- Category: Books
Carol Lea Benjamin's Fall Guy & The Hard Way
by 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.
While 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.
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. :)
Should be a good start and I hope to read the other books soon. :)