The Dog Who Knew Too Much (Rachel Alexander and Dash Series #2)

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Overview

The key to a beautiful woman's tragic death is locked in a dog's broken heart.

P.I. Rachel Alexander is stepping into a dead woman's life. Hired by the young t'ai chi teacher's grieving parents, Rachel is determined to find out why their apparently happy daughter jumped from the window of her Greenwich Village martial arts studio. Wearing Lisa's clothes, studying with her mentor, meeting her friends, provoking her enemies, Rachel soon learns that even with her pit bull, ...

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The Dog Who Knew Too Much

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Overview

The key to a beautiful woman's tragic death is locked in a dog's broken heart.

P.I. Rachel Alexander is stepping into a dead woman's life. Hired by the young t'ai chi teacher's grieving parents, Rachel is determined to find out why their apparently happy daughter jumped from the window of her Greenwich Village martial arts studio. Wearing Lisa's clothes, studying with her mentor, meeting her friends, provoking her enemies, Rachel soon learns that even with her pit bull, Dashiell, at her side, the path to enlightenment is a dangerous place to be.

With the answer Rachel seeks as difficult to fathom as a Zen riddle, yet as close by as the victim's sad-eyed Akita, one truth begins to unfold: Lisa never would have abandoned her dog without a cruel push. . . .

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Susan R. Farber
Aided by her faithful sidekick Dashiell, a pit bull, Greenwich Village P.I. Rachel Alexander investigates the death of a young woman named Lisa, who allegedly jumped out of the window of her t'ai chi dojo. Lisa's wealthy, grieving parents give Rachel the keys to Lisa's condo and Rachel immerses herself in Lisa's life, even to the point of wearing her clothes and jewelry and sleeping with her boyfriend. As Rachel sorts through the ominously screwy students at the t'ai chi school, she begins to unearth evidence more suggestive of murder than suicide. Benjamin's heroine Rachel Alexander is an admirable private investigator who is not quite as gritty as Kinsey Milhone but manages to keep her head on her shoulders even when faced with grave danger. Rachel has some great, funny one-liners, which relieve the tremendous tension that permeates the mystery and makes her much more than a one-dimensional stereotype. Benjamin is well known in dog training circles and equally well known in dog-writing circles. Mother Knows Best: The Natural Way to Train Your Dog (Howell, 1985) is considered to be the classic in the field, and the prolific Benjamin also has written extensively for the American Kennel Club Gazette magazine. Her first Rachel Alexander mystery, This Dog for Hire (Walker, 1996/VOYA February 1997), was favorably reviewed. The series will be enjoyed by readers who also like Susan Conant and Laurien Berenson's mysteries. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Library Journal
Benjamin's second series mystery fulfills the promise of her debut, This Dog for Hire (LJ 11/1/96). A wealthy couple hire Rachel Alexander, a free-spirited sleuth who lives in Greenwich Village with her pit bull, Dashiell, to find out why their apparently happy daughter jumped out a fifth-floor window. Rachel finds the answer (murder, of course) by "assuming" the dead woman's life: wearing her clothes, learning t'ai chi, and meeting her friends. Crisp, clean, and focused, with a great heroine and canines; an enjoyable read.
Kirkus Reviews
Why mess with success? Dog-trainer/p.i. Rachel Alexander's second case is so much like her fine debut (This Dog for Hire, 1996) that she could sue herself for plagiarism. Again there's a mysterious death—this time t'ai chi instructor Lisa Jacobs's alleged suicide—witnessed only by the victim's dog; again the stricken survivors are looking for an explanation for the inexplicable (why would got-it-all Lisa leave a note saying, "I'm sorry. Lisa," and take a header out her window?); again Rachel hits the mean streets accompanied by her pit bull Dash. "You won't learn anything worthwhile about Lisa by asking questions," Lisa's mentor and former boss Avi Ashkenasi tells Rachel. "You must walk in her shoes." So as Rachel sweats to figure out which of Lisa's friends and students would've been most unhinged by her plans to move to China—and sweats too at the t'ai chi studio, the swimming pool, and the gym where she goes to ask all the questions she shouldn't—she wears Lisa's perfume and bracelet as well as her shoes, carries her keys, and beds her lover, half-Chinese swim coach Paul Wilcox. But her attempts to isolate a prime suspect fail when the front-runner gets killed—just like last time—clearing the way for another ton of moondust and (a sad innovation) an abrupt and arbitrary climax.

Rachel's fans are advised to sit out her case of second- novel blues and wait for next year. If you missed her first, though, you may want to check out the most helpful canine sleuth since Asta.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440226376
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/8/1998
  • Series: Rachel Alexander and Dash Series, #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 4.25 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Carol Lea Benjamin is a noted author about, and trainer of, dogs. She lives in New York City with her husband and two dogs. Her first Rachel and Dash mystery, This Dog for Hire, won a Shamus Award.

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Read an Excerpt

1: If You Weren't Careful

Dashiell stood motionless on the dark, wet sand, his eyes cemented to the  driftwood log I held up over my head. Just before I moved to send it  spinning over him and into the ocean, as if he were able to read my mind,  he turned to mark its fall; then, all speed and power, he ran flat out  into the surf. Looking beyond him at the vast, gray-blue Atlantic Ocean,  flattened under a bright spring sky, I remembered myself as a child  playing fetch on this very beach with some other dog, now long gone.

I used to come to my aunt Ceil's house in Sea Gate, the gated community  just beyond Coney Island, when I was a kid. I would race for the water the  minute we hit the beach, shedding flip-flops and T-shirt as I ran, staying  in until Beatrice, my mother, standing on the shore about where Dashiell  stood a moment ago, hands on her hips, a line showing over the center  bridge of her sunglasses, would shout to me that my lips were turning  blue, and why didn't I come out and play on the sand like a good girl, as  my big sister Lillian had long since done.

"I can't hear you," I'd call back, bobbing like the stick I'd just thrown  for Dashiell.

"You'll be the death of me," Beatrice shouted, her voice like the roar of  the waves from far away on the shore.

Playing on the hot, gritty sand under my mother's scrutiny held no charm  for me. The ocean was the lure—all that power, beauty, mystery, and life.  Even death, if you weren't careful. At least that's what Beatrice used to  say, as if being careful could do the trick and keep you safe.

Beatrice found the scary side of everything, the don't instead of the do.  That's why I grew up looking for trouble, just to defy her. At least  that's what my shrink used to say. That sad fact, according to Ida  Berkowitz, Ph.D., would explain what I was doing here today, even though  my mother, like that pup I had played fetch with when I was a kid, was  long gone.

Dashiell was riding a foamy, frigid wave back toward me, the driftwood  crosswise in his mouth.

I had hesitated for only the moment it took for the guard to call ahead  and make sure I had actually been invited to come to this private and  protected community that occupies the point of land where the Atlantic  Ocean meets Gravesend Bay. By the time he had lifted the barrier and  motioned me to drive in, I knew I had a stop to make before keeping my  appointment, for my sake as much as for Dashiell's. I'd headed here, to  the deserted beach, so that my partner, the other unlicensed PI with whom  I was in business, could dig in the sand, swim in the ocean, and roll in  dead fish and used condoms, reminding me as he always did precisely how  delicious it was merely to be alive. Soon enough I'd be immersed in less  expansive feelings, because it was a case that had brought me to Brooklyn  on this cool, clear April day.

Dashiell stood squarely in front of me, holding the stick dead center,  eyes locked on mine, water running off his underside and down his legs,  his one-track mind on the task at hand.

"Out," I told him. I have a way with words.

He dropped the driftwood heavily into my hand and, hoping for another  toss, retreated to where the incoming waves could just reach him, washing  over his feet from behind, then swirling in front of his ankles before  returning, as eventually we all must, from whence it came. I gave him one  last swim, sending the driftwood high and far over the waves, watching him  watch it, electrified with pleasure. We saw the splash. Dashiell, the  quintessential pit bull, charged forward with sufficient grit, strength,  and tenacity to bring the damn ocean to its knees, if need be. Work or  play, it was all the same to him. He'd use whatever force he deemed  necessary to meet a challenge.

We ran around on the sand to dry off, then headed back to the black Ford  Taurus that David and Marsha Jacobs, Aunt Ceil's neighbors and friends,  had rented for me so that I could drive here to the quiet community where  they had lived for forty-seven years and listen to them tell me about the  sudden, unexpected, and violent death of their only child.

We Could Hear The Kettle Whistle

Marsha Jacobs was one of those women who wear stockings and heels even in  their own homes. She'd answered the door in a dark gray silk dress, the  uneven piece of black grosgrain ribbon that signified a death in the  family pinned to her chest. It would leave holes in the silk, I found  myself thinking, then silently berated myself for the frivolous  thought.

Driving home along the Belt Parkway, I couldn't get the image of Lisa  Jacobs's mother out of my mind. For that's what she was, first and  foremost, the devoted Jewish mother of a beautiful, blue-eyed,  curly-haired thirty-two-year-old who ten days earlier, with no clues to  foreshadow the act, had opened one of the oversize windows at the t'ai chi  studio where she studied and taught and jumped five stories to her  death.

"We want to show you our Lisa," Marsha had said, welcoming me into the  living room time forgot. "Come and sit, Rachel. Can I get you some  tea?"

"Thank you," I said, feeling chilled by the room and my wet clothes.  Dashiell had body-slammed me several times right before we left the beach,  and my leggings felt as if I had been in the ocean, too. I wondered if  we'd each get a different pattern of bone china from which to drink our  tea, like the cups my mother had collected.

David Jacobs was sitting on one side of the couch, a thick, leatherbound  photo album on his lap. He patted the middle seat, and hoping I wouldn't  leave a big, wet ass print on their sofa, I sat next to him.

"This has been very hard on her," he said as soon as Marsha had left to  make the tea. "She—" he began, but then hesitated. "She's up all night,"  he whispered, "pacing, pacing. She's driving me crazy. She—" he  sighed before correcting himself—"we, we," he repeated, "would  like you to help us, Rachel. We cannot understand what could have  possessed Lisa, what made her do this awful thing." He sounded angry. "We  don't have a guess. Not a clue."

David placed the album on the coffee table, stood, and went to get his  cigarettes from the top of the piano. His suit pulled across his potbelly  and hung too loosely around his arms and shoulders, as if he had recently  lost a good bit of weight, a supposition that, considering the  circumstances, I would not have had to be a detective to make.

"Lisa never complained, never complained. She never spoke of any  problems. She was always cheerful, kind, a happy girl. Ach," he said,  stopping to light his cigarette, "how could this have happened? We gave  her everything."

I could hear Marsha talking to Dashiell in the kitchen, where she'd  suggested I stash him, even though he had already stopped dripping by the  time we'd arrived. Dashiell's tail tapped out his answer on the tile  floor.

"She was studying to be a Zen Buddhist priest, my Lisa," Marsha said,  standing in the archway at the rear of the living room. "The study and the  t'ai chi gave her peace. Peace. That's what she told her father and me. So  why—"

"Sit, Marsha," David said, blowing smoke into the middle of the room.  Marsha sat next to me. Now I had their grief on both sides. In our silence  we could hear the kettle whistle, and Marsha left again to make the  tea.

"Are you cold, Rachel?" David said, as concerned as if I were his  daughter.

"No, no," I lied, "I'm fine."

"Are you sure? Marsha, bring her a sweater," he shouted in the direction  of the kitchen.

"No, thank you, I'm fine. Really."

"It's no trouble," he said, half to himself. "We have plenty of  sweaters."

He moved the album closer but didn't open it.

"Ceil said you used to be a dog trainer. Before."

I raised my eyebrows.

David looked at me and puffed on the cigarette, ashes dropping onto his  suit pants. "Before your—before you were married." He brushed at his  trousers, leaving a dry, gray trail where the ashes had been.

Marsha arrived with the tray and placed it carefully next to the photo  album. She handed me a cup with yellow tulips on it and gave David one  with purple irises, saving the one with the tiny red rosebuds for  herself.

"Marsha—the sweater, the sweater," David said impatiently.

Suddenly I had the eerie feeling I was in some relative's suffocating  home. I reached for a cookie. Marsha returned with a navy blue sweater and  handed it to David, who handed it to me. I put it over the arm of the  sofa.

"So—" David said. "You married again? Your husband approves of this kind  of work, detective work?"

Marsha was biting a small biscuit. She looked up, curious.

Ceil would have told them I hadn't married again, wouldn't she?

I reached for another cookie. "Lisa was single, wasn't she?" The eighth  law of private investigation, according to my erstwhile employer and  mentor, Frank Petrie, is, Don't give  information. Get  information.

"Lisa never married," her mother said.

"No, marriage wasn't what Lisa wanted," David said.

"Her studies were everything to her." Marsha gathered the crumbs from her  silk skirt onto one hand and carefully brushed them off in one corner of  the tray.

"The mother has a college degree, too. Did your aunt mention that?"

"David." Marsha flapped a hand in his direction.

"Six years she studied, three at night, three full time, at Brooklyn  College, competing with all those young hotshots. She got wonderful  grades, wonderful."

I smiled at Marsha, and she patted my damp leg.

"She taught school, too. A very intelligent woman. That's who Lisa took  after. Her mother. A bachelor's degree. Just like the hotshots."

"Is that how you met, at college?"

"Fourteen years," he said. He took a last puff on the cigarette and put  it out. "That's how long we waited for Lisa."

"David, we shouldn't—"

"Rachel needs to know these things, isn't that so, Rachel? She came here  to get the facts, so that she could help us. We never thought there would  be a baby, not for us. Fourteen years it took."

We sipped tea for a moment in silence. Finally David opened the album.  But I had already seen Lisa. Across from us, on the baby grand piano in a  standing silver frame, was a photo of a pretty young girl smiling.

"She was an extraordinary child," Marsha told me as David turned the  pages, "not average."

I looked at Lisa in her carriage, Lisa in the bath, Lisa sleeping.

"She did everything early, before the books said," Marsha told me,  looking at me for approval.

"Everything early," I repeated.

"This was the summer she went to camp," I heard David say, "but we missed  her. Marsha kept saying, "David, we have the beach right here, we have the  Atlantic Ocean at our beck and call, why does Lisa have to be in the  Adirondacks with all those mosquitoes and no ocean?' So, what else, we  went up on visitors' day and brought her home. At the end of July. Slow  season. I could take her to the beach every day. No problem. She was some  swimmer, that child. Like a fish."

"She was a varsity swimmer," Marsha said, "at Abraham Lincoln High  School." She got up and brought over the medals and one of the trophies  that sat on the shelves across from the couch.

"She was the valedictorian," David said. "She made a speech on graduation  day. Smart. Like her mother. There was nothing that girl couldn't do, if  she set her mind to it."

"When did Lisa get interested in t'ai chi?" I asked.

"While she was in college," Marsha said. "Just before she broke her  engagement, the end of her sophomore year."

I could feel David tense. Marsha looked into her lap.

"You liked the boy?" I asked.

"He was going to be a dentist," she said, "like his father."

"Water under the bridge," David said.

Had Ceil told them I had been married to a dentist, that I too had  let a professional man go?

"In her third year," Marsha said, "that was when—"

"China, China, she wanted only to go to China. To study. She was  nineteen. What did she know? Imagine, running to China, a  nineteen-year-old kid, alone, on the other side of the world."

"So, did she go? Did she study in China?"

"Go? Did she go?" David bellowed.

For a moment he looked as if he were on fire, red smoke swirling about  him as his aura turned the color of his rage.

"You tell me if you'd let a kid like that go off on her own to a foreign  country. What did she know, to do a dangerous thing like that, by herself?  She stayed here. It was for her own good. Everything we did was for her,  everything."

"She studied here," Marsha said. "At Barnard. Eastern philosophy and  Chinese language."

"She spoke Chinese, what else, beautiful, just as good as if she had  lived there, you should have heard her."

"After her postgraduate studies, five years at Columbia on a fellowship,  that's when she met Avram, the director of the school where Lisa worked.  She studied with him since then." Marsha picked up a napkin and held it to  her mouth for a moment. "Avram adored her, you know. He said Lisa was his  best student."

"Then she was here, living here with you?"

"Oh, no. She was at the Printing House," Marsha said. "On Hudson Street.  Not far from you. She wanted to be near the school. To walk."

"She wanted the Village, the Village, so, what else, I bought her a  condo," David said.

He took his checkbook out of his breast pocket. I began to protest, but  his hand went up to stop me.

"It's just that—"

"The police have looked into our Lisa's death," Marsha said as David  wrote, "but they're busy with many other things, there's so much crime in  the city, so much."

David looked up. "What we need," he said, "it's not really police  business, Rachel. They're finished now. But we're not. We're the parents.  We have to know what happened, what went on. We need"—he practically  bellowed—"to find out why our daughter took her own life."

"David," his wife said, trying to calm him.

"Mr. Jacobs, I—"

"David. Forget this Mr. Jacobs. You could be Lisa's friend, you're so  young. You could be my own daughter."

"And call me Marsha, Rachel. We know your aunt so long, we feel we know  you, too."

"David. Marsha. To find out something so intimate about a person, it  might take a long time. Often the victim's best friend, or her parents,  had no idea she was depressed."

"Spend the time, Rachel. We can afford it," David said. "Now tell me your  fee, please."

I did. And asked for a thousand in advance.

"Money I have," he said. I heard the sound of a check being torn from a  checkbook. "A daughter I don't have, but money I have." He handed me the  check. Without looking, I folded it in half and put it into my shirt  pocket.

"Even if I do spend the time," I said, "I might not find the answers  you're looking for."

"I can't think of anything more important to spend money on than at least  trying to understand what happened to Lisa. Can you, David?"

But David Jacobs didn't answer his wife's question. He had turned his  back to us, and I could see his shoulders trembling. With one hand he  removed his bif

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