When a Rook Takes a Queen is a fascinating high-steaks political thriller following intriguing characters trying to gain control of Chicago. When the progressive mayor of Chicago is murdered just outside her home, the hit is a mystery. Nonetheless, the race is on between the most powerful members of Chicago’s society to gain control of the city and its inhabitants. Another high stakes race is also on to figure out who killed the mayor and the violence plaguing the city. Intrepid reporter, Lawrence McKay is on the case with his sharp-witted staff, but it seems there is also another brave journalist competing for the same story, one beautiful Talia Bowerman. As if there was not enough trouble in the city, mob boss, Tony DiMatteo, has big plans for his territory and with the help of a crooked priest at his side, he might succeed.
When a Rook Takes a Queen is full of wonderful details and twists that haunt the reader through every page. The details and small nuances are not too wordy, yet provide essential pieces of atmosphere and mood that allow the reader to feel as though they are observing events in real time with the characters. One of the additional aspects of the novel that makes it so unpredictable is that all of the characters appear to believe themselves to be making the best choices or doing the right thing, which makes it difficult to determine who is a “good guy” or not. There are many storylines woven together in the book that are told in exquisite detail, weaving together a narrative with just enough dramatic irony to excite the reader without giving the plot away.
The novel also shows a surprising reflection on the real world of politics and policing in large cities such as Chicago. The book showcases the strained relations between minority groups that have been systematically oppressed and officials who too often are not held accountable for their actions without villainizing either side. Although the conflict between these two groups is not the heart of the book, it is addressed with respect and understanding in these relevant times.
When a Rook Takes a Queen is suspenseful, enrapturing, and at times, humorous. It will surely keep readers up at night as I was. It is a book that examines both the cold cruel world of politics and the very human and vulnerable people in that race. I highly recommend this book for a bit of escapism and intrigue.
Pages: 403 | ASIN: B08RY8G4L3
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A Rose from the Executioner by Edward Izzi is a fast-paced and gripping crime thriller that takes a deep and cynical look at the corruption that runs rampant within the Catholic church against the backdrop of Chicago and Italian-American mafia. As someone who grew up in the Catholic Church and since left it, in part to disillusionment with the clergy’s corruption and scandals, I am definitely the right demographic for Izzi’s novel, but it is one that can be enjoyed by Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
The novel follows Detective Phil Dorian, a police officer in the Chicago Police Department that’s looking for a serial killer who is targeting former priests in Chicago. As Dorian begins his work to uncover the murderer, he finds himself digging into the underworlds of the secretive Italian-American mafia, the shockingly corrupt Catholic clergy, and an ancient, secret brotherhood dedicated to pursuing an illicit mission. Dorian himself is a strong and likable protagonist – he is a well-seasoned detective, and I enjoyed the passages where he uses his detective powers to progress the case. He seems like someone you might really know in your own life, and Izzi does a good job of creating a complicated, multifaceted lead for this novel. The supporting characters of the novel are enjoyable too, and I particularly enjoyed the passages with the mysterious and often sinister Monsignor Kilbane, whose power and corruption seem to have no end. However, I felt that the lead female character, the stunning and intelligent Olivia Laurent, was not as developed as she should have been. Olivia is described with the same handful of adjectives throughout the novel, most of which focus on how good she looks in tight blue jeans.
A Rose from the Executioner succeeds in its creative plot and with its strong protagonist. The plot itself is interesting and progresses at a fast clip to keep readers engaged. I also enjoyed how Izzi played with time, throwing in flashback scenes throughout the novel to serve as a prelude for what was to come in later chapters. However, I didn’t like how some words were unnecessarily in air quotes, and I found it to be distracting.
All in all, I feel that A Rose from the Executioner is an entertaining read. I never felt bored while reading it, and the characters were unique but realistic, and I felt as if I knew some of them personally by the end of the book. I also appreciated that Izzi put the Catholic Church’s leadership under pressure and did not whitewash their crimes, acknowledging the ubiquity of the corruption and ill deeds that have been done over the centuries.
Pages: 422 | ASIN: B07N57FBML
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When Chicago mobster Don Carlo Marchese is found hanging from the 18th story window of the Blackstone Hotel, Reporter Paul Crawford of the Chicago Sun Times is assigned to investigate. He finds out that Don Carlo was brokering art works for the Vatican’s Pope Emeritus Hinorius V (Josef Cardinal Schroder). Because of all the innumerate sexual molestation lawsuits that have been settled by many archdioceses’ internationally, the Vatican has been in dire need of money, and began the process of liquidating Vatican Museum artworks. Last July, Hermann Kalkschmidt, the son of a former Nazi officer, is found dead in his Munich apartment. Hidden in his attic for the last seventy-five years, are forty-two paintings stolen by the Nazis from Florence’s Uffizi Gallery in 1943. His second cousin, Chicago art dealer Wolfgang Schmidt is suspected of having his cousin killed by the professional assassin Stefano Iannucci for possession of these paintings. The Pope Emeritus, “Papa Onorio” believes that these stolen paintings really belong to the Vatican Museum. He decides to try to recover the stolen art collection, believing that their recovery back to Rome would restore his abysmal public image. He turns to Chicago mobster Don Carlo Marchese to retrieve these works of art.Apparently, Pope Pius XI consigned the valuable art collection to Mussolini back in 1938, to be stored in safekeeping at the Uffizi Museum. He feared that if Hitler ever invaded Rome, the Vatican artworks would be looted. But in November 1943, the opposite occurred. Florence was invaded, and the Nazis discovered 103 Jewish refugee hiding in one of Florence’s basilicas. The paintings were traded to the Nazis for the lives of these Jews, who were supposed to be transported to Switzerland. They were sent to the Auschwitz concentration camps instead.When Marchese double crosses Papa Onorio, he hires “contract killer” Stefano Iannucci to stop at nothing, including murder, to retrieve those paintings. Meanwhile, Florence’s Giammarco crime family is in search of the Uffizi art collection as well, in conflict with the Vatican over their true ownership. Blood and dead bodies start appearing everywhere, from Chicago to Munich to Detroit to Florence, and the search for these paintings, and especially Fra Filippo Lippi’s valuable masterpiece “Demons of Divine Wrath” remain at large.
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Detective Philip Dorian of the 16th Chicago Precinct is called to investigate the serial killing and mutilation of retired, former pedophile priests in the Chicagoland area. It becomes later discovered that Monsignor Joseph Kilbane, chief of staff to the Cardinal, had previously approached his childhood friend, Anthony ‘Little Tony’ DiMatteo to lend him a “hit man’ to commit the murders of these pedophile ex-priests for their insurance money. Although the plot sounds interesting, Little Tony isn’t interested, and the Monsignor abandons the idea. During the reigns of prior Chicago bishops and cardinals over the last fifty years, many of these former pedophile priests were allegedly, forced to resign and sheltered away from criminal prosecution, with the caveat that they allow the Archdiocese of Chicago to be the beneficiary of their large life insurances policies. These policies were taken out on these former priests ‘as a form of penance for their lives of being sexual predators’. With the innumerate sexual child abuse lawsuits that have been currently filed and settled by the Archdiocese, they are now on the brink of bankruptcy. A serial killer is now out there, and Monsignor Kilbane has no idea who is perpetrating these gruesome homicides, essentially framing him and the Archdiocese for these “Pedophile Priest Murders”.
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Dr. David Fazio is a maternity physician at Chicago-Western Medical Hospital. He is a handsome, divorced baby doctor who has more than his share of personal flaws. But Dr. Fazio has one good moral quality going for him: He is a pro-life obstetrician. In a state where late term abortions are now legal, he is being strongly encouraged by the hospital to perform abortions to any patient requesting one.Dr. Fazio has one other problem…he has horrific sleep issues and has been known to be a sleepwalker. He wakes up one morning with severe burns on his hands, while a family planning clinic one block away has burned down to the ground with casualties. The authorities are now suspicious, as the “Abortion Arsonist” is burning down clinics in Chicagoland, and Dr. Fazio has no clue who it is.Every time Dr. Fazio sleeps, he has no concept of where he’ll wake up or any memory of what damage ha may have done the night before…
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Demons of Divine Wrath by Edward Izzi is a fiction thriller about two murders tied to works of art stolen from the Uffizi Museum in Florence 75 years ago by the Nazis during World War II. Hermman Kalkschmidt dies in his apartment in Munich of an apparent gas leak. But the police detective soon suspects that things are not as they seem. Then six months later, another man is found dead in a hotel suite in Chicago. It is clear from the start that Don Carlo Marchese’s assassination is not a contracted mob hit. When newspaper reporter Paul Crawford begins to dig into the matter, he discovers an unexpected Vatican connection. Can Paul uncover why the mobster was killed, and what happened to the stolen artwork?
This book had a complex story line with many different threads that all tied back to the discovery of the stolen artwork. It was interesting to read the part that took place in 1943 Florence. I liked learning how all the pieces of the story fit together and how the mobster’s assassination in Chicago was connected to the murder of an eighty year old man in Germany. I was surprised by who had ordered the hit on Hermann Kalkschmidt when that person’s identity was revealed. I was intrigued to find out what happened to the hidden artwork after it went missing again. The ending of the book had a surprise twist that I didn’t expect.
The story started out a bit slow with a lot of description of settings and characters. For the first couple of chapters we’re introduced to new characters but no connections are yet made between the characters making it feel a bit disjointed. I felt that there were a lot of unnecessary detail throughout the book; such as airline flight number, seat assignment number, and street addresses.
Otherwise, I thought Demons of Divine Wrath is a riveting crime thriller with an engrossing plot that is propelled by captivating characters. This is yet another suspenseful whodunit novel by Edward Izzi.
Pages: 405 | ASIN: B07VMZJHM9
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John Valentino isn’t going anywhere fast. The middle aged, Detroit-based Detective has just been suspended from work after beating a colleague to a pulp, his marriage has fallen to pieces, and his drinking has spiraled out of control. Haunted by the events surrounding his father’s murder almost forty years before, John is self-destructive, bubbling over with rage and guilt, making him the prime suspect when his father’s killers start turning up dead. But is John really capable of putting an end to his family’s decades old vendetta, or is there someone else moving through the city undetected, enacting their long-awaited revenge?
The gripping new novel by renowned crime author, Edward Izzi, El Camino Drive, is an easily-accessible thriller, which delivers its readers jolt after jolt. Cleverly constructed twists and turns will keep most crime fiction fans guessing until the very end, with a range of secondary characters weaving in and out of different decades and narratives. John’s troubled present is interwoven with his father’s own checkered history, and Izzi is more than capable of handling the slips in time to probe family ties, trauma, addiction, justice, and redemption.
You can’t help but like the book’s flawed protagonist, with his blatant disregard for authority and often misplaced good intentions, however little time is spent with female characters, who are all too often rated on their physical appearance and little else.
Police procedurals play a relatively minor role in El Camino Drive, which is carried along more by the strong dialogue than by the usual detective work you would expect of a whodunit. Due to his suspension from the force, John is instead left to negotiate a minefield of long-standing vendettas, long-lost familial connections, as well as the contemporary dating scene. The premise is unique enough to engross most thriller, mystery, and crime fiction readers, however tweaks to the prose in order to create a more vivid, atmospheric read, would help attract a wider audience.
El Camino Drive is an immersive and enjoyable follow-up to Izzi’s earlier work. A modern take on American pulp fiction, El Camino Drive can alternate between fast, furious, and sleazy, almost like a video game plot turned novel.
Pages: 463 | ASIN: B08F4DPNMN
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Detective John Valentino from Detroit’s Third Precinct knows El Camino Drive very well…his father was murdered there over forty years ago. On Halloween 1978, Antonio Valentino was gunned down after work by three men, alleging that he was having an affair with one of their wives. He was shot in cold blood, and his killers were later exonerated, claiming self-defense. They believed that a toy pistol in the victim’s pocket was an actual weapon. In a very public declaration after the murder trial, his uncle Rossano Valentino announces a vendetta against his brother’s killers. Over forty years later, Detective Valentino is now an alcoholic. He has lost his wife and family to his drinking and has just buried his mother. When he and his sisters clean out the attic of her home, they find an old, locked wooden trunk, containing an evidence bag and contents from the night of the murder in 1978. And in a clear plastic bag, is a blood-stained, green water pistol he once owned as a little boy…the very toy his father used to fool his killers. Frustrated with his life problems and blaming them on his father’s death, Valentino decides to avenge the murder of his father and follow through with Rossano’s family vendetta. One hot, July evening, the wife of the man who planned the murder over forty years ago, is found brutally stabbed to death in her ex-husband’s mobile home. Next to her body, is a poem from the killer, and a green, toy water pistol.The Detroit detective has no idea who did it, as his uncle is now too old and sickly to commit murder. One by one, the murderers who killed his father are brutally slain, while Valentino has no clue who the “Water Pistol Killer” is. He doesn’t have any idea who is fulfilling this old vendetta. Now John Valentino is considered the prime suspect. And after every murder, next to each body, is a new stanza to the same poem…and a green, toy water gun.