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Book Review: City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg **

UK Publishing Date: 22 Oct 2015. 944 pages.

It has taken me quite a while to get through this book and at 944 pages it does require quite an investment of your time.

It is New Years Eve 1976. As midnight approaches a blizzard sets in and two gunshots ring out in Central Park. The search for the shooter brings together a diverse group of New Yorkers from punks to aristocrats and New York will never be the same again.

This is a debut novel from Garth Risk Hallberg and was the subject of a bidding war as the publishers rushed to sign him up. The winning publisher eventually signing him up for $2m. Was it worth it? Maybe. The jury is still out on that one. While the premise of the story is good it is just far too verbose. At times it feels like you are wading through words just for the sheer hell of it.

Mr Hallberg is very skilled and it really does feel like you are in 1970’s New York but the editor missed a few tricks here. In fact I’m wondering whether the editor was on holiday and they just decided to go with it! The plot becomes a little unwieldy at times and the narration by the multiple characters is almost a distraction. To my mind it was just too long and too confusing. The timelines are all over the place and towards the end I just found myself wanting to get through it. I didn’t care about any of the characters or what happened to them.

The film rights for this book had been snapped up before it had even found a publisher. I get the feeling that it could make an amazing movie but for me the story was spoiled by the lack of pacing. By the time I’d ploughed through all 944 pages I just felt as though I deserved a medal for getting to the end.

Supplied by Net Galley and the Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

You can get the book here: City on Fire

Categories: 2 Stars Book Review

Tagged as:


Prolific reader, enthusiastic theatre and movie-goer and ex-Olivier Awards judge who spent twenty years working in the music industry in London. Sharing my house with a gorgeous cockapoo called Harry who has taken over completely.
I love sharing my favourite books with friends - nearly always spoiler-free as I hate reading a synopsis of the whole book in other reviews.


1 reply

  1. Holy cow that’s a big book! I have a hard time committing to books that are over 500 pages because I just so it’s going to be such a time suck. The premise sounds really interesting though. so I’m going to have to look into this one I think.

    Liked by 1 person

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