Paula L. Woods, Author . Ballantine/One World $23.95 (284p) ISBN 978-0-345-45700-4

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)

Forecast:In addition to satisfying fans of her previous police procedurals, Justice should build up steam with African-American readers and other ethnic groups. Her take on L.A. noir is smooth and authoritative. 4-city author tour.

Reviewed on: 06/02/2003
Release date: 07/01/2003
Mass Market Paperbound - 288 pages - 978-0-345-45701-1
Compact Disc - 978-0-7927-2936-5
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 230 pages - 978-0-345-46439-2
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7927-2935-8
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-7927-4172-5
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