REVIEW: City of Woe by Christopher Ryan

17342745Review by Matt Schiariti

New York City Detective Frank Mallory always gets the weird cases. He and his partner, Alberto ‘Gunner’ Gennaro get pulled into another one when the body of a teenager is found brutally murdered.  What makes it weird?  ‘This one came with notes.’  Among the remains, note cards featuring the insane ramblings of a madman are found, the body set up as if on display.  Another weird one for the odd couple duo from the Bronx.  Things will get even stranger when more bodies are found, each with their own set of note cards, each with a strange message.  Dante’s Inferno?  Demons?  A veteran fixer for ‘The Company’ finding himself the targeted for elimination?  How do they tie up?  Mallory and Gunner work the case.  They do The Job.  But when things get personal for Mallory, the man who believes in facts and facts alone may have to tap into something bigger than himself to catch a madman.

This book was fantastic.  It was one of those pleasant surprises that crop up every once in a while.  I didn’t know what to expect going in.  I’d never heard of the author before, and the Dante’s Inferno trope in the book blurb left me wondering if I’d enjoy it or not.  But I did enjoy it.  I enjoyed it a lot.

Mallory and Gunner are a fun pair of characters.  The former is a dedicated family man, son of a cop, Yankees fan, music lover, even keeled.  The latter is rough around the edges, a confirmed horndog, likes to crack wise, and is more prone to believe in the unexplainable than his partner.  They complement each other nicely, each with their own strengths, and their banter alone is worth the price of admission.  The back and forth is oftentimes laugh out loud funny.

Ryan’s writing style is fluid and descriptive.  He knows when to keep the fat trimmed and when to put in extra detail.  Reading City of Woe, I could feel myself in NYC.  His descriptions of sights, sounds, places, and people made me feel as if I were following right behind Mallory and Gunner.  Ryan also knows when to get downright creepy.  Some of the breadcrumbs left behind for the cops to find are disturbing.  The pacing is excellent and the plot is tight.  Seriously, this is one addictive page turner.  There is a bit of the supernatural to be found.  That makes it a bit different than the standard police procedural/thriller and also made me want to turn pages to see where it was he was taking the story.

So, what are you getting when you pick up City of Woe?  A fast-paced, engaging, well-plotted, and smoothly written mystery with a bit of supernatural garnish, featuring fantastic, lifelike characters that jump off the page, and excellent dialogue.  At 350+ pages, it’s not short by any stretch of the imagination, but you may just want to try and read it in one sitting; it’s that compulsive and that fun.

Ryan’s now on my radar and I’d love to read more Mallory and Gunner novels.  Great stuff.


Title:  City of Woe

Author:  Christopher Ryan

Genre:  Paranormal Mystery

Publication:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 17, 2012)

Price:  $2.99 (Nook), $7.99 (Kindle), $8.99 (paperback)

Author’s Website:


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