Winslow...brings his sharp interpretive skills to Virgil’s Aeneid, and makes the events at Troy and the founding of Rome into a riveting gangster tale. He makes me wonder why I had never before seen the Trojan War as the obvious fight between rival criminal gangs ... In City of Fire, he returns to his New England roots for this new classic he says took him decades to write ... Winslow is a master of pacing. Action and erotic sequences fire the adrenaline, while tender scenes feel languid and warm. He shades the relationship between men and women in noir tones. Tough guys don’t always get their way. Noir women are wicked smart, and press their advantages against how men’s low assumptions of women make them weak ... Winslow has been lauded for the ways that his previous crime novels confront social issues. He has interrogated the ways that borders work between us, that we’re weak at the border when we build insurmountable walls to shore them up. One that runs under the surface of Winslow’s novel is that it’s not just the faults of individuals that cause these men to fail. But here, rigid definitions of who gets to belong in 'our thing' create fatal weaknesses among them. The refusal to think outside their constricted notions of masculinity and honor hobbles them
Combustible ... City of Fire, with its large cast of memorable characters and low-key allusions to classical literature, maintains Mr. Winslow’s well-earned place in these ranks. The book displays earthy eroticism, rough ethnic humor and a cyclical worldview as old as Ecclesiastes.
As he did in the Cartel trilogy, Winslow adeptly manages the comings and goings of a large cast of characters. Notable is his treatment of women in the novel, which gives them more depth than is usually the case in mobster-driven genre fiction while honoring their mythological roots ... may be a rough read for those who are offended by violent characters who hurl racist and homophobic slurs and F-bombs. Their variety and frequency in the novel reinforce that these are not kings and princes at war, but gangsters whose motto 'One hand dirties the other' guides their epic battles, murderous plots and corruption ... By the end of this well crafted, troubling epic, enough people are left standing to offer hope of a future for these deeply flawed families. That, plus a hint that Danny Ryan is heading to a 'warmer shore,' should lure readers to the next installment of what’s shaping up as Winslow’s next juggernaut of a modern-day epic.
It’s impossible not to be drawn in by Don Winslow’s fluid storytelling and the characters he instantly conjures along the way. The genre and classical allusions he makes only add to the thrill for the avid reader. At the same time, this novel is accessible to just about everyone ... With each new battle, there’s action, intrigue and bizarre twists along with eccentric criminals ... Winslow is the consummate storyteller and at no point will you want to look away. Broad brush, fine detail, action, tension, raw emotion, consummate tragedy – it’s all here to revel in.
... doesn’t feel any less vivid or engrossing for the inventiveness. And while City on Fire isn’t the product of Edward Gibbon-style research, whether into cartel power structures or police work or drug trafficking or forensics, Winslow still communicates something authentic just by the way he talks. Writes. The characteristically clipped, swift, wise-guy voice in the prose ... magnificent. It’s the fastest-moving of Winslow’s past few tomes and, at 350 pages, about forty percent shorter than each. The voice is vividly personable, but never chatty. It’s a stew of contradictions: hilarious and violent, moody and buoyant, brooding and playful. A huge sprawling thing of what seems like almost ruinously big ambition–condensed into a neat, easy, self-contained volume (the first of a trilogy) ... Is it the best or most inventive of his novels? No. He’s been at it for thirty years and, as we know, career novelists invariably have more novels than stories residing in their fingertips...What’s magical is that we may’ve never heard it told so well.
... terrific ... The gangland history is fascinating and seems to be based loosely on the rise and fall of the real-life Patriarca family. But it’s Winslow’s ways with character, as well as his fluid narrative and highly visual scene-setting, that suggest this novel, the first in a planned trilogy, could well end up in the American-mob canon along with the works of Puzo, Scorsese and Chase.
Winslow knows how to set a dozen subplots and characters in motion and keep them moving ... You get caught up in one subplot, then watch it morph into another. Winslow is a master plotter and shaper of characters. You don’t read City on Fire so much as you let it take you for a ride ... Winslow leaves this story ripe for further chapters – it feels like the first part of a trilogy – and, as usual, he leaves the reader wanting more. You wouldn’t want to spend time with these gangsters in real life, but they’re top-notch company on the page.
If it all sounds somewhat reminiscent of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, it is — though turned up several notches. The prose is simple and straightforward, with crisp, biting dialogue that presents a fast, cinematic pace for the reader. But at the same time, Winslow slows things down at just the right moments to evoke powerful emotions of love, loss, family, loyalties, and betrayal ... Readers won’t be able to pull themselves away from this one.
... what gives Don Winslow’s latest book its bite is his talent for character development ... There also is the plot, typically byzantine. It succeeds in whetting the appetite for the next book in Winslow’s first trilogy ... intricately woven ... Efficiently written and propulsive ... Peppered with Italian gangster jargon, packed with atmosphere, City on Fire improves as it progresses, deepening with probes of sexual and racial themes in the characters of Sal Antonucci and Marvin, his Black nemesis. Going into further detail would mean spoilers. That would be a disservice to Don Winslow and his readers.
Operating at the peak of his game ... Winslow has always excelled at portraying the seedy exploits of mobsters and corrupt police on an operatic scale ... thrives on its regionalism ... When the bodies start inevitably piling up, the stakes of this local gang war couldn't seem higher.
This book holds within its heart a secret. It is a secret which I hesitate to reveal because I do not want to spoil it and believe me, revealing such a spoiler would be a misdemeanour worthy of a gangland hit. At the same time, I’m racking my brains to figure out a way to tell you how brilliant this book is, without revealing the secret ... pulls off a feat that, to my knowledge, only one writer has ever been able to pull off in the history of Western literature ... The skin of this beautifully structured book is very tactile. You can hear the coarse sand crunch underfoot, and feel the fog on your face. That is why it is important that I not tell you the secret because it will hinder your immersion into this lovingly recreated world. It is enough that I tell you that there is a secret, that it’s signposted very early on in the book, and that if you take the signpost literally you will rush madly off in the wrong direction. So you needn’t worry about it until the petals of this cloudflower have revealed the faces of the dramatis personae. And right at the end, when the old man laments the loss of his home, you will smile and understand.
Winslow effectively tightens his lens on the people at the core of his story ... The novel depicts a savage entanglement — Winslow’s usual métier — but with a closer, more empathetic focus on his principals ... Winslow’s reanimation of these towering shades plays out as richly original, believable, and inspiring. It’s also subtly integrated into a modern-age narrative ... Still, the presence of these submerged echoes may strike others as forced ... Familiarity with these archetypal stories isn’t essential to an appreciation of City on Fire, however, and there’s much to appreciate here. It’s a brilliantly crafted tale in its own right — standing apart from its classical model — a moving evocation of familial and marital love, of friendship and loyalty, and of redemption from near-tragedy.
While the novel will certainly attract the attention of the former cadre, bless their elbow patches and thoughtful frowns, there’s more than enough meat on the bone here to satisfy those of us who are simply looking for a really great crime novel to engage and entertain us ... Danny Ryan is a compelling, well-drawn protagonist whose inner conflicts resonate as we follow him through each turn of fortune, some of them upward but most of them down. The story also has its share of suspense, even though it’s pretty clear things are not going to turn out well, and for the most part the narrative maintains a decent pace ... The setting on its own is a special feature of the novel ... As with many other stories that have taken several years to write, there are a few minor rough patches that should have been cleaned up along the way. The chapter that provides Pam’s backstory, for example, could have been condensed and slipped in somewhere else without slowing things down ... As well, the narrator’s use of bad grammar, sentence fragments, and east coast vernacular to assist in setting the atmosphere around his characters is not particularly charming or necessary, for the most part ... a crime novel you won’t put down voluntarily. It’s an instant classic in the genre, and it sets the stage for what we fully expect to be an equally explosive sequel.
... a real barn burner that sees Danny Ryan looking into the sun, imagining what the future will bring for him. I am right there next to him, eagerly awaiting the trials and tribulations that he will be forced to undergo in the middle part of this impressive saga.
... impressive ... Winslow’s epic slow-burner, full of richly layered characters and tender personal struggles, bubbles to an intricate, exciting climax. Crime fiction fans will eagerly await the sequel.