City in Ruins: A Novel (The Danny Ryan Trilogy, 3)

Image of City in Ruins: A Novel (The Danny Ryan Trilogy, 3)
Release Date: 
April 2, 2024
William Morrow
Reviewed by: 

“With City in Ruins, Don Winslow has brought down the curtain on a career worthy of the highest praise.”

Once a simple Rhode Island fisherman, dockworker, and reluctant member of the east coast Irish mob, Danny Ryan has now risen to power on the Las Vegas Strip as head of Tara Group, a properties management company holding two very successful hotel/casinos, the Casablanca and the Shores. Although Tara’s officially owned by two front men and Danny’s job title is director of hotel operations, control belongs to Danny and no one else.

When he decides to move in on a third property, however, Danny initiates a war with his biggest competitor that soon spirals into violence, as both sides call in protection crews and form dangerous alliances to strengthen their positions. Despite Danny’s best efforts to the contrary, people begin to lose their lives as the conflict worsens.

Danny refuses to let go of his dream hotel, Il Sogno, as he throws everything into the project in order to bring his vision of the ultimate Las Vegas experience to fruition. But will it pull down everything he’s built until nothing is left but ruins?

City of Ruins is the culminating novel in Don Winslow’s superb trilogy, which began with City on Fire (2022) and City of Dreams (2023). It’s also his last book, as he announces in his prefatory remarks. At the age of 70 and after 25 novels, he’ll be focusing his energies and attention on the political arena from this point forward.

Without a doubt, City of Ruins is a terrific way to go out. As is always the case with a Winslow novel, it reads effortlessly. He has a gift for writing smooth, unadorned prose that moves his characters through the story without us even noticing the passage of the pages.

Danny has served as a worthy protagonist throughout. While never letting go of his past connections to the east coast Italian mob or the tattered remnants of his Rhode Island Irish crew, he remains an honorable, well-intentioned hero right to the very end. His relationship with his son, Ian, enhances this side of his character, while his relationships with women remain nothing if not star-crossed.

The themes explored in the novel—“ambition, honor, love, hate, revenge—“ are themselves ambitious in a crime trilogy, but Winslow has given us a three-volume masterpiece. Blending motifs from classical literature with contemporary subject matter, he moves Danny through a series of successes and failures, highs and lows, with a careful hand.

“These three volumes took nearly thirty years to complete,” he explains before launching into his final tale. “I wrote other books during that time, of course, but the trilogy kept coming back to me.”

Remarkably, the seams and stitching that one would expect to see in narrative that was picked up and put down over so many years are not in evidence. Danny’s story never seems to miss a beat, never loses its thread, never leaves us wondering what’s going on.

Looking back at the first novel, City on Fire, we’re reminded that the trilogy began with the memorable image of a woman walking out of the sea onto the beach. It was a striking scene and, ever mindful of his craft, Winslow takes us back to that spot to conclude his epic.

As his grandchildren build a sandcastle on that same beach, Danny’s son and daughter-in-law watch the surf breaking along the shoreline:

“A strong wave crashes, breaks into white water, rushes in and hits the sandcastle, wiping it out.

“The kids moan and then laugh.

“They’ll build another one tomorrow.

“Or the next day.

“The same wave rushes back out and takes the ashes with it.

“Danny Ryan is home.”

Beginning with a stunning symbolic image and concluding with another, the Danny Ryan trilogy is crime fiction at its very best, and with City in Ruins Don Winslow has brought down the curtain on a career worthy of the highest praise.

Will he ever write again? As this trilogy has proven, a good story is a very difficult thing to walk away from. We can only hope there’s one more in there somewhere that he won’t be able to resist telling at some point in the future.