With the recent announcement by Don Winslow that he will be retiring from writing to fully focus on his political activism, I panicked in thinking that maybe he had abandoned his new trilogy. Don was quick to assure his readers that not only have the next two novels already been written, but they’re scheduled to be released in 2023 and 2024 respectively. So, with that being said, I eagerly jumped into CITY ON FIRE knowing that this wouldn’t end up leaving me with a premature ending to the New England gang wars before they really had a chance to get going.
While CITY ON FIRE has a wide cast of characters, the novel primarily focuses on Danny Ryan, a somewhat adopted member of the Murphy family. The Murphys make up one of the two crime families that basically run Dogtown (Rhode Island) in the 1980s. While there has been a long established peace between the two families up to this point, a brash move on the part of Liam Murphy produces a spark that in turn ignites a fire. With the truce broken, anything goes. Relationships are shattered and bodies are left lying in the street leaving Danny to pick up the pieces and soldier on.
Like much of Don’s prior work, CITY ON FIRE moves at a blistering pace. While reading, I joked that I just could not read fast enough. Short, blunt sentences mirroring the staccato of a machine gun kept the pages turning swiftly. Although the violence here isn’t as horrific as what Winslow presented on behalf of the Mexican cartels in his earlier work, it’s still brutal and bloody. At times, the action hit me like a brick to the skull.
It should be worth noting that you can’t go into this one with a feeling that anyone is safe. With a mob war, targets are on anyone and everyone as any character that Winslow has created can be snuffed out in the blink of an eye. With two books to follow, a few have already met emotional and unexpected ends that had left me reeling.
I absolutely adored this book and I cannot wait to see where things go from here. What Winslow puts Danny through should be considered a crime against humanity. If the old adage still holds in that “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”, Danny Murphy should become The Incredible Hulk in the novel’s final pages. Many are already saying that this one has become an instant classic and while I tend to agree, I feel that can only be confirmed by the strength of the two books that will follow.