Dangerous to Know (Lady Emily Series #5)

Dangerous to Know (Lady Emily Series #5)

by Tasha Alexander

Paperback(First Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312383817
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 09/27/2011
Series: Lady Emily Series , #5
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 103,314
Product dimensions: 8.22(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Tasha Alexander is the author of the Lady Emily novels, a series of historical suspense, including Tears of Pearl and A Crimson Warning. She attended the University of Notre Dame, where she signed on as an English major in order to have a legitimate excuse for spending all her time reading. She and her husband, novelist Andrew Grant, divide their time between Chicago and the UK.

Read an Excerpt


Although a stranger to the Norman countryside, even I knew a dark pool of blood under a tree was not something a tourist should expect to see during an afternoon ride. Sliding down from the saddle, I put a calming hand on my horse's neck, then bent to investigate more closely. Had I been able to convince myself the congealing liquid was something less nefarious, the sight of a pale hand, blue fingertips extended, would have changed my mind at once. Without stopping to think, I rubbed my abdomen, the remnants of dull pain still present after my own encounter with violence, and took a step towards the body.

Only a few months ago, during what was meant to be a blissful honeymoon, I'd been trapped in a cavernous cistern deep below the city of Constantinople with the villain who shot me in an attempt to keep quiet my discovery that he was guilty of murder. His efforts were, of course, in vain. But although I succeeded in exposing the odious man and saving the life of the sultan's concubine whom he'd held as a hostage, I'd lost something more dear. I did not know when I stepped into the gloomy bowels of the city that I was with child. Now, instead of preparing for an heir, my husband and I were no longer sure we could ever have one.

Colin Hargreaves was not a man to be daunted, even in the face of such tragedy. He insisted that nothing mattered but my recovery and packed me off to France the moment I was well enough to travel. His intentions were the best. His choice of location, however, fell something short of perfection. Not Normandy itself—the lush countryside was stunning, the rich, cream-laden food magnificent—but our lodgings at his mother's house left something to be desired. Although that, too, is not entirely precise. There was nothing wrong with the manor, a sprawling, comfortable building constructed primarily in the seventeenth century by an aristocrat whose descendents did not fare well during the revolution. Rather, it was I who was the problem. At least so far as my new mother-in-law was concerned.

I'd heard nothing but complimentary words about Mrs. Hargreaves, who had fled England after the death of her husband some ten years before. Her own father had been left a widower early, and encouraged his daughter to remain at home—not to take care of him, but because he, not much fond of society, felt she should be allowed to lead whatever sort of life she liked. His fortune ensured she would never need a husband for support. Free from the restraints of matrimony, Anne Howard passed nearly twenty years traveling the world while her girlhood friends married and had children. It was only when she reached her thirty-sixth year that, halfway up the Great Pyramid at Giza, she met Nicholas Hargreaves. By the time they were standing again on terra firma, the couple were engaged. Three days later they married, and afterwards, never spent a single night apart.

I had hoped Mrs. Hargreaves would shower me with the warmth she showed her son—that she would rejoice to see him so happily matched. But after a fortnight of her cool detachment, I determined to spend as much time as possible away from the prickling discomfort of her disapproving stare, and it was this decision that led me to the unhappy resting place of the girl sprawled beneath a tree, her blood soaking the ground.

Bile burned my throat as I looked at her, my eyes drawn from her fingers to her face, framed by hair so similar in color and style to mine we might have been taken for twins. There was no question she was dead, no need to check for any sign of life. No one could have survived the brutal gashes on her throat. The bodice of her dress was black with blood and had been ripped at the abdomen, revealing what seemed to be an empty cavity.

I could look no further.

I wrapped my arms around my waist as my stomach clenched. I wasn't sick, but only because I was too horrified, too stunned even to breathe. Closing my eyes, I tried to focus, to move, to think, but was incapable of anything. I spun around at the sound of a sharp crack, like a branch breaking behind me, then turned back as my horse made a hideous shriek and reared. Realizing I'd neglected to tie him to the tree, I started towards him, but was too late. He'd already broken into a run.

Which left me six and a quarter miles from home, alone with the murdered girl.

Trees and grass and flowers spun around me as I tried to regain enough composure to take stock of the scene before me. I should have been better equipped to deal with this. In the past two years, I had become something of an investigator after solving the murder of my first husband, Philip, the Viscount Ashton, whom everyone had believed died of fever on a hunting trip in Africa. Since then, I'd thrice more been asked to assist in murder cases, the last time while on my wedding trip in Constantinople. Colin, my second husband (and Philip's best friend), worked for the Crown, assisting in matters that required, as he liked to say, more than a modicum of discretion. Because no man could gain entrance to the sultan's harem, he had asked me to work with him in an official capacity when a concubine, who turned out to be the daughter of a British diplomat, was murdered at the Ottoman Palace.

Successful though I'd been, none of my prior experience had prepared me for the sight before me now.

I squinted, blurring my vision so the field of poppies beyond the tree and the body melted into a wave of crimson buoyed by the wind. My boot slid on slick grass as I stepped forward and forced myself to look, memorizing every detail of the gruesome scene: the position of the girl's limbs, a description of her dress, the expression on her face. Simultaneously confident and sickened that I was capable of giving a thorough report of what I'd seen, I turned and started the long walk back to the house, my stomach lurching, my heart leaping at every sound that came from the surrounding fields, my legs shaking.

For the briefest moment, I wanted to pretend that I'd seen nothing, wanted to abandon myself to fear. Tears, ready to spill, flashed hot in my eyes, and I dug my fingernails into my palms. Which was when I heard a twig snap. I stopped long enough to see a rabbit scurrying across the path in front of me. And all at once, my fear turned to anger—anger that I no longer felt safe in this place that was supposed to offer respite. Pulling myself up straight, I marched back to the house, ready to tell Colin we had work to do.

It had taken me more than two hours to reach Mrs. Hargreaves's manor, nestled in a tree-filled grove deep in the Norman countryside northwest of Rouen, but as long rides had become my daily habit, I had not thought my absence would strike anyone as unusual. Hence my surprise when my husband rushed to greet me almost as soon as I'd opened the door. Overcome with relief at the sight of him, I collapsed into his arms, hardly pausing to breathe as the story tumbled from my lips.

"You're not hurt?" he asked, patting my arms and taking a step back to inspect me.

"No," I said. He looked me over again and then, seemingly satisfied, took me inside, sent the nearest servant to get the police posthaste, and sat me down on an overstuffed settee in the front sitting room. His mother, who had been reading, set aside her book and rose with a look of horror on her face.

"What has happened?" she asked.

"Emily has found a body," Colin said, pacing the perimeter of the room. Mrs. Hargreaves remained perfectly still, her face serious, as he recounted for her all that had transpired.

"The police?" she asked.

"Are already on their way," he said and directed his attention back to me. "You're quite certain of the location?"

"I'll have to show you. I don't know that I could explain how to get there," I said. "I hadn't followed a specific route."

"I was frantic when your horse came into the garden without you," he said. "I wanted to look for you but had no idea what direction you'd gone."

"I can't imagine you frantic. You're beyond calm—infuriatingly calm—in the face of danger."

"Not, my dear, when it comes to you. Not anymore." He sat next to me and took my hand, rubbing it with both of his.

"I will not stand for you going all protective," I said. "Next thing I know you'll be sending me to bed early and censoring the books I read."

"I know better than to try to influence your choice of reading material."

"You do have excellent taste," I said. "I might consider taking your advice."

His mother sighed loudly and all but rolled her eyes. "I wish you would let me send for my physician to look her over, Colin," she said. "Do you think, Lady Emily"—she insisted on addressing me formally, her voice full of sharp scorn, to remind me of her disapproval of the use of the courtesy title to which I, the daughter of an earl, was entitled—"that you'll be quite able to bear the sight of the body again? I can't help but worry about the constitution of such a delicate and sheltered girl."

"I'll be perfectly all right," I said, feeling my cheeks blush unpleasantly hot. "Anyone would be upset by what I've seen, but that doesn't mean I'm incapable of doing the work necessary to ensure justice for the victim of this unspeakable crime."

"And am I to believe you are better capable of achieving such a thing than the police?" she asked. I had no time to reply as the butler announced Inspector Gaudet, a towering man, tall and broad, with a beard and handlebar mustache that made his face resemble George, newly created Duke of York, younger son of the Prince of Wales. His size, however, would have dwarfed the duke.

"I assume," he said, crossing to me, "that you are Madame Hargreaves, who found the body."

"I am Madame Hargreaves," Colin's mother said, stepping forward. "I believe you want Lady Emily."

"I'm afraid my own lack of a title puts me beneath my wife in rank," Colin said, shaking the policeman's hand. "Hence the confusion. But I must say, there's no other lady I'd rather have precede me."

"Yes, of course," Mrs. Hargreaves said. "At any rate, Lady Emily is the one who found the murdered girl."

"Investigation will determine the cause of death," Inspector Gaudet said.

"There can't be much of a question," I said. "She was brutalized." Before I could stop them, tears sprang from my eyes. I pressed a handkerchief to my face and tried to compose myself.

"I do not need you to describe for me what had been done to her. I've already summoned a doctor to analyze the state of her body. He can't be more than ten minutes behind me. What I need is for you to show me the precise location of the scene. Do you feel able to do that? I understand how difficult all this is." His voice was full of sincere worry.

"I appreciate your concern," I said. "But I'm prepared to do whatever is necessary."

Within a quarter of an hour the doctor and another policeman had arrived, and we were all mounted on horseback, Colin keeping close to my side. Mrs. Hargreaves had debated joining the party, but in the end was persuaded by her son to stay behind. We set off, and it quickly became apparent retracing my route was not quite so easy as I thought it would be. I had followed a path from the house beyond the road that led to the village, but then diverted through fields on whims in search of flowers, or to follow the sound of a particularly fetching birdsong, or hoping to find the peace that had eluded me since the day of my injuries in Constantinople.

"I know it wasn't much farther," I said, frowning. I'd made a habit of timing the length it took me to reach the beginning of the village road—exactly half a mile from the house—and I knew how long I'd been riding at approximately the same speed. Six miles in any direction was not so easy to find, and I made enough missteps—mistaking one field of poppies or flax or wheat for another—that the others began to doubt I would be of any use to them. In the end, I managed to recognize from afar the twisted limbs of the tree that stood over the body.

My horse reared as we approached, sensing, I suppose, my own tension as much as it did the smell of blood that hung in the air. We all slowed, then stopped, no one moving for several minutes. I could not bring myself to look again at the hideous sight.

"I can't believe it," Colin said, dismounting, his voice gruff. "I never expected to see something like this again."

"Again?" Inspector Gaudet stood next to him.

"It's as brutal as the murders in Whitechapel," he said. The collective terror that had descended on all of London when Jack the Ripper stalked women in the East End was something no English man or woman would soon forget. Chills crawled up my arms at the mere thought of his horrible handiwork. "Emily, did you hear anything at all when you found her? Sounds that suggested someone was close by?"

"Only the crack of a branch," I said, hesitating. "But I can't say I was aware of much beyond her."

"She hasn't been dead long." The physician was kneeling beside her. "You're lucky not to have arrived any earlier than you did, Lady Emily."

My eyes lost all focus. I came off the horse and tried to walk towards Colin, but my knees buckled. He stepped back and moved to catch me, but I pushed him away, knowing there was no stopping the inevitable. I ran as far as I could from the tree, then doubled over and was sick.

Gaudet turned to the other police officer. "Organize a search. We must comb the entire countryside. Hargreaves, take your wife home and look after her. She's done all we need of her and ought not trouble herself with this matter any longer."

Reading Group Guide

1. What did you know about the treatment of madness in the nineteenth century before you started to read Dangerous to Know?

2. How does insanity affect families? Do they still deal with a sense of shame because of madness?

3. Are we, as a society, more enlightened today when it comes to how we judge individuals with mental disorders?

4. Are there some forms of madness that are more socially acceptable than others? If so, why is this?

5. Is there a touch of madness in everyone?

6. Mrs. Hargreaves's journal entries mark the first time in the series when we see someone else's view of Emily. Did her observations about her daughter-in-law change your view of Emily?

7. Do you believe it's possible to drive someone mad?

8. Who was your favorite character in the book, and why?

9. How is Lady Emily different from other woman of her era? Do you think she was "ahead of her time?" What do you see as her most and least admirable qualities? Take a moment to talk about women and their place in Victorian society.

10. How do women, in the past and today, find ways to be independent in restrictive societies?

11. To what extent do you think Tasha Alexander took artistic liberties with this work? What does it take for a novelist to bring a "real" period to life?

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Dangerous to Know 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 55 reviews.
Gertt More than 1 year ago
Settling into married life is not always easy, especially if you're the dashing, respected, Intelligence Agent, Colin Hargreaves and his lovely, independent wife, Emily. After their chaotic, life threatening honeymoon in Constantinople, Colin takes Emily to his Mother's home in Normandy to rest and recouperate. Of course nothing ever turns out as planned and they soon, reluctantly, find themselves in the middle of a mysterious murder, that tests their ability to continue working together on cases of intrigue, now that they are man and wife. While the unpredictable ending is tragic, it leaves you anticipating Colin and Emily's return to their home in London; which will most assuredly bring another adventure, that promises to include the charming Sabastian and, of course, Mrs. Hargreaves, a strong believer in women's rights, who has some plans of her own. Colin and Emily, have many interesting friends and aquantances, some old and some new, that pop in and out of the books and add entertainment and amusement to the series. I love this series and look forward to Emily and Colin's continuing adventures.
BCMystery More than 1 year ago
In Lady Emily's latest outing, the mood is haunted, the mystery Jamesian in its psychological twists and turns. As with the previous books, we see Lady Emily in a new setting, as she and husband Colin Hargreaves visit Colin's mother in Normandy. We also see a new side of Lady Emily's character, one in which she must face her own interior darkness and question her own understanding of her world. Dangerous To Know is gripping, enchanting, at times alarming, and ultimately enthralling. Tasha Alexander captivates us again!
Savvysnippet More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed the whole series, but I think I liked this one the least. There is more pathos than in the others. She was wounded in the last book and miscarried a child. She developers the theme of why women of that period of time had every reason to fear pregnancy and childbirth, and in that sense accomplishes a plot goal for the series. She also struggles with the balance of independence and the need for protection but she is maturing, and that is shown by her mother-in-laws changing attitudes toward her. I hope there are more books and that they focus more on the mysteries and husband-wife teamwork.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have throughly enjoyed all the "Lady Emily" series. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and Alexander doesn't disappoint.
Sparkles-Fly More than 1 year ago
Great series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I fell completely in love with this book! The setting seemed perfect and the characters so engaging:)I believe we all love the returned of our "thief with refined taste". This book is sure to entertain and anyone who loves being surprised would definately enjoy this book. I would recommend all of Tasha Alexander's books. They all have her singular sence of humor and love of mystery. In this book especially you see how Lady Emily Hargreives' character developes and changes. I have loved her from the beginning and I can't wait for the continuence of her story.
vernefan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dangerous to Know by Tasha Alexander (Book five in the Lady Emily Ashton Mystery series)Three Murders and a Little Girl GhostTasha Alexander¿s fifth novel in her Lady Emily Ashton mystery novels was for me the best in the series yet. It has been fun to watch the author¿s writing and story complexity evolve and improve to becoming one of the best in the genre of Victorian Era murder mysteries.Dangerous to Know picks up immediately where the previous book left off. Emily and her dashing husband Colin Hargreaves are recuperating from their tragic honeymoon in Istanbul, where Emily was shot and lost their unborn baby in the midst of investigating a murder. Colin thinking nothing but rest at his mother¿s estate would be just the ticket for Emily to mend, soon is proved wrong, when while out riding Emily finds the dead body of a young woman brutally stabbed to death. This event definitely was not what she needed and spins her into feeling emotions of insecurity, doubts of her marriage, and rivalry between herself and her new mother-in-law who seems to have nothing but disdain for Emily and her apparent weaknesses. Recognizing that the way out of her weakened physical state and depressed mind was to get back full swing into her work of solving crimes, she and Colin band together again to solve the mystery of the slain young girl which of course begins again another tale of adventure, mystery, romance and tragedies. The author dips her pen into the inkwell of combining madness in an insane asylum, jealousy between bitter siblings, a doctor turned mad scientist, and a gothic ghost story quite curious that has Emily seeing little girls with blue ribbons crying in the night. I thought Dangerous to Know had much more substance than previous plots in the earlier books, and that this installment¿s story was a lot more complex with multi-levels of intrigue that all tie together in the end. I continue to enjoy the romance between Emily and Colin, their chapters of interesting criminal detection, along with a host of regular background characters that enhance the pages of each book. Especially our beloved Sebastian Capet, the suave thief with panache. His personality grows with each book and seems to be a growing player that will have more of a part in the future which could become interesting when in the next book he will have a larger part in the lives and exploits of Lady Emily and the Queen¿s Spy Colin Hargreaves.Two thumbs up once again for Tasha Alexander who continues on the path to success with her series that serves up a fabulous concoction of murder and mayhem with romance, adventure and heartwarming characters you come to love!
Liabee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The best of the bunch so far, with a plot line that is followable and yet twists, relationships that are followable and yet twist and deepen, and all the period panache that rings so true (and could sound so risible in lesser hands).
wagner.sarah35 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lady Emily, still recovering from Constantinople, must now contend with her disapproving mother-in-law, a protective husband, a friend struggling with madness, and a a vicious killer whose crimes resemble those of Jack the Ripper. Emily spends much of this novel trying to find her footing after her misadventures in the previous novel and at times displays some uncharacteristic behavior. However, Emily does fall back into character and manages to uncover an unsuspected murderer.
DivineMissW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderful read. Mystery, suspense, love and adventure, this book has it all... and then some.
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