a way that kept me intrigued without making me feel completely baffled at the resolution. So glad I bought four more titles -- binge reading ahead!  
Tom Krepitch 28.07.2014 19:44  
Fall Guy Yes No   I have finished! What an ending! I was worried something would happen when Dash and his human were separated, but it all worked out. Maybe next time Dash will be the hero. :)  
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