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Dirty Laundry
From Publisher's Weekly
Wood redefines L.A. urban noir as an explosive blend of race relations, politics and murder in her third installment (after Stormy Weather) of the award-winning Charlotte Justice series, which follows the career of an African-American LAPD detective after the 1978 gang-related murder of her husband and son. Fast forward to 1993, 11 months after the riots, to an L.A. still struggling with post–Rodney King tensions. Justice, now assigned to Robbery Homicide, is investigating the murder of Vicki Park, a young Korean campaign worker for Mike Santos, a former news anchor who is now a mayoral candidate. On her first case since a suspension for her part in “the mishandling of a confessed murderer,” Justice, along with Det. Billie Truesdale, has to work alongside some “female-hating, trash-talking cowboys,” but solving the crime unites them in a common purpose. Woods’s gift for realistically depicted police work, tight plotting and succinct characterization serves her well, notably with angry, self-righteous African-American patrol supervisor Tony Brackeen and Asian Task Force Det. Young “King” Kang, who introduces Justice to the workings of Koreatown’s underside. Justice’s visits to her family’s “Nut House” for folksy consultations and her rushed moments with boyfriend Aubrey round out this satisfying, fast-paced police procedural. Its only flaw may be that the rush to “justice” is too swift, and that the plot threads—the suspicious suicide of a former Japanese WWII criminal living in L.A.; the enigma of Park—could have been developed further.(July 1)
From Booklist
Charlotte Justice, an African American homicide detective in the LAPD's elite Robbery-Homicide Division, is part of another elite crew, that of fictional women cops who are multidimensional and fun to watch. Justice has a tragic past: her husband and infant daughter were murdered years back. Woods gives us a convincing portrayal of a grieving widow and mother without stooping to an easy, formulaic use of Justice's tragedy. In the latest in the Justice series..., L.A.'s Koreatown is shaken by the discovery of the body of a well-known young Korean woman, a campaign strategist for a mayoral candidate. It is a high-profile case, and Justice must slog through messy city politics, her colleagues' infighting, and the Korean community's hostility to police in an investigation that grows both uglier and more threatening every day. Riveting."
From The Chicago Tribune
The Los Angeles crime scene certainly has its share of public and private superstars, everyone from Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch to John Shannon's Jack Liffey. But what Paula Woods does better than anyone in her books about Charlotte Justice is to show just how hard it has always been to be an honest, effective, black, female police detective in a system that undervalues virtually all of those qualities.

It's 1993, not quite a year after the Rodney King riots, and Justice is finally back at work after a suspension caused by the bloody mess detailed in "Stormy Weather." She and her partner, Billie Truesdale, inherit the murder case of Vicki Park, a young Korean woman working as a campaign aide to a Hispanic TV anchor running for mayor.

" `That's your and your girlfriend's job now,' " jokes Neidisch, one of the detectives, to Justice. "I could almost see the steam rising off of Billie," Justice tells us. "Neidisch had made the identical, albeit wrongheaded, inference about my relationship with her when I'd had a run-in with him last Thanksgiving. . . . I glanced at Lieutenant Bianchi, who had suddenly gone deaf, and then at Lieutenant Graydon. Her blue eyes conveyed sympathy, but that was about all; Neidisch was part of the Wilshire Division's detective table, and therefore in Bianchi's chain of command, not hers."

With supervisors like those, Justice can't expect much official help when the Park case takes several dangerous and unexpected turns. Buoyed as usual by the support of her extended family and friends, Justice gets through it all, barely--leaving us to wonder yet again at the end if she can bear to return to what is in fact the only job she knows.
From the Sun-Sentinel
Nearly everyone has a bit of Dirty Laundry they'd prefer to keep quiet. But when it comes to politicians, dirty laundry seldom is private; it's practically announced on interstate billboards.

That's one of the situations facing L.A.P.D. detective Charlotte Justice when she and her team investigate the murder of a campaign strategist for Mike Santos, a former news anchor who looks primed to become the city's first Latino mayor. The high-profile case is exacerbated by the fact that the murdered woman, Vicki Park, was viewed as a role model in the tight-knit Korean community. Her part in the campaign was meant to endear Santos and his platform to the Korean residents.

But with 24 candidates trying to replace the city's black incumbent, the mayoral race has been rife with dirty tricks.

Charlotte navigates her investigation along two routes -- the city's political structure and the Korean area where 13 merchants have been killed in the past month. The case is further complicated by the fact that the Korean neighborhood is openly hostile to police and blacks. These suspicions are intensified since both Charlotte and her partner, Detective Billie Truesdale, are black. This antagonism threatens the investigation as well as the lives of the cops assigned to the case.

Author Paula L. Woods' knack for creating a forceful look at Los Angeles' ethnic enclaves excels in the intriguing Dirty Laundry. In the third novel in her series, Woods elevates the plot with strong detours into the changing faces of L.A.'s myriad neighborhoods. Charlotte muses on the transformation of a struggling neighborhood, "whose very architecture clashed -- down-on-their-luck Chandleresque apartments at war with weary Craftsmen bungalows and crumbling sixties complexes, the latter infiltrating the neighborhood during one of the city's many misguided tear-down crazes." Set in 1993, when L.A. is in the midst of rebuilding 11 months after the Rodney King riots, Dirty Laundry gives us a look at our immediate past and contemporary life, from the inner workings of Koreatown to Charlotte's upper-middle-class family. Woods adds to the tension by focusing on the bureaucracy and prejudice in the police department. The politics that swirl around the mayoral race parallel the politics that undercuts the police force. Being black and female in the elite Robbery-Homicide Division has often left Charlotte vulnerable. The Park murder is her first case since being suspended for her role in "the mishandling of a confessed murderer." That Billie is a lesbian spurs more problems for the two detectives from the force's "female-hating, trash-talking cowboys."

The sharply defined Charlotte continues to grow through her work and personal life. On the job, her skills as an investigator sharpen. At home, she tries to sort through her feelings for an appealing doctor while not letting go of the grief she still carries for her husband and child who were murdered more than 15 years ago. Unlike her previous novels, Dirty Laundry concentrates more on Charlotte's work, making the scenes of her personal life and the conflicts with her elitist mother more poignant.

A solid core of supporting characters inhabits Dirty Laundry. Often-distrustful Billie is a good addition to Charlotte's team. A self-righteous black supervisor and an Asian cop who maneuvers Charlotte through the Korean community are realistically portrayed.

Woods, who edited the anthology Spooks, Spies and Private Eyes: Black Mystery, Crime and Suspense Fiction of the 20th Century, delivers a briskly paced police procedural that never falters in Dirty Laundry
From the San Francisco Chronicle
"Woods has a knack for getting inside the turbulent inner workings of a big-city police department."
From Bookreporter.com
Police work involves quite a bit more, alas, than fighting crime. There is, and always has been, a political and cultural element to it as well as the tide of different ethnicities ebb and flow into and out of a city. This is hardly a recent development; Irish police resented the influx of Italian officers into the New York City and Chicago police ranks during and after the turn of the 20th Century; the New Orleans Police Department for years roiled with the uneasy mixing of Italian and French South Louisiana officers, who in turn had to adjust to the inevitable but overdue influx of black officers into the ranks. Race of the officers is not the only factor which affects a police department, however. Nor is it the size of the city the department patrols. There is a municipality within spitting distance of my residency that has made national headlines by virtue of the fact that it exists solely to support its police department, which writes traffic tickets by the handful, in order to support its police department, which writes traffic tickets by the handful, in order to...well, you get the idea.

Most police procedural novels lead the reader painstakingly through the evidence-gathering process and while they may touch on the internal and external politics of the department that touch is light and almost incidental. That is not the case with the Charlotte Justice novels. Justice is a black homicide detective in the LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division. Her creator, Charlotte Woods, has carved out a series in which Justice and her supporting characters are constantly evolving, making mistakes, paying for them, and moving on. The crimes which are investigated usually take place off the page, though the violence which is transmitted through the crime scene description to the reader is certainly graphic enough. Woods' major accomplishment, however, is to nicely balance her description of the crime-solving procedure against the backdrop of the political and social factors which affect how, and in some cases whether, the crime is investigated and the wrongdoer apprehended.

DIRTY LAUNDRY, the latest of Woods' Charlotte Justice novels, begins with the grisly discovery of a murder in a transient area of Koreatown. The victim is quickly determined to be Vicki Park, an up-and-coming political assistant to mayoral candidate Mike Santos. There is no lack of suspects, from Park's fiancee to members of Santos' campaign staff to, surprisingly enough, members of the Los Angeles Police Department. Park, it seems, was a bit of a maverick, a Korean working on the campaign of a Hispanic mayoral candidate, and as it turns out did not approve of some of his campaign tactics. Yet, there were other mayoral candidates that did not approve of her own work as well. Justice finds that her investigation is hamstrung by opportunists in the police department, political realities ---she can investigate candidates, but not too closely --- and even to some extent by her personal life. It is almost a foregone conclusion that solving Park's murder will have some effect on the mayoral campaign. When the identity of the murderer is revealed, it should not be a surprise, but it is a very big one.

DIRTY LAUNDRY, surprisingly contains echoes of some of Raymond Chandler's best work, in the sense that Woods, like Chandler, utilizes her well-crafted storylines as a vehicle for commenting on the culture of Los Angeles. Reading Woods is like walking down the sidewalk of a neighborhood that you would, at best, only drive through, if you knew that it existed at all. The difference is that once you take one of Woods' tours you will keep coming back.

Given the fresh publicity that accompanies the publishing of DIRTY LAUNDRY Woods she begin getting the attention her work needs and so greatly deserves. DIRTY LAUNDRY is a gritty, haunting work that is intriguing the first time through and which will no doubt stand up to repetitive readings.
From I Love a Mystery
I have found on a consistent basis that most authors who come through with a great debut mystery struggle and fall apart when they try to match or even step up the ladder with their second, let alone, third book.

Paula Woods is an exception to this general rule. Ms. Woods keeps building on her trademark storyline style as she continues to sharpen her writing skill in DIRTY LAUNDRY. Ms. Woods' mysteries are secondary to what she is really conveying, a look at the hodgepodge of Los Angeles communities and its causal connection to the inner push and tug of the Los Angeles Police Department. This view is self evident by her insistence that the book covers clearly state "A Charlotte Justice Novel" and not "Mystery" as was erroneously found in the initially printed covers of her first novel, INNER CITY BLUES.

In her superb debut, INNER CITY BLUES, Ms. Woods introduces the reading audience to Charlotte Justice, a detective assigned to the prestigious Robbery and Homicide Division of the L.A. Police Department. Detective Justice is driven to find the felons whether or not she breaks rank with the upper brass and politicians of the fine and smoggy city of Los Angeles, very much like Harry Bosch in Michael Connelly's popular mystery series. We are invited into Justice's upper echelon black family home, appropriately called the Nut House. "The name we kids gave our house had its origins in a family story of how, when my walnut-toned father was introduced to my fair-skinned mother, he said: I'm just a nutty Negro, but would you be my Almond Joy?" The reader drives along with Charlotte Justice through the Los Angeles black and burnt out communities while Ms. Woods' protagonist investigates the murder of her husband's and daughter's own murderer, a one-time radical. The Los Angeles riot of 1992 is the backdrop to this novel.

Ms. Woods' opens her second and equally insightful story, STORMY WEATHER, with a potent statement that sets the tone of the entire novel: As Charlotte's mother would ask the Justice children, what was the meaning of a film, likewise what does one learn about death? "Point is, you never know how death will slap you upside the head, or what a homicide investigation will uncover about the victim, the suspects or yourself." In exploring this theme, Charlotte Justice, during the post-Los Angeles 1992 riot rebuilding period, struggles to solve the possible murder of a respected black director from the golden years of movies, while hampered by internal L.A. Police racist and sexual harassment hurdles, and of course, local politicians. On top of everything else, Justice continues down the excruciating path of trying to move on with her personal life, still haunted by the devastating 1978 deaths of her husband and daughter.

In Paula Woods' third installment of her Charlotte Justice series, DIRTY LAUNDRY, the author starts this riveting story a few months after STORMY WEATHER and again with a philosophical point: "Only when we face death do we see our lives clearly." Several months after the 1992 L.A. riots, Detective Justice and her friend and new partner, Billie Truesdale, are called in to investigate a murder of a female victim found in Koreatown during a Los Angeles mayoral race. The investigation has a trying effect on Charlotte Justice, professionally and personally. There are several other story lines and twists that Ms. Woods throws into the murder caldron and neatly ties together, including Los Angeles Police Department corruption, Asian gangs, the interplay of different police departments and Charlotte's coming to terms with the loss of her husband and daughter. More so in this novel than in the earlier installments, DIRTY LAUNDRY is fast paced and action packed. I could not put the book down without turning one more page.

You can read DIRTY LAUNDRY as a standalone, although I strongly recommend that you read the first two Paula Woods novels to appreciate Charlotte Justice as an individual and as a female black detective during one of the worst times in Los Angeles history. I look forward to Ms. Woods' next book!

 

From AOL Book Report

 

Police work involves quite a bit more, alas, than fighting crime. There is, and always has been, a political and cultural element to it as well as the tide of different ethnicities ebb and flow into and out of a city. This is hardly a recent development; Irish police resented the influx of Italian officers into the New York City and Chicago police ranks during and after the turn of the 20th Century; the New Orleans Police Department for years roiled with the uneasy mixing of Italian and French South Louisiana officers, who in turn had to adjust to the inevitable but overdue influx of black officers into the ranks. Race of the officers is not the only factor which affects a police department, however. Nor is it the size of the city the department patrols. There is a municipality within spitting distance of my residency that has made national headlines by virtue of the fact that it exists solely to support its police department, which writes traffic tickets by the handful, in order to support its police department, which writes traffic tickets by the handful, in order to...well, you get the idea.

Most police procedural novels lead the reader painstakingly through the evidence-gathering process and while they may touch on the internal and external politics of the department that touch is light and almost incidental. That is not the case with the Charlotte Justice novels. Justice is a black homicide detective in the LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division. Her creator, Charlotte Woods, has carved out a series in which Justice and her supporting characters are constantly evolving, making mistakes, paying for them, and moving on. The crimes which are investigated usually take place off the page, though the violence which is transmitted through the crime scene description to the reader is certainly graphic enough. Woods' major accomplishment, however, is to nicely balance her description of the crime-solving procedure against the backdrop of the political and social factors which affect how, and in some cases whether, the crime is investigated and the wrongdoer apprehended.

DIRTY LAUNDRY, the latest of Woods' Charlotte Justice novels, begins with the grisly discovery of a murder in a transient area of Koreatown. The victim is quickly determined to be Vicki Park, an up-and-coming political assistant to mayoral candidate Mike Santos. There is no lack of suspects, from Park's fiancee to members of Santos' campaign staff to, surprisingly enough, members of the Los Angeles Police Department. Park, it seems, was a bit of a maverick, a Korean working on the campaign of a Hispanic mayoral candidate, and as it turns out did not approve of some of his campaign tactics. Yet, there were other mayoral candidates that did not approve of her own work as well. Justice finds that her investigation is hamstrung by opportunists in the police department, political realities ---she can investigate candidates, but not too closely --- and even to some extent by her personal life. It is almost a foregone conclusion that solving Park's murder will have some effect on the mayoral campaign. When the identity of the murderer is revealed, it should not be a surprise, but it is a very big one.
DIRTY LAUNDRY, surprisingly contains echoes of some of Raymond Chandler's best work, in the sense that Woods, like Chandler, utilizes her well-crafted storylines as a vehicle for commenting on the culture of Los Angeles. Reading Woods is like walking down the sidewalk of a neighborhood that you would, at best, only drive through, if you knew that it existed at all. The difference is that once you take one of Woods' tours you will keep coming back.

Given the fresh publicity that accompanies the publishing of DIRTY LAUNDRY Woods she begin getting the attention her work needs and so greatly deserves. DIRTY LAUNDRY is a gritty, haunting work that is intriguing the first time through and which will no doubt stand up to repetitive readings.

-Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub

 

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