Fiction 2019 / 484 pages
Genre: Thriller & Suspense
Demons of Divine Wrath
A mafia don is found hanging and a Chicago reporter wants to know more. Priceless art emerges in Germany. The Vatican ties it all together!
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.
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 Honorius V (Josef Cardinal Schroder). Because of all the innumerate sexual molestation lawsuits that have been settled by many archdiocese's 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 Nazi's 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.
Novelist Edward IzziApparently, 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 Nazi's discovered 103 Jewish refugees hiding in one of Florence's basilicas. The paintings were traded to the Nazi's 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.
A bloody crime war has now ensued between the Vatican and the international underworld, with the Pope Emeritus trying to restore his Vatican papal legacy, while fighting with the Marchese and Giammarco crime families for the recovery of these invaluable Renaissance masterpieces.