A lifelong New Yorker, Private Investigator Rachel Alexander has lived through some rough times—from 9/11, to a difficult divorce, to cases that have taken her to the depths of the city's dark underbelly. But when wealthy business owner Eleanor Redstone approaches Rachel to ask if she can investigate her father's murder—a brutal slaying that occurred when he was pushed onto the subway tracks—Rachel takes the case, plunging herself into parts of the city only its poorest residents have ever known. Because to solve Gardner Redstone's murder, Rachel must disguise herself as a homeless woman and live on the streets, searching for the dispossessed man witnesses say made the fatal push. In one of the coldest winters New York City has seen in years, Rachel is helped by a homeless Iraq War veteran, a man whose sad circumstances leave Rachel pondering her own fortunate life.
From critically-acclaimed author Carol Lea Benjamin, a writer the Cleveland Plain-Dealer calls "first rate," this is another illuminating look into the heart of New York, a mystery with heartbreaking characters, and a story you'll never forget.
About the Author
Carol Lea Benjamin is a noted author about, and trainer of, dogs. Her award-winning books on dog behavior and training include Mother Knows Best: The Natural Way to Train Your Dog, Second-Hand Dog, and Dog Training in Ten Minutes. A former detective, Benjamin blends her knowledge of dogs with her real-life experiences to create the Rachel Alexander mystery series. Recently honored by the International Association of Canine Professionals with election to their Hall of Fame, she lives in Greenwich Village with her husband and three dogs, Dexter, Flash, and Peep.
Read an Excerpt
The Hard Way
Eunice saw the can of Chicken of the Sea light tuna in water at the same time the rat did, but he was closer to it and got there first. She thumped the trash with her stick, once, twice, but the rat didn't even look up, his tongue snaking around the jagged edge of the lid, looking for a way in. When they take it all the way off, you can get in easy, Eunice thought, watching the rat work at the can. You don't have to poke in something skinny and sharp. You don't have to pry the lid up. But then things get in the can and you have to pick them out and when you do, sometimes there isn't anything left, not even enough for Lookout, though he'd always lick the tins she gave him anyway, not stopping until they were clean as new.
Lookout came from a Dumpster, too, like most of his meals and hers, but he hadn't been diving, he'd been pitched, inside a plastic bag, like a used diaper, the handles knotted twice. She'd heard him, a small cry, maybe a kitten, or a baby, Eunice had thought, digging into the trash until she'd found the bag, felt how warm it was and opened the knots. She'd saved his life, freeing him, then using the change she'd begged for that day to buy him milk and bread, tearing the bread into small pieces and letting it sop up the milk before she gave it to him.
Just a few weeks later, only a short time after Eunice had felt Lookout's beating heart through the plastic bag, someone took her cart, stole it while she slept. He'd barked, the high, squeaky bark of a puppy, he'd tried to help her even then, but by the time Eunice got her head out from under the blankets and newspapers, the cart was gone, only thebroom that had stuck out like a flag thrown down on the sidewalk and left there. What was she supposed to do, all her clothes gone, the lamp, the picture of a tree in a blond wood frame? Everything. Like her store. What was it called? Eunice had wondered. She'd picked up a piece of sandwich wrapped in foil and torn off a small bite for Lookout, holding it up to his face at the opening of her jacket, the two of them keeping each other warm right from the beginning.
He was big now, his bark an explosion, and even with his muscles hidden under three sweaters, the red one, her favorite, in the middle to keep it clean, you could see he was a dog you wouldn't mess with. If Eunice had a cart now, no one would take it. But Eunice didn't even have that can of tuna and the noise from the fire trucks was giving her a terrible headache.
She peeked over the top of the Dumpster, Lookout waiting on the sidewalk, wagging his tail when he saw her, find anything? find anything? find anything? He was hungry, too. Maybe they'd do better later, after the restaurants closed, leftover bread in the trash, sometimes even raw meat. She knew where to make a fire, how to cook the meat on the end of a stick, thinking maybe that's what happened across the street, the squatters cooking up dinner or trying to keep warm, the fire getting out of hand, the whole building glowing against the dark sky, the ladder of the fire truck sticking up like the beanstalk going to the giant's castle, smoke, like a cloud, around the top of it and just a glimpse of the firefighter up there, Eunice wishing she could have a coat like that, black with yellow bands, a coat that would keep out the rain and snow, a coat that would keep her warm. Lookout still did that, his body as hot as a furnace when he curled against her inside a cardboard box or under some piece of plastic, newspaper stuffed inside her coat and shoes, the wind still whipping at her face, stinging, making it burn with cold.
Eunice climbed out of the Dumpster and crossed the street. Maybe it would be warmer there, nearer the fire. That's when she saw the soldier for the first time, but he wasn't a soldier now, he was homeless, just like Eunice, what little he owned on one shoulder, hanging from the remaining strap of his lumpy khaki backpack. She stood next to him, watching the fire, a waiter from the diner down the block there, too, shivering in his white shirt and black jeans, a woman in a leopard coat, or maybe it was fake fur, the spots too even for it to be real, the woman shaking her head, close to tears. There was a man with a scar on his face a few feet away, shaved head, earrings, boots, a diver's watch on his wrist, checking the time, all of them looking up at the fire, the smoke coming through the roof as red as the fires of hell.
The soldier turned and looked at her. "What's your name?" he asked.
"Eunice," she told him. "What's yours?"
"Eddy," Eunice repeated. "Whirling water."
"No," he told her. "Eddie Perkins."
What if he asked her last name, Eunice thought, because she didn't know what it was and thinking he might ask made her head sweat under her watch cap, made sweat run down between her breasts, because they'd asked that time the paramedics found her, after she had that fall, and Eunice saw the way they looked at each other, two men, one young and fat, the smell of pizza on his mouth, the other one around forty, dark hair, pointy nose, acted like he was a fucking doctor and Eunice knew what that look meant and even though she'd hurt her leg, she got up and ran, Lookout following her, ran before they got her into the ambulance and took her away, leaving her dog on the street to fend for himself.The Hard Way. Copyright © by Carol Benjamin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read the book, despite the plot spoilers. I recommend it
Rachel Alexander and her dog, Dashiell are a team of private detectives. Yes, Dashiell is a very important part of Rachel¿s work. Most of us that have dogs realize how much a part of our lives they are and we treat them like the ¿kids¿ they are to us. When businessman Garner Redstone is pushed off the platform into the front of a subway train and is killed, Rachel receives a call from Redstone¿s daughter requesting that Rachel find out who did this terrible deed. It seems there were some homeless among those standing on the subway platform and could they have pushed Redstone? They were suspected and accused by many on the platform. While seeing a bad fire among a group of people, some of who are homeless people that had lived in the burning building, Rachel wonders who could have set such a fire and put so many people out of a living area. Seeing all the homeless, she decided the best way to obtain information on this murder was to go underground and become a homeless person herself. Using ¿Eunice¿ as her homeless name and ¿Lookout¿ for Dashiell, she started touring the homeless areas near where the fire occurred. She was accepted by a few but rejected by most. Eunice didn¿t have the look or moves of a homeless woman. She had to learn¿and fast! Some of the homeless took her under their wing and trusted her. Rachel was in and out of underground living while attempting to find the stories of those on the subway platform at the time of the push murder. With the wife¿s knowledge, she took an undercover job in the exclusive store owned by the deceased and his wife. This store catered to only the high-class sector selling exclusively designed jackets, coats, purses, and ultra specialty dog coats! Rachel researched the files of all ex and present day employees trying to find someone that had any reason to kill Garner Redstone. Her research led her to several employees and others that had any reason to kill Redstone. Rachel made several trips to interview most of the people that could be suspected killers, including some of the homeless People. Rachel had friends in the police department that got her information she was unable to find on her own. Dashiell was the talk and attention of all that met him, but he did not like some of them he met and made that known even though he wouldn¿t hurt them. The Hard Way is a very good suspenseful read and it has some humor to lighten things up along the way. Rachel learns how extremely hard the homeless have it in their day-to-day attempt to exist. She ends up helping some of them in different ways. It has many surprises along the way including the ending as it wraps up the murder. A good read.
Rachel Alexander has learned that the only way to go undercover is to go all the way inside out. Anything else can prove fatal when you do something out of character, and character is the keystone of this mystery. Eleanor Redstone can¿t sleep because the black, white, strong, short, tall homeless man who pushed her father onto the subway tracks in front of the express is still free. Rachel takes the case and goes undercover as one of the invisible homeless, but she knows there¿s something wrong with her cover. Even though she¿s spent long nights walking the part, people aren¿t talking to her. Luckily Eddie, an amnesiac, a young, homeless Iraq war veteran befriends her, giving her credibility as well as advice, and sends the suspect to her. Florida¿s first instinct after the incident was to grab the teen next to the victim and get him safely away from the edge, telling him to ¿¿be careful, son.¿ Dustin said he looked into the homeless man¿s eyes, and the eyes were kind. On the strength of her hunch, Rachel continues to investigate, going undercover at Eleanor¿s exclusive leather shop. By then, Eddie has gone missing, and although she searches, Rachel can¿t find him. She senses that Eddie¿s time on the streets is running out, and as she untangles the web of denial at GR, Eleanor's company, she finds grief and greed to be at the root of the murder. The murder solved, Rachel accepts that life is all too ephemeral, and she can¿t be afraid to take risks in exchange for connection and happiness. A thought provoking, well-plotted mystery with complex and realistic characters, The Hard Way is a gritty, satisfying read!
The daughter of Gardner Redstone hires Rachel Alexander to find the person who pushed her father into the path of an oncoming subway train. The police are stymied and the daughter wants answers. Of course there are a few witnesses and Rachel begins interviewing them all. Rachel must listen and study the varied stories told to her by a little boy, a ditsy lady, an ornery little store owner, and a grandmother. ............. Rachel does not seem to be doing any better than the police did, so she decides to go undercover as a homeless woman. Her disguise is not very good though, so she asks Eddie Perkins, a war veteran who is living on the New York streets, to help her. ................. **** Author Carol Lea Benjamin has another winner on her hands with this, the ninth novel in the Rachel Alexander mystery series. This book is aptly named too. I found myself more interested in the lives of the homeless and how they cope than anything else, especially during the winter. An extremely well written story that will open the eyes of many readers to the homeless situation, while challenging their intellect. ****
Successful Owner of GR Leather on Fourteenth Street in Manhattan, designer Gardner Redstone is in the subway when he falls onto the tracks just as a train arrived. Seven witnesses inform the police he was pushed. However, they do not agree on much more than that the culprit was a tall homeless male. The cops fail to find the killer who they assume is a maniac.---------------------- Gardner¿s daughter Eleanor hires dog trainer and private investigator Rachel Alexander to uncover the truth and identify her dad¿s killer. To do so Rachel goes undercover as Eunice a bag lady. However, at first she learns how to survive being homeless when a veteran mentors her. That does not help solve the case nor does interviewing the seven though their eyewitness accounts begin to unravel. At GR Leather she learns two employees recently died, which makes the sleuth and her canine partner Dashiell wonder if the killer¿s motive was not a loose maniacal frenzy, but a disguised cleverly handled homicide related to the upscale leather business.---------------------- The whodunit and why takes a back seat to the comparisons between the two Manhattans that of the wealthy vs. that of the street poor though a forced application of Thomas Carlisle¿s theory on the clothing of man takes somewhat away from the urinated formalwear compared with high quality leather. Rachel and Dashiell are at their very best when she meets the homeless Vet who though a bit off center teaches her the ropes of street survival. The murder mystery is fun to follow, but the interrogation of seven witnesses to the same event becomes a bit weary even if each sees things different. Still overall this is a fascinating tale as Rachel and the reader learns first hand what its like to walk in the ripped sneakers of a homeless person.------------------------ Harriet Klausner