The overworked Los Angeles Police Department is attempting to patrol an area that has many street gangs and other residents who don't speak the same language as the Police.
Dinko Babich, a second generation Croatian. He works on the docks but is currently suspended. He doesn't have much ambition or meaning to his life.
Dinko does a favor for a friend and takes a young Mexican dancer, Lita Medina, to a nightclub for an employment interview.
These two innocent characters have a magnetic attraction toward each other. They fall in love amidst what is going on at the adult dance hall and the trafficking in illegal aliens.
When thirteen Asians are found suffocated on a transportation container of a ship that had docked in San Pedro, police are brought into the investigation. There is a public outcry to find and punish those responsible.
With Joseph Wambaugh there is always humor in the midst of the human drama being played out in the harbor area. In this case, there is a wealthy Russian investor who has an unusual fetish in amputated limbs.
Dinko and Lita's love grows, and is tenderly described. However, one of Lita's dance hall roommates notices something that has to do with the the deaths of the Asians but then goes missing.
To observe Lita, a poor Mexican nineteen-year-old, find apparent happiness with Dinko, the reader is captured by their strong feelings and we have hope for their future together.
The action moves in waves and is interspersed with the stories of the members of the third watch in the patrol division of the LAPD.
The characters are a conglomeration of truly evil people and those who are honest and trying to make a living. In between are the LAPD who observe life around them in a philosophical and humorous manner. Irony exists with some of the action taking place on the Hollywood walk of stars, crowded with criminals planning the elimination of a possible witness.
A very entertaining novel that depicts life and hope and the sadness that exists.