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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons