2 min read

2023 In Books: "City On Fire (Danny Ryan, Book 1 of 3)" by Dan Winslow

This is the first of a trilogy, a fact I stupidly didn't cotton to before I finished this not-short book in one goddamned night and wanted to immediately start on the second book. Which doesn't come out until April. Much less the third/concluding volume :(

Anywho, my idiocy aside... this series is basically Winslow retelling the Illiad from the perspective of a put-upon Irish mobster in Providence, RI in the 1980's.

No, really.

And it's... damned good. Got its hooks into me and, like I said, plowed through it in a couple of hours when I really, REALLY should have been sleeping.

Don't want to get into the plot much, the ride is the fun with these books, not the prose itself. Suffice to say that, unlike Winslow's cop books, his mob guys are oddly way more sympathetic protagonists, so even though those books are enjoyable in a schadenfreude kind of way, you can actually root for the main guy in this one, our hard-luck working class mob champion, Danny Ryan.

While a lot of the characters AROUND Danny are irredeemable shitheads (fuck you, Liam), Danny himself comes off as a pretty solid dude. Yeah, he's a criminal, but he's presented as one of the "good" mob guys; doesn't try to pretend he's something he's not, advocates (before shit just goes completely sideways) for the least-violent path in most every event, doesn't involve civilians, and has a sense of ethics/honor that he adheres to that is basically morally good.

It's easy to deal with if you subscribe to the theory, as I do, that the cops, the mob, the feds, and small-biz owners as a group are just each different gangs that operate the same way as each other, but one or two of them have the Mandate of Heaven for some fuckin' reason and we're supposed to think they're the good guys. Whatever.

Anywho... Winslow has always been good at showing how power corrupts, and there's no bs hero cops here to root against Danny confusing the reader.

The dialog is snappy and period-appropriate (including some racism/homophobia that clangs hard off the modern ear but no book about a New England mob in the mid-80's would be believable without it; consider yourself warned if that sort of thing bugs you), the action is essentially non-stop, and I really, really want the next book to have come out, like, yesterday.

Five outta five Puzos from this guy.