Thriller Thursday: City of Dreams by Don Winslow

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

City of Dreams by Don Winslow

Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Series: Book 2 of Danny Ryan

Publisher: William Morrow (April 18, 2023)

Length: 352 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

City of Dreams by Don Winslow is the second book of the Danny Ryan trilogy set to the backdrop of the Irish/Italian Mob Wars of the 1980s. Because this is a direct sequel to City on Fire, references and possible spoilers are possible in this review if you are not caught up with book one. The story doesn’t miss a beat, picking things up right where we left off with recently widowed drug dealer Danny Ryan on the run from his old life in Rhode Island, heading west towards California with his young son Ian. Many people are after him, from the Moretti crime family who wants him dead for stealing millions of dollars’ worth of their heroin to the FBI who believe Danny had something to do with the death of one of their own and want to see him hang. Left with no choice, Danny must swallow his pride and seek refuge in Las Vegas with his estranged mother Madeleine, whom he still resents for having abandoned him as a boy. But extremely rich and well connected, Madeleine has the resources to protect her son and grandson, and she’s also ready to make amends.

However, Danny was not made for a soft life of lounging by the poolside. When a couple of his friends start to make trouble in Hollywood, Danny goes to set them straight, only to end up investing in a movie based on his past life and meeting the lead actress, with whom he forms an immediate connection. Danny never expected to fall in love again, but fate has other plans. Suddenly vaulted into the limelight, he starts attracting the kind of attention he left New England to escape in the first place.

As a sequel, I thought City of Dreams was serviceable but a far cry from the original. After all, City on Fire had been an aptly named novel, a fiery opening salvo that introduced readers to the brutal, cutthroat ways of the Italian and Irish gangs when a simple rivalry for the attentions of a beautiful woman ends up leading to an all-out bloody war—a premise worthy of its inspiration, the story of Helen of Troy.

City of Dreams didn’t have quite that much going for it. The plot also didn’t feel like  it had a clear direction, parking Danny in his mother’s mansion while his friends run around Los Angeles acting like a couple of bozos trying to extort favors and cash from Hollywood bigshots like they were still back on their home turf. The entire premise was silly and farcical, like a parody of a bad mob comedy. I started to find myself missing the unrestrained violence, bloodshed, and the rising body count of the first book.

Even the twists felt too predictable and forced. Danny’s not a stupid guy as he’s proven in the first book, but in this one he seems to have lost his senses. He’s supposed to be laying low, but instead does everything he can to land himself in the tabloids, backing a high-profile movie and dating a famous actress. It’s not like there are a lot of dangerous people trying to kill him or anything! Without spoiling anything, the ending was also rushed complete with a manufactured tragedy, which made it hard to become truly immersed.

On the more positive side though, this was an entertaining sequel, an opportunity to have some fun, even if it does suffer a little from middle book syndrome. The “mobsters head to Hollywood” angle was unexpectedly refreshing, and overall City of Dreams serves its main purpose as a bridge book setting up for the grand finale. I’m looking forward to it.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of City on Fire (Book 1)

13 Comments on “Thriller Thursday: City of Dreams by Don Winslow”

  1. I’m intrigued by the main theme of this story and even if this second book seems to suffer from the dreaded middle book syndrome, I will have to keep this series on my radar and see how it fares with the conclusion… Thanks for sharing! 🙂


  2. I just want to say, if you ever hear of a position opening for “the easy life by a pool”, I’m totally qualified for that position. I really am. I’ll keep a low profile, they won’t even know I’m there.


  3. Pingback: Bookshelf Roundup 04/30/23: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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