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Inner City Blues: A Charlotte Justice Novel (Charlotte Justice Novels) [Kindle Edition]

Paula L. Woods
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

This debut novel in a new series featuring black LAPD homicide detective Charlotte Justice will make mystery fans wanna holler — with delight.

Meet Detective Charlotte Justice, a black woman in the very white, very male, and sometimes very racist Los Angeles Police Department. The time is 48 hours into the epochal L.A. riots and she and her fellow officers are exhausted. She saves the curfew-breaking black doctor Lance Mitchell from a potentially lethal beating from some white officers — only to discover nearby the body of one-time radical Cinque Lewis, a thug who years before had murdered her husband and young daughter. Was it a random shooting or was Mitchell responsible? And what had brought Lewis back to a city he'd long since fled?

Charlotte's quest for the truth behind Cinque's death will set her at odds with the LAPD hierarchy, plunge her into the intricacies of everything from L.A.'s gang-banging politics to its black blue-bloods, and lead her into deep emotional waters with Mitchell's partner (and her old flame), Dr. Aubrey Scott.

In Charlotte Justice, Paula L. Woods has created a tough, tart, but also vulnerable heroine sure to draw comparisons to such classic figures as Easy Rawlins and Kinsey Milhone, but a true original as well.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this energetic, tough-talking debut, African American cop Charlotte Justice works the streets during and immediately after the Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King verdict. The action starts when Charlotte rescues a respected black doctor from a certain beating at the hands of her racist colleagues. Troublingly, Dr. Mitchell's excuses for being on the riot-torn streets that night are scarcely plausible. The corpse of Cinque Lewis, a drug dealer, former revolutionary and, by an odd coincidence, killer of Charlotte's beloved husband and daughter, is soon found near the scene of the doctor's arrest. Then Mitchell becomes the victim of a nasty murder. The investigation into his death kicks up allegations of pedophilia; Mitchell, known for charitable work with teens, was hardly the man he seemed. Along the way, Charlotte has to deal with a white fellow officer who throws around terms like "jungle bunny," with a superior officer who pursues her romantically and even with the threat of an Internal Affairs investigation into her actions during the riots. She does, however, manage to reignite a romance with a childhood sweetheart. Woods makes some rookie mistakes: she sometimes strains to maintain a streetwise feel, using terms like "the niggerati" and "incognegro," and her plot, too, can seem forced, as in Charlotte's implausible assignment to the investigation of Lewis's murder. But Woods can also be funny: a forensics officer lifts "prints faster than the Tasmanian Devil on crack." Charlotte's central conflict?between commitments to her work and to her community?isn't entirely fresh, but it adds nuance to her adventures in this promising, if flawed, first offering.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

When the City of Angels goes haywire following the beating of Reginald Denny, the last person you want to be is a black detective in the LAPD's Robbery-Homicide Division. Charlotte Justice, who's hearing her share of ethnic slurs from the back of the police bus trolling for rioters, gets beaten by her own colleagues when she tries to keep them off Lance Mitchell, an emergency-room doctor they find on King Boulevard past curfew. But Mitchell, a womanizer whose syndicated Love Doctor wife is doing e verything she can to keep their messy divorce quiet, may not be worth Charlotte's trouble, especially when his missing wallet is found under the corpse of Robert (``Cinque'') Lewis, the one-armed revolutionary who vanished after murdering Charlotte's husb and and baby daughter over ten years ago. Charlotte, who still can't bring herself to clean out her late family's things, is glad that her battles on Mitchell's behalf bring her together with Mitchell's boss Dr. Aubrey Scott, her onetime high-school flame , but she isn't ready to let Aubrey as far into her life as he wants to come. Meantime, a trail of fresh casualties leads from Cinque Lewis's Black Freedom Militia to gallery owner Reggie Peeples's program to foster inner-city black artists. What's the co nnection, and how do Charlotte's own department, and Charlotte herself, fit in? Anthologist Woods (Spooks, Spies, and Private Eyes, 1995) puts an African-American spin on Sara Paretsky's trademarks (the broad canvas filled with big events, the tough-as-th e-boys heroine, the gimlet eye for urban corruption) in this important debut. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 471 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (October 1, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0093WVS8Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #887,732 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Great Series August 18, 2002
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I love a good mystery and Paula Woods has written a winner. Charlotte Justice joins the ranks with other top notch African American female sleuths Tamara Hayle, Blanche White, Star Duvall and newcomer Alex Powell. Our appropriately named heroine is a detective with the LAPD's Homicide Division; she's bright, socially aware and intuitive. Thirteen years ago her husband and baby girl were murdered in the driveway of their home providing Charlotte with a very personal interest in justice being served.
The Justice clan is quite a family, all card carrying members of the black bourgeois; brother Perris a former LAPD cop turned criminal defense attorney; his equally ambitious buppie wife Louise; Charlotte's father, a chemist who has made a small fortune manufacturing cosmetics for black women and Mom Justice, a fair-skinned daughter of an upper crust black family. Charlotte cringes at and often breaks the three Justice rules which are 1. Don't marry anyone too light, or too dark 2. Common is a word that should only be applied to stocks not people and 3. Don't even fix your mouth to say you're in love with some white person.
There are also several other equally interesting and well developed characters, for instance Steve Hightower, Charlotte's supervisor. With his black mother/Jewish father he has no idea who or what he is and is so uncomfortable around black people he's earned the nickname "incognegro." Unfortunately he's making an exception in Charlotte's case almost making Clarence Thomas look like a choir boy. We also have Aubrey Scott, a gorgeous doctor that Charlotte has known almost all her life. She is so smitten with him she can't think straight, which hopefully won't turn out to be a bad move.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I read this book--cover to cover--in one weekend July 14, 1999
By A Customer
I am not usually enthralled with detective stories/mysteries even when they star black protagnonists. However, Charlotte Justice first seized and then released me, only when I had finished her story. The author captured not only the post-1992 riots Los Angeles, but also the Los Angeles I grew up in during the sixties and seventies (View Park, Crenshaw, Baldwin Hills and the "Dons", etc.)The writing was tight and spare, the plot was intriguing with enough nuance to be real be not trite. Paula Woods got it right! I eagerly anticipate many more novels featuring Det. Charlotte Justice!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unbelievable Debut June 29, 2001
As a mystery writer with my first novel in initial release, I have had a difficult time believing INNER CITY BLUES is genuinely Paula Woods' debut novel. It is simply too perfect. Set against the backdrop of the Los Angeles civil disturbances of the too recent past, Woods creates a perfect heroine for the police procedural of today. Charlotte Justice is struggling with emotional baggage, yet she is trying to move on with her life. She suffers from various types of discrimination as an LAPD officer, yet she is dedicated to her work. In INNER CITY BLUES, Detective Justice is faced with a baffling case mixing her personal past, the murder of her husband, with the racially turbulent situation in Los Angeles following the Rodney King verdict. Charlotte Justice is a convincing contemporary woman with internal struggles and external challenges. Ms. Woods captures her setting perfectly, and her plot is swiftly paced. INNER CITY BLUES is an excellent book, most deserving of the recognition it has received.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OUTSTANDING DEBUT NOVEL February 13, 2000
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had a difficult time believing that this was her first novel. Based on this debut novel, she is an incredibly gifted and talented writer The writing was supurb, the plot flowed, there were absolutely no gaps in the storyline and most importantly, her characters were fully developed. She portrayed Charlotte as strong yet vulnerable and with a good balance of both. I am really looking forward to her next Charlotte Justice novel and hopes she makes reference to the premier eating establishment in LA....Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles! I can smell the waffles and chicken wings at this very moment!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a worthy first effort April 29, 2000
Paula Woods debuts a new entry into the world of mysteries - black homicide detective Charlotte Justice is an interesting and compelling character. Her unique status as a female and African American in the LAPD makes this an interesting read. The mystery on the other hand is not too shocking and uses the ABC method (the murder is not A, or B, so who's left method). The police procedure aspects could also use a bit of work and further technical authenticity. The personal life portions and the dwelling of her romance, in particular the sexual encounters, is at times embarassing and unnecessary. However, despite all of this, it is still a worthy read simply to get a fresh perspective in this sometimes cliched genre.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars She kept me guessing... October 15, 2001
By Candace
Coming from me, who usually has books, movies, etc. figured out by the middle, that's saying a lot.
Inner City Blues is a mystery that takes place during the Rodney King riots. A well-to-do doctor is accused of being involved in a string of murders, but our heroine, Charlotte, isn't so sure.
Join Charlotte in a journey to find justice.
Woods kept me on the edge of my seat most of the time (albeit from the suspense of the case Charlotte was working OR the suspense of Charlotte's life, including her love life), and had my mind working overtime.
I applaud Paula L. Woods for creating a heroine I could root for, feel sympathy for, and in the end, care for.
I am anxious to read the next book in the Charlotte Justice series, Stormy Weather.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Inner City Blues
Not the best read ever for law enforcement stories, but still a good read. I am not sure I would be interested in any of authoress' books.
Published 20 months ago by Judith A. Heston
4.0 out of 5 stars Award-winning book
This novel won the 2000 Macavity Award (announced at Bouchercon 2000, Colorado.)
Published on October 19, 2000 by Aimee Spencer
2.0 out of 5 stars Fell short of my expectations...
I picked this book up with high expectations. Unfortunately those expectations were dashed. While this book was a decent read, it is not a book I'd recommend. Read more
Published on January 13, 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Detective Justice Oh My!
I loved it! Paula Woods has hooked me on Det Justice and they both have a life long fan in me.
Published on October 19, 1999
2.0 out of 5 stars NOT SATISFIED
Read this title as a book club selection based upon reviews by other customers. I was not at all impressed with the story. Read more
Published on October 15, 1999 by Janeth Walker (
5.0 out of 5 stars Want to see another side of the LAPD-read Inner City Blues
As a general rule, I don't normally buy into the hype about a " new exciting author" with a different view of my hometown of Los Angeles; invariably they disappoint me... Read more
Published on February 21, 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars My vote goes to Woods
It seems there are a rash of books out right now that revisit L.A.'s recent, volatile racial history. Read more
Published on January 28, 1999
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More About the Author

Paula L. Woods is the author of the Charlotte Justice mystery series, including STRANGE BEDFELLOWS (2006). In conjunction with publication of the fourth novel in the series, Paula is sponsoring the Get Justice! Sweepstakes on her website,, where a lucky winner can win a weekend in Los Angeles. She invites you to visit the site and enter the sweepstakes.

DIRTY LAUNDRY (2003), third novel in the Charlotte Justice series, was named a best mystery by the Seattle Times and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel STORMY WEATHER (2001), the second in the series, was a September 2001 Penzler's Pick on and was named one of the best books of 2001 by the Los Angeles Times and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. INNER CITY BLUES (1999), the first Charlotte Justice mystery, was on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list for three weeks and was also named by the newspaper as one of the best books of 1999. Inner City Blues received the Macavity Award for Best First Mystery, was named Best First Novel by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, and was nominated for the Edgar and Anthony awards for best first mystery novel.

Paula began writing mysteries after studying the genre and editing the critically acclaimed anthology SPOOKS, SPIES, AND PRIVATE EYES: BLACK MYSTERY, CRIME, AND SUSPENSE FICTION OF THE 20TH CENTURY (1995). Although SPOOKS, SPIES was nominated for an Anthony Award, Macavity Award, and received a special award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Woods always thought a voice was missing from the collection, "that of a female cop who was tough as nails but feminine enough to get her nails done." Charlotte Justice was her dynamic addition to the genre.

With Felix H. Liddell, Paula also wrote and/or edited the best-selling I, TOO SING AMERICA: THE AFRICAN AMERICAN BOOK OF DAYS (1992), as well as MERRY CHRISTMAS, BABY: A CHRISTMAS AND KWANZAA TREASURY (1996), and I HEAR A SYMPHONY: AFRICAN AMERICANS CELEBRATE LOVE (1994), the latter of which won Fiction Honors from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for Multicultural Literature.

A member of the National Book Critics Circle, she reviews books regularly for the Los Angeles Times and has served a a mystery columnist for the Washington Post.

Paula is a member of Mystery Writers of America and other crime writing associations. She has also served as an Edgar judge, on the Author Committee of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and speaker at the festival.

Paula's novels are noted by critics for their searing analysis of race and gender politics in the LAPD, portrayal of a loving if dysfunctional family and strong evocation of Los Angeles' diverse ethnic communities. An L.A. native, Paula's lifelong love of books and reading has resulted in the growth of her personal library to over 1,000 volumes.


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