The Buzz Boys, by Edward Izzi

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Edward Izzi for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Seeing a new novel by Edward Izzi always brings much excitement, as I have been able to enjoy each of his previous publications a great deal. While this piece does not delve into Vatican corruption or the legal world, per se, there is some Izzi magic in the piece that again centres around Chicago. Izzi tells a wonderful story of a group of five boys who are connected through their scholastic endeavours and common household issues as they come of age through the 1960s and 70s. When a tragedy befalls one in a parking lot in 2019, it is the introduction to a long and storied past that brought the Buzz Boys together, as well as highlighting how they were torn apart over the years. Another must-read for those who enjoy Izzi’s work, as well as the reader who finds something exciting in a ‘coming of age’ piece.

Marco Pezza had a long history with the Chicago PD the day he arrived at the bocce club to greet his father in 2019. Though they had been estranged for many years, the elder Pezza took the time to speak with his son, decorated and popular around town. What followed was a murder-suicide that rocked the city and left everyone shocked. Reading the news soon thereafter, attorney Robert Mazzara was saddened by what his friend had done, though by no means surprised.

Mazzara takes the reader on a slow and detailed journey back to the 1960s, where he grew up in a Chicago suburb. Attending parochial school, Mazzara soon befriended four other boys and they became the best of friends. Connected, not only by their attending the same school, these boys could recount a troubled upbringing of abuse at the hands of cruel fathers, some of whom were also molested. However, none of the boys let this taint their connection to one another.

This connection grew over time, as did the stories of abuse in their respective households. Eventually dubbed the ‘Buzz Boys’, each had their own unique take on life and the hand they had been dealt. As the years progressed, these boys became men, suffering their own problematic lives, with the pall of childhood abuse lingering over them. The narrative explores how each of the boys took matters into their own hands, with Mazzara there to pick up some of the pieces while juggling his own issues.

As the years progress, tragedy fills the narrative of the Buzz Boys’ lives, with Robert Mazzara there to do what he could to pick up the errant pieces. He uses all these stories gathered over the years as a salve to heal many of the wounds, while also pitying each of the others, including Marco Pezza, and the troubles they faced. Like a band of inseparable misfits, the Buzz Boys live on, even as they are all gone. It’s left to Mazzara to decide how to ensure the legacy is not erased, with so much to show over the past six decades. Heart-warming and tragic in equal measure, this is one story of Edward Izzi’s that will stick with me well into the future.

I have yet to encounter an Edward Izzi novel that I did not enjoy. Scrap that, as enjoy is too superficial a word, but rather, loved! His attention to detail and ability to pull the reader into the middle of the action is like few others. This piece takes the reader away from the thriller genre that has been central to much of his past writing, allowing for thorough exploration of the character development and coming of age of those central to the piece. For me, this is the litmus test that Izzi is not only a great writer, but that he can step outside the genre for which he has made a name for himself and truly shine!

While Robert Mazzara plays the narrative role throughout, he is not the only character who shines in this piece. Rather, it is all five Buzz Boys: Robby, Marco, Johnny, Petey, and Billy. Each grows throughout the piece, offering their own spin on life in their respective abusive households and how they handled it. The piece hovers not only around their individual growth and self-destruction, but also the connection the five made together, proving that friendship can sometimes help overcome all adversity. Each Buzz Boy had their own issues, walls built around them that could be traced back to the beatings and abuse suffered at home, though the reader is able to connect and mourn each of them as they years progress. By the end, with only Robert ‘Robby’ Mazzara left, the reader is forced to contemplate the impact these five had on one another and society as a whole.

Izzi does a masterful job at painting the picture of life in Chicago in those formative years for the boys. The abuse, the lack of action by families who wanted to turn the other way, and the Church that was the lifeblood of the community. Sorrow and grief emerge throughout the telling of the book, but it is the connection the Buzz Boys have that makes the story rise above the negativity. The connection, even as tragedy befalls everyone, is a glue that keeps these boys together. In true Izzi fashion, there are some ‘cameo’ appearances of characters from past novels, connecting the books in a loose manner.

While I usually turn to the more action-based novels, this was a refreshing departure for me (and Edward Izzi). I was able to slide into a strong narrative from the opening pages and develop a connection to the characters. Their individual stories are not lost in the larger storytelling, though it is their personal struggles that makes the Buzz Boy connection all the stronger. Told in a series of interconnected vignettes, the reader discovers much about the boys and their struggles as the years go on, with Robert Mazzara there to offer his spin, while he also portrays his own issues. Short chapters keep the reader coming back to learn more, as the years advance to the present. There is something within the story that makes it well worth the reader’s time, all while recounting the less than uplifting moments each of the five suffered in childhood, adolescence, and into their adult lives. Izzi is truly a master of his craft and this book proves to me that he has a magical ability to churn out winners, no matter the topic. I loved it, plain and simple!

Kudos, Mr. Izzi, for another winner. Thank you for allowing me to explore the more personal side of your writing and how character development can be a key ingredient to a sensational story. I see there are two more novels on the publication horizon and cannot wait to sink my teeth into them.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons