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Dirty Laundry    by Paula Woods order for
Dirty Laundry
by Paula Woods
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

African-American police detective Charlotte Justice returns in Paula Woods' third mystery, Dirty Laundry. Set in Los Angeles right after the early 1990s Rodney King riots, the series introduces us to a different slice of Angeleno culture, that of upper middle-class African-Americans. While there are many mysteries set in LA with a wide assortment of Caucasians (police officers or PIs) as protagonists, this series fills a unique niche.

Charlotte is a thiry-something widow whose husband and young daughter were murdered over ten years before. After grieving for many years, Charlotte is finally moving on with her life and is involved in a new romance with an attractive doctor. Charlotte, unfortunately, has little time for her new love, since she has been recently promoted and is in charge of a detective squad. Fighting the double whammy of being female and African-American in a mostly white male establishment, she is determined to prove herself.

Her first case involves the brutal slaying of Victoria Park, a young Korean-American woman working as liaison to the Korean community for one of the mayoral candidates. Charlotte and her squad discover all kinds of dirty secrets behind the scenes in Victoria's life, in the upcoming election, and even in the police department itself. Soon Charlotte finds herself in a very precarious position and must fight hard to save herself and her case.

Woods continues to broaden our perspective on Los Angeles, this time with a focus on the Korean community. However, this episode lacks the sparkle of #2 in the series, Stormy Weather, which spent considerable time with Charlotte's colorful family and new romance, most of which is pushed to the side in Dirty Laundry. That would be fine if the mystery held center stage on its own, but it is just not that engrossing. Overall this episode isn't up to the standard of the more fully drawn second book.

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