Contracts for Sale, by Edward Izzi

Eight stars

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

Always eager when Edward Izzi hands me an ARC of his newest book, I took it upon myself to devour this novel in short order. As usual, Izzi provides the readier with a stellar piece of writing that is full of strong writing, powerful themes, and building on past novels, while remaining a standalone piece for anyone to enjoy. Those who discover the work of Edward Izzi are in for a treat and should not hesitate to find one of his books soon.

After reporter Paul Crawford begins investigating the disappearance of a corporate executive, he’s unsure where it will take him. Working for the Sun-Timesin Chicago, Crawford is used to the unusual and everything has a whiff of mob activity. A little research shows that a number of people are disappearing into thin air with no trace or apparent reason. A lack of any forensics or video surveillance leaves Crawford to wonder if these are well-executed professional hits. Working in tandem with his friend and fellow reporter, Chaz Rizzo, Crawford cannot make any solid headway, save for referring to those who have gone missing as ‘Houdini Victirms’.

Meanwhile, Mark Stetler has been working behind the scenes as CEO of Eradication, Inc. a company that specialises in providing murder for hire. While the fee is high, the result is usually to the client’s desire, as nothing is left to chance. Meeting in secret, the Board of Directors for Eradication, Inc. reviews submissions and delegates the work to their two hired assassins. Members of the group are in it for life, with dire consequences for anyone trying to leave the fold. Stetler is sure that this will continue to become a lucrative business, as long as those who seek their services to not have loose lips.

When Crawford and Rizzo get some intel that points to the possible existence of Eradication, Inc, they begin digging deeper, alerting some within the group that the cover nature may soon be blown. It will take a great deal of effort and determination for Eradication, Inc. not to let everything come crashing down around them, especially with two nosy reporters on the prowl. The grit and determination shown by Crawford and Rizzo is something few in the Chicago reporting world have seen.

Scrambling to put the pieces together and alert the CPD, these two reporters ramp up their competitive side while working to bring down this organisation. It will take everything they have, but someone must act or Eradication, Inc. will continue these brutal murders and turn Chicago into a city with blood flowing down the streets. Another stellar piece by Izzi that only proves even more why I enjoy this author.

While I have been around for each of Edward Izzi’s novels, it took me some time to get used to his style. Izzi writes in a gritty fashion and pulls the reader in from the start. While each novel is a standalone, the setting and characters overlap, such that a reader of all the books will find threads that connect each storyl and add to the enjoyment. Izzi keeps getting better and shows that he is one author worth noting, particularly for the reader who needs something fast paced.

Izzi provides the reader with something intense and yet easy to read, with a strong narrative that keeps the story on track. With short chapters and strong plot development, there is little time for the reader to rest as they make their way through another Chicago-based thriller. As mentioned before, Izzi writes standalones, but some of the charcaters return from book to book, permitting those who have read many of Izzi’s books, as I have, to enjoy some development throughout the overall ‘series’ experience. I cannot say enough about Izzi or his writing and can only hope that there are more to come soon, as I eagerly await his emails with ARCs attached.

Kudos, Mr. Izzi, for impressing yet again! I look forward to what you have to come.

They Only Wear Black Hats, 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.

Edward Izzi returns with another of his stunning thrillers, sure to captivate the reader’s attention from the opening pages. Taking this crime story down a dark rabbit hole, Izzi mixes history, murder, and a secret society to formulate a novel that will leave readers talking well into the future. Detroit PD Detective Mike Palazzola has enjoyed his work within the Third Precinct, but knows that crime will always be a part of his day to day work. When a string of odd murders are accompanied by the placement of black bowler hats, he’s sure a serial killer is on the loose. Little does he know the complexities tied to these killings, as a friend and journalist tries to uncover a group whispered to be called the Archangels. Directives will be made, people will die, and Palazzola will have to decide how to act before it’s too late! Izzi impresses once again with this scintillating story of secrecy and retribution.

Detroit has long been a place where crime runs rampant, something that DPD Detective Mike Palazzola knows all too well. Working out of the Third Precinct, he has been in the middle of a number of high-profile and gruesome murder investigations, some with children as victims. While the cases seem strong, when those accused make their way to court, they are released on a technicality, proving major flaws with the system. All Palazzola can do is grit his teeth and keep protecting his city. Soon thereafter, all those who were released turn up strangled to death, slices on their body, and a black bowler hat next to them.

While out with Justine Cahill, a gritty journalist, one evening, Palazzola notices a group of men wearing the same bowler hats entering the private back room of an Italian restaurant. Their mysterious nature raises some concerns with both Palazzola and Cahill, but the restaurant staff remain tight-lipped about who these men could be.

Unbeknownst to anyone else in the restaurant, these men are part of the Malizia Society of Detroit, an organisation dating back to 1927. While they use the cover of anonymous Archangels, doing charitable work around Detroit, they are actually a secret group doling out their own form of justice for those who slips through the cracks. Their meetings discussions are highly secretive and the use of three assassins to offer needed punishments keeps them from being identified.

Palazzola and Cahill begin their own sleuthing into who these Archangels might be and their history, the FBI leans on them to steer clear, as they, too, have been looking into them. While Palazzola knows when to take his foot off the gas, Cahill sees a story that could catapult her into national stardom, as well as revealing a group of murderous thugs no better than the mafia. These men are everywhere in Detroit society and it is not entirely clear who can be trusted.

As more bodies emerge, the story takes a darker turn, alternating between modern Detroit and the history of the Malizia Society, which has ties to a group from Italy back in the time of the Borgias. While Palazzola knows something must be done, he worries that one wrong move could mean a heap of trouble. He will have to act swiftly, but with extreme caution, not wanting to be the next person with a black bowler hat next to his murdered corpse. Izzi has done it again! A brilliant thriller that kept me intrigued until the final page turn, with something for patient readers in the last chapters.

It was a fluke that I discovered Edward Izzi’s writing a few years ago. While each of his novels is a standalone of sorts, this was completely independent from his loosely connected Chicago Vatican books. The writing is strong, with great plots that pull not only on duplicity, but also history to bolster their foundation. Izzi keeps coming up with strong ideas and I cannot recommend him highly enough.

Mike Palazzola plays a significant role throughout the novel, though he shares the limelight with Justine Cahill and one prominent original member of the Malizia Society. These three forge ahead, with their own backstories and development, working their way through the struggles they encounter. Therefore some wonderful revelations throughout the piece, as well as dicey moments when confronted by the truth of what these Archangels have been doing.

Edward Izzi seems never to run out of great plot ideas for his novels, which develop in numerous ways. The stories are usually dark and intense, with a graphic nature to them, but are not gruesome to the point of being stomach churning. The narrative flows extremely well and keeps the reader engaged, as much is revealed in due time. Chapters that propel the plot along are the centrepiece of the novel, with strong doses of history and flashbacks. While this will likely remain a standalone thriller, there is a chance that Izzi will utilise a technique he has for creating cameos of certain characters in other books of his. I would encourage anyone with an interest in a more complex crime thriller to check into some of his books, as you won’t be disappointed.

Kudos, Mr. Izzi, for another stunning novel. I may not be your loudest fan, but I can assure you, I am in the top five!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

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:

When a Rook Takes the Queen, 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.

Edward Izzi is back with another explosive thriller set on the streets of Chicago. The highly controversial mayor of the city has been assassinated in her backyard and the media circus is only beginning. Alongside the hunt for a murderer, a keen reporter trips on a connection between a local crime boss and an highly activist priest. Might there be something there that no one’s yet realised? Izzi spins a tale like no other in his latest thriller, When a Rook Takes the Queen, that is sure to captivate the reader’s attention.

In the heart of the summer, a gunshot rings out and Chicago Mayor Janice Kollar lies dead in her garden. A controversial politician in her own right, Kollar had many enemies around town, on both sides of the law. However, it’s an investigation the CPD rushes to begin. With such a list of suspects, it will be hard to pinpoint who might have wanted the city’s first openly gay mayor lying in a casket.

As the story hits the wires, Chicago Tribune reporter, Larry McKay, rushes to make sense of it all and begin following leads. While the murder attracts a great deal of attention, McKay learns of a weekly chess match at St. Simeon’s Church between Fr. Colin Fitzgerald and organised crime boss Anthony ‘Little Tony’ DiMatteo. This baffles McKay, as Fitzgerald is known to be a staunch political activist and a former grand chess master. What business he has with a powerful mobster seems to make little sense. A few calls ruffle some feathers, but McKay is not dissuaded from proceeding.

Inside these weekly chess matches, it would seem ‘Father Fitz’ has been able to serve as a new family consigliere, providing inside and guidance to Little Tony in an advisory role. Their discussions look to how one might control the powder keg that Chicago is becoming with the murder of Mayor Kollar, turning to force and violence to quell things before a new incarnation of Black Lives Matter comes to fruition.

As McKay digs deeper and peddles his views to a fellow television reporter, his life is in danger. This unlikely ‘Chicago Gambit’ want nothing more than to silence McKay and keep their association off the radar. McKay cannot back down, especially with a killer still out there. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

Edward Izzi does a masterful job tying in his thrilling political story with a criminal angle. Adding his usual flavourings of organised crime and the Catholic Church, the story gains momentum throughout and keeps the reader guessing how all the players will turn the plot throughout the piece. As always, there are some wonderful twists that only Izzi can deliver in his great style.

While the story is split between a number of storylines, Larry McKay does appear to hold firm to the role of protagonist. His gritty style and unwillingness to bow to the pressure only adds to his character. I admit, if he was a character in a past Izzi novel, he was minor, so I have little backstory for him. However, he grows on the reader with ease and is able to make an impact throughout with great development. His interactions with others, both major and minor characters, helps create a story that does not stop until the final page turn.

Izzi has always used an interesting technique for his secondary characters. As I have mentioned in past reviews, Izzi positions minor characters to have their time in the spotlight before fading away. Some are mentioned in passing and receive their cameo in a novel, only to slink back away, while others prove prominent and are paid lip service in subsequent novels. Here, there are a number of ‘has been’ prominent people who receive mere mention, as well as a few heavy hitters whose presence makes the book what it is. Izzi’s ability to use this technique, which I have seen elsewhere done almost as effectively, provides a standalone option for his novels, while luring fans to stick around and read them all, to tie the threads together.

The book itself was well paced and full of exciting plot development. While there are Catholic and organised crime themes throughout, their stereotypical presentation does not turn this into a mob novel. The story flows well, with a strong narrative that keeps the reader moving along. Short chapters can easily be devoured, allowing things to develop quickly and remain intense throughout. Edward Izzi is an author I only recently discovered, but I cannot get enough of his books. It could be the stories, the writing, or the ease of flow. Whatever that might be, I love when I see that another is ready for me.

Kudos, Mr. Izzi, for another winner. I am excited to see two more books in the pipeline and will gladly clear my schedule when that time comes!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

El Camino Drive, 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.

Edward Izzi returns with another of his sensational thrillers that toss a number of well-developed characters together into a story that will have the reader flipping pages well into the night. Detroit P.D. Detective John Valentino finds himself in quite the predicament. A recently divorced, raging alcoholic with an anger management problem, Valentino’s been suspended for beating up his partner. There are other underlying issues, including having been raised without a father. On Hallowe’en Night, 1978, Antonio Valentino was murdered by three men along El Camino Drive. Young Johnny was only six at the time and saw his family fall apart. At the trial, the men got off and skirted justice by claiming a twisted sense of self-defence. Bitter and shocked, one member of the family promised revenge. Now, Detective Valentino is unearthing some of the records and making sense of what happened all those years ago. Tackling some of his demons, Valentino stops drinking and finds himself in what he feels is a healthy relationship. He begins to better understand his philandering father and vows to find the men who caused his family such pain. However, it seems someone is a few steps ahead of him. A few of those tied to the previous murder end up dead, with a unique calling card left at the scene, as well as a small piece of poetry related to the El Camino murder. John Valentino is surely at the top of the suspect list, but is able to alibi himself. With an elderly uncle whose final goal in life is to kill the men who got away with murder, whispers of a mafia boss with a bone to pick with those who killed in such a sloppy way, and even a son who is just now learning the psychological complexities of life without a father figure, the list of suspects seems endless. Yet, someone is exacting revenge and trying to balance the scales for the bloodshed on El Camino Drive back in ‘78. An addictive novel that has so many subplots that the reader will have to stay attentive throughout this story. Izzi proves yet again that he is a master in the field and should let the creative juices flow. Recommended to those who love a great crime thriller, as well as the reader who finds complex storylines to their liking.

I discovered Edward Izzi’s work by fluke when I was offered a copy of another book he wrote a number of months ago. Since then, I have been devouring all of his books within days of receiving them. Izzi writes in such a way that the reader is drawn into the story, with momentum gained as the plot thickens. John Valentino is a perfectly chosen protagonist for this book, with a backstory that is quite complex and sensational development throughout this book. The reader will see his struggles, which are tied into addiction and the trauma of his father’s murder, as well as how he sought to pull himself up by the proverbial bootstraps. Valentino may have a temper, but his passion to resolve the miscarriage of justice related to his father’s murder remains high on his priority list. Pulled into some complex subplots along the way by those who seek to use his access to information only adds to the story and richness of his character. The handful of other characters that Izzi creates add even more flavour to a story that is a perfect mix of thriller and coming of age. Izzi uses a technique that readers who have read all his other pieces will likely see. He creates a character in one of his novels and has them reappear in a subsequent book, offering updates and connecting the pieces without creating a formal series. A central character in one book might return and receive passing mention in another, or a wallflower might take up a major role in a subsequent novel. This is a brilliant technique and yet still allow the reader to pick up any of his novels without feeling the need to read the collection (though who would not want to read all these books?!). Izzi develops an ironclad story around a murder in 1978 and builds from there, offering not only flashbacks/forwards between that time and the present, but also fills in needed aspects from the past to develop more suspects in the present murders. This technique, while requiring the reader to pay close attention, offers rich rewards for those who accept the challenge. While the book is longer (close to 500 pages), it reads so easily that the reader will find they can devour a third of the book in one sitting and feel no sense of time drag. His dialogue is crisp, his plots evolving, and his characters relatable. Finally, using Detroit as his central setting, Izzi writes what he knows best and offers those who know the area with some special treats. This is one of those stories that is sure to receive a great deal of attention if put in the right hands. I can only hope others will discover the magic of this gritty novelist and turn to some of Izzi’s other work, which is just as captivating. Brilliant writing with a collection of standalone novels that have a thread of connectivity. I can only hope Edward Izzi keeps writing, as I am more than happy to keep reading. He stands above all others in a supersaturated genre and keeps getting better!

Kudos, Mr. Izzi, for another formidable effort. I cannot say enough and hope your work ends up into the hands of many, for they will be as astounded as I was to read such high quality work!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Quando Dormo (When I Sleep), by Edward Izzi

Eight 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.

After recently discovering the work of Edward Izzi, I cannot get enough of his thrillers, which pull the reader into the middle of many heart-thumping scenarios. Dr. David Fazio is an obstetrician in Chicago with quite the reputation. His strong, pro-life views have made his work somewhat controversial, as he refuses to perform any abortive procedures on expectant mothers. This has been made even more controversial with the recent passage of a partial-birth abortion bill by the Illinois legislature. Not only is Fazio known for his strong views, but he is quite the Casanova, having gone through and disposed of many nurses on the maternity ward. His sexual prowess cannot be denied, but he has amassed enough enemies to fill the entire ward. When he wakes from a horrible nightmare, Fazio discovers that his hands are burnt. Not long thereafter, news emerges that a family planning clinic on the other side of the street is up in flames, with people still inside. Fazio’s history of sleeping issues, paired with his arrival in various locales without his knowledge does him no good, as he wonders what might be going on. One of the fire battalion chiefs and a detective with the CPD also begin to wonder if he might have played a role. When a second family planning clinic goes up in flames and Fazio is in the area, unsure how he made it to his car, he heads the list of suspects being considered the Abortion Arsonist. He has all the trademark signs and refuses to back away from his staunch pro-life views. But, with so many who wish to see him come tumbling down, might someone be trying to point the finger at the doctor? In a story that does not allow the reader any chance to catch their breath, Izzi spins a tale like no other. Recommended for those who love high-velocity thrillers, as well as the reader who can handle the politics of the abortion debate.

I cannot say enough about Edward Izzi, particularly his writing skills. Izzi lays the groundwork for a sensational story and builds on it from there, never taking a moment to lull the reader into some form of calm. David Fazio serves as a wonderful protagonist, even if he may not be loved by all readers. His strong views on the abortion question are bluntly presented throughout, but seem overshadowed by his desire to conquer all women with his wiles. Fazio comes from a strong Italian family, but seems more interested in bedding whomever crosse his path. Add to that, his horrible sleeping patterns and dreams that leave him wondering what he might have done. Fazio is surely in a conflicted state and one the reader will want to explore more thoroughly in this piece. Other characters serve to prop up Fazio’s various life choices throughout, while also adding depth to some of the plot lines that Edward Izzi seeks to explore. As with all the novels, there are some returning characters, though they play background roles, not impeding the flow of the story or the strength of the core characters. While all novels are stand-alones, the reader can get a little glimpse of some character development for these returning individuals, should they wish. The premise of the story was quite masterful, serving to address the abortion topic, sleep issues, and one man’s attempt to rise above both. Izzi mentioned having some loose ties to the Fazio character, which makes the story even stronger. I cannot wait to see what else is to come, for Edward Izzi has surely made a fan out of me. Brilliant work and so poignant!

Kudos, Mr. Izzi, for addressing so many hot-topic issues, if you pardon the pun. I love how I can get lost in the story and yet learn so much!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Of Bread and Wine, by Edward Izzi

Eight stars

After steamrolling my way through two of his other books, I was eager to find Edward Izzi’s debut novel, which was just as enthralling and full of narrative treats. When an American monseigneur is sent to give the last rites to a controversial cardinal, the deathbed confession yields more than he could have suspected. Michael Prescott learns of this confession from his dear friend and is asked to investigate some of the allegations made in the confession, which surrounds news that Pope John Paul I did not die naturally, but was murdered by those in the Vatican’s inner circle. While Prescott is in Rome, he encounters a journalist with the Washington Post, one Sienna DiVito, whose vacation to see her father after many years is interrupted when she is told to write about the news coming from the Vatican. While they work together, Prescott learns that Sienna’s father was once the head of Vatican security and has intimate knowledge about what happened to ‘the Smiling Pope’, as well as those who might have ordered the murder. Thickening the plot, a set of three valuable coins was given to the pope the night before he was found dead, but which disappeared the following day. Ties to the mafia are rampant and Prescott discovers that Vatican ruthlessness is second only to those of the Mafioso, with both groups keen on keeping their secrets from boiling over. Was Pope John Paul I’s death less than innocent, as the rumours have been building over four decades? Who was responsible for the killing and what reasons led to the act? Might these coins be at the centre of it all? All this and more come to the surface throughout Edward Izzi’s debut novel that stuns the reader will its revelations. Recommended to those who love a good thriller with strong Catholic undertones, as well as the reader who enjoys a fast moving narrative.

I stumbled upon Edward Izzi’s work the other week and have not been able to stop reading them. The detail Izzi puts into his work serves to shape the narrative in many wonderful ways. Michael Prescott, whose legal background serves him well in this novel—and a few other occasions in the subsequent pieces—is a great protagonist, seeking to find truths where others try to shield them. Prescott is determined to get to the core of the matter, even if it pushes him towards dangerous outcomes. When he finds himself tempted by Sienna, Prescott does not let anything derail his focus, but uses it as a fuel to forge onwards. Others serve as key characters throughout the piece, dabbling into the various aspects of the narrative, from Vatican officials, to mafia hit men and even those with journalistic capabilities. Izzi chooses well with these characters, helping to shape the narrative and tie in the tangential nature of the plot. The story is strong, building on a long-held belief that the death of Pope John Paul I was anything but natural. With no autopsy or other medical tests, no substantive proof has ever been unearthed about how the pontiff’s reign actually ended after 33 days in 1978. However, with this deathbed confession, Izzi resurrects the gossip and injects his own spin, sure to keep the reader hooked until the final reveal. Short chapters help keep the momentum up in this book and the reader will easily find themselves wanting more. A blend of Catholic politics and mafia enforcement, Izzi keeps the thrills high and has the reader begging for more.

Kudos, Mr. Izzi, for another captivating piece with strong Vatican and mafia themes. I have you on my radar and really hope you have more ideas to come in the coming years!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Demons of Divine Wrath, by Edward Izzi

Eight 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.

Having stumbled upon Edward Izzi while perusing Reedsy Discovery, I found one of his books that pulled me in and would not let go until I reached the final sentence. Back for more, I thought I would try another of Izzi’s pieces, which has some similar themes and proved to be just as addictive. Don Carlo Marchese, one of Chicago’s most notorious mobsters, is found hanging out the window of his apartment building. This sends shockwaves across the city and journalist, Paul Crawford, is set to investigate. Might this be the latest mob hit in a city full of crime families? Crawford finds nothing, which only furthers his curiosity and has him delve deeper. Meanwhile, an old man dies from an apparent gas leak in Munich, which has his nephew, an art gallery curator, turning up to ensure a vast number of paintings stay in the family. These pieces are all extremely costly and were, at one time, part of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. As the story goes, the Vatican sent a number of their collection to Uffizi, protecting it from the Nazis. However, Hitler had other ideas and duped the gallery into ‘selling’ them for a reasonable cost, allowing Hitler to set-up his own private collection. When Munich police try to press the issue with their Chicago guest, both he and the collection soon vanish. These events reach the ears of the recently retired pope, who has been tasked with reclaiming the Vatican’s works once kept at Uffizi, but not for sentimental reasons. Using their intermediary, Don Carlo Marchese, the Vatican tries to buy back what was rightfully theirs. Paul Crawford trips on some of this information while teamed up with another journalist, traveling to Italy so that he can write the sensational story that culminated in Marchese’s death. With many groups vying for the Uffizi collection, much blood will be shed, but Crawford will have to survive and pen his story to make the sacrifice worth the effort. Addictive until the final sentence, Izzi is an author not to be missed by readers who want something well worth their time. Recommended to those who like a great thriller with historical undertones, as well as the reader who finds mafia stories right up their alley.

It’s nice to discover new authors by accident and even more so when the books are of such high caliber. An accountant by training, Edward Izzi surely has a secret talent for writing, as this is the second of his books that I have devoured. One might presume Paul Crawford is the protagonist in this book, unearthing much as he tries to piece together this most dangerous investigation before becoming a victim himself. While he is stopped repeatedly, told the story has no legs, Crawford forges ahead and pieces things together at breakneck speed. Other characters help develop the numerous plot lines effectively, including those dealing with the mafia and Vatican. They complement and contrast one another so well that the reader will feel as though their are in the middle of the action. Of great interest to me, there are some recurring characters from the other book I read, though their presence is minimal at best. With a strong plot, Izzi is able to tell his story effectively and keep the reader guessing until the very end. His style of writing and quick chapters help pull the reader into the middle of the narrative and does not lose any of its momentum. If I had an issue to address, it would be some chapter organization and labelling, which appears not to be unique to this novel. The story leaps around, running a narrative that needs some reorganization or ‘time labelling’ to help the reader better understand the ongoing progress of the story and how to file it chronologically. Once the reader is well into this piece, they will understand what I mean. Izzi offers a chilling look into the way artwork from the Second World War was handled and how the Nazi pillages resonate even at present, with new fingers getting dirty and seeking to extort.

Kudos, Mr. Izzi for another stellar novel. I have located your third and will rush to begin it now.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

A Rose from the Executioner, 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.

New to the work of Edward Izzi, I relied heavily on the dust jacket synopsis for this one, which pulled me in quickly. The same can be said for this fast-paced mystery that mixes great police work with the darkest aspects of the Catholic Church in America. When an old man is found murdered in his basement, Detective Phillip Dorian is called in to help some of his Chicago PD colleagues. The body has been completely gutted and a single rose sits in the pool of blood.The man’s backstory is clean as can be, which baffles everyone. His work with the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese does not raise any flags either, baffling Dorian as he seeks to piece the case together. It is only when a life insurance policy in the amount of $5 million comes to light that things get a little questionable. It would seem the Archdiocese has many of these policies on their former priests, said to be a means to help with the insurmountable costs of settling sexual abuse cases. As Dorian digs a little deeper, he discovers that his victim might not be as pristine as first thought, though the Church refuses to cooperate by revealing what they know. Meanwhile, the Monseigneur assigned to Chicago’s cardinal has been in touch with the local crime family to see about a ‘hitman for hire’ scenario, where those who possess some of the aforementioned policies might meet an untimely death. This juicy tidbit reaches Dorian, though he is stonewalled the more he tries to learn. When more old men turn up dead, Dorian cannot help but wonder if there is someone targeting paedophile priests. Slow going, Dorian is all but forced off the case, even as he discovers what might be a secret society working within Chicago, so off the radar that even members do not know one another. As the case gains momentum and clues begin to come together, Dorian will have to hope that he has cracked the pattern before more men turn up dead. Izzi stuns readers with the complexities of this story, though it remains highly readable. Recommended to those who enjoy multi-faceted crime thrillers that leave little time to rest, as well as the reader who can handle raw focus on Catholic sexual abuse cover-ups.

I had no idea that this is the type of story that would emerge from this book. I am not complaining in the least, but it is by no means a light or easy read. The reader is subjected to a great deal of raw and intense writing by Edward Izzi, who lays it all out there and lets things progress as they will. Phillip Dorian appears to play the protagonist role, trying to crack this case wide open and working under veils of secrecy and pressure from the Church to let things be. Izzi develops his protagonist with some interesting backstory, a divorced man with children and a grandchild, who still has a strong connection to the Church, but puts work ahead of all else. His attention to detail can sometimes work in his favour, though he has his own foibles, which the reader will discover. He is thorough, which helps as the case progresses. Others who complement Dorian help move the story along well. There are numerous heroes and a handful of horrible men who grace the pages, as Izzi seeks to paint both sets as completely as possible. The story itself is stunning in its detail and degree of disturbance. Izzi chooses to pull the veil back and—at times—graphically discuss some of the abuse that occurred in years past at the hands of the priests. Izzi develops certain flashback chapters that tell of different happenings, which ties in nicely with the modern story. The addition of this secret society is told in such a wonderful manner that the reader can almost feel as though they are present throughout. The narrative is kept strong and the momentum does not let up, powered by short chapters full of information. If I had a single concern, it would be the order in which some of the chapters are presented. Without revealing too much, there is a semi-chronology needed to impact the ‘abuse’ and the ‘resolution’ for the reader, though Izzi has a few chapters that refer to the aforementioned society that are out of place and leave a portion of the story somewhat jagged. There are sure to be some who feel Izzi relies too much on the stereotypical views of the Church and priests, though this view has been substantiated by many over the years. His raw and blunt writing shines a light on something that has—and remains—a thorn in the side and needs attention.

Kudos, Mr. Izzi, for a fabulous piece. I cannot say enough about it and hope others find this read just as riveting.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: