Very Quick Review: CITY OF DREAMS by Don Winslow (William Morrow)

WinslowD-C2-CityOfDreamsUSHCDanny Ryan et al dodge the law, the mafia, and their own demons; and take a quick turn through Hollywood…


The city where dreams are made. 

On the losing side of a bloody East Coast crime war, Danny Ryan is now on the run. The Mafia, the cops, the FBI all want him dead or in prison. With his little boy, his elderly father and the tattered remnants of his loyal crew of soldiers, he makes the classic American migration to California to start a new life.

A quiet, peaceful existence.

But the Feds track him down and want Danny to do them a favor that could make him a fortune or kill him. 

And when Hollywood starts shooting a film based on his former life, Danny demands a piece of the action and begins to rebuild his criminal empire.

Then he falls in love.

With a beautiful movie star who has a dark past of her own.

As their worlds collide in an explosion that could destroy them both, Danny Ryan has to fight for his life in a city where dreams are born.

Or where they go to die.

From the shores of Rhode Island to the deserts of California where bodies disappear, from the power corridors of Washington where the real criminals operate to the fabled movie studios of Hollywood where the real money is made, City of Dreams is a sweeping saga of family, love, revenge, survival and the fierce reality behind the dream.

Danny Ryan and crew return in the sequel to City on Fire, dodging the attentions of the feds, other organized crime families, and their own demons. An engaging continuation of the series.

City on Fire was a great introduction to the world of New England organized crime, and the challenges and dangers that face those who occupy that world. City of Dreams picks up the story where the first book left off: hunted by the feds and the Mafia, Danny Ryan and a few survivors of the Murphy crime family pack up and flee Rhode Island. Ryan is leaving just after his wife dies of cancer, unable to attend her funeral, and with an ailing father and very young son to take care of. The crew makes their way west, keeping a low-profile, looking over their shoulders the entire way. But then Danny is approached with an intriguing and potentially deadly proposition from an unexpected source, and he jumps at the chance to protect his family. Ultimately, he and his compatriots end up in Nevada and California, and (for better and for worse) find themselves drawn into the movie industry.

Winslow’s latest (and penultimate) contains much of what we’ve come to expect from him — it moves at a steady clip throughout; it’s written in fluid and engaging prose; it features plenty of good characterization and a decent amount of tension; and it offers more examination of criminal behaviour in America, and the way society reacts to it. At the same time, the novel doesn’t feel as substantial as some of Winslow’s previous novels, and actually felt a bit rushed. Perhaps this is just a result of middle-book-syndrome, but I was left with an odd feeling about the novel after finishing it. It felt like a diversion from the main story; an opportunity to dip into and comment on the Hollywood/movie industry (which Winslow has experience with — see, for example, Bobby Z and Savages, with more on the way). And, certainly, it’s an interesting and promising premise: what might it be like for someone who has carefully avoided any spotlight to find out their life is being adapted for the big screen? And, after accepting that fact, buying in to the Hollywood lifestyle? It’s a whirlwind tour, but one that maybe could have benefited from pumping the brakes a little bit.

Winslow wraps up the West Coast portion of the Ryan story in this book — not necessarily tidily (there’s a bodycount, of course), but it is definitely done. Certain pieces are moved around the board, and we get to know a little more about the various agendas of both protagonists and antagonists. I often feel unfair criticizing middle-volumes in series and trilogies, because I know many of the events and challenges can’t be resolved, and it’s likely that everything will become clearer during or after finishing the final book.

If you enjoyed City on Fire, then you probably won’t need any encouragement to pick this up — I am sure you’ll enjoy this as well. While I had a few minor issues with the novel, I nevertheless finished eager to know what was next for Danny et al. I guess I’ll just have to wait another year to find out.


Don Winslow’s City of Dreams is out now, published by Harper Collins in the UK and William Morrow in North America.

Also on CR: Reviews of The Force, Broken, and City on Fire

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

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