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Paula L. Woods’ debut novel, Inner City Blues, centers on the tough tensions faced by Charlotte Justice, a Black cop in Los Angeles during the 1992 L.A. riots. Charlotte, who faces daily challenges as a Black woman officer in her division, is investigating the murder of Cinque Lewis, a former revolutionary turned drug dealer. For Charlotte, the case has a devastating personal connection—Cinque killed her husband and infant daughter before he vanished a decade ago. Then, a second murder, this time of a respected Black doctor in the community, brings startling and scandalous revelations to the surface, and forces the officer into a race against the clock to solve the case before another fatality happens. As much a riveting crime tale as it is a chronicle of the heartbreak of the L.A. race riots, the 1999 novel became a standout in a revolutionary wave of mystery books in the ’90s that helped bring prominence to Black women writers in the genre. In 2000, Inner City Blues was named Best First Novel by the Black Caucus American Library Association. Cady Lang

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