Review: City on Fire by Don Winslow

Don Winslow’s trilogy launcher builds like a summer storm — its tranquil beachside opening belies the violence, bloodshed and bodycount that ensues following the destruction of the armistice between two rival mob families.

City on Fire is classic Winslow: an epic story tightly focused on a core group of characters. Danny Ryan is the headliner. His father once ran the Irish mob that, to this day, controls the docks in the upper south side of Providence, Rhode Island. Today, 1986, he’s the son-in-law of the gang’s current leader, John Murphy. For years they’ve lived in relative harmony with the Italians — Danny’s even done some work for the Moretti brothers, Peter and Paulie. If they’re not exactly friends, there is at least respect between the rival factions; an understanding that peace is less costly than war.

And then Danny’s brother-in-law Liam shatters the ceasefire on the night he drunkenly assaults Paulie’s new girlfriend. Such a transgression can’t go unpunished. But as the saying goes, “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” Once the violence starts, it doesn’t stop: the only endpoint is mutual destruction. And Danny wants out. But the ties that bind him to Dogtown are strong.

Winslow’s trademark staccato prose makes the pages fly. City on Fire zings like a high-tension wire. The final 100 pages are a suspense masterclass, punctuated by gut-wrenching heartache. The next volume can’t come soon enough.

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