Professional Reviews

Review by:
Mary Anne Benedetto
Certified Lifewriting Instructor-A Writer’s Presence, LLC
Helping People Write the Times of Their Lives

Rizzo
by Don Lewis

I am unable to resist a mystery that seizes me and holds me in its grasp. That is exactly how I felt about Rizzo.

One cannot help but sympathize with Nathan Rizzo. Here he is–a Pittsburgh Police Detective, retired after 32 years, a widower still mourning the loss of his wife, and he decides to accept a position as Police Chief in the small Pennsylvania town of Braden. With minimal crime in this new location, life will be quiet and peaceful, and he should have just enough to do to keep his mind occupied and give this 15 officer police department and rural population the benefit of his experience and leadership.

The apple pie doesn’t always bake to our satisfaction, however. Sometimes the crust collapses, and that is precisely what seems to be happening to Rizzo. As he navigates the precarious politics present even in a small town setting, five months after his arrival the unthinkable is happening. A series of grizzly murders occurs, and Rizzo is left to untangle the web of secrecy and mystery surrounding them. The challenges that present themselves are magnified by deficient access to the sophisticated, big city resources and support to which Rizzo is accustomed.

This book has everything–the obvious anticipation inherent in digesting the details of multiple whodunits, danger, a hint of romance, organized crime connection, small town characters and cigars. Rizzo relishes his rooftop reflections with a favorite cigar in hand.

Upon reading the final chapter, I returned to the beginning to once again consume clues that I may have overlooked during the initial read. Don Lewis, with his legal background and expertise, excels at crafting an intense legal thriller.

I can’t imagine that anyone would be disappointed in this book. Be aware that there is a smattering of strong language and some graphic descriptions of murder scenes, though neither are as gross as they potentially might have been. For that, I was exceedingly grateful. Some language and visuals are merely typical of a particular setting, subject matter, occupation or lifestyle. And although I personally don’t care for foul language, I am well aware that thugs and criminals wouldn’t ordinarily converse in sugar-coated, angelic phrases. To his tremendous credit, Lewis minimizes its use.

To escape into the world of an intriguing saga, Rizzo is an ideal selection!

 

Writers Digest Self Publishing Competition

Entry Title: Rizzo, A Nathan Rizzo Mystery
Author: Don Lewis
Judge Number: 13
Entry Category: Fiction

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. “0” indicates not applicable. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.

Structure and Organization: 4
Grammar: 3
Production Quality and Cover Design: 0
Plot (if applicable): 5
Character Development (if applicable): 5

Judges Commentary
“Judge, Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards”

Really enjoyed the book. I like the way the book is organized; a Prologue that provides background for the current story, followed by a clear introduction where we meet the characters and the scene is set. The main character, Rizzo, is a seasoned veteran homicide detective and widower who may have retired before he should have. Together with Rizzo, the reader is introduced to Braden, a place with a bucolic, small-town feel until a heinous murder occurs, the first of what becomes a series of violent killings. The author captures the internal workings of the county court and the political infighting of Braden very well, without the characters seeming to be cookie-cutter or stereotypical. The reader rides along with Rizzo as he gathers the facts, talks to the witnesses and puts the pieces of the gruesome puzzle together and the author does a good job building the story, allowing the reader to see the case unfold and providing enough hints and clues to keep the reader engaged and not feeling like key information is withheld or that the reader feels unfairly misdirected. The characters feel authentic, as do the relationships and interrelationships. I would recommend this book, and would look forward to the next book if it becomes a series.

 

Writer’s Digest Annual Self-Published e-Book Awards

Entry Title: Kalup’s Crossroads
Author: Don Lewis
Judge Number: 13
Entry Category: Fiction

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. “0” indicates not applicable. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.

Structure and Organization: 5
Grammar: 5
Production Quality and Cover Design: 4
Plot (if applicable): 5
Character Development (if applicable): 5

Judges Commentary
“Judge, Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards”

This book is an impressive combination of legal and detective genres with plenty of grit, action, mystery, drug cartels and personal and professional relationships that may not be what they seem. The main character is Sonny Kalup (interestingly, his name is based on a real person and former NAVY SEAL and hero) who is a former DEA agent and currently with the US Attorney’s office in Tampa. Twelve years ago, he was shot in Columbia by a drug cartel enforcer named Fernando Cruz during an undercover drug bust. Fast forward to now when Sonny becomes involved when an important drug smuggling case ends up in the DEA’s lap and Fernando Cruz is the key player. Sonny makes no secret of his wish to get his pound of flesh from Fernando for the past shooting. Then Cruz ends up dead while in custody. When Sonny’s wife is murdered and Sonny is framed for it, a web of lies, power and betrayal must be untangled to exonerate him. He hires Louis Ingram, a high profile criminal defense attorney who wants Sonny to accept a plea deal, given the mountain of evidence against him, but Sonny will not cop to a crime he didn’t commit. The trial plays out through several twists and turns of players, evidence, motives and legal proceedings. The characters in this book are distinct, well-developed and their roles in law enforcement and legal proceedings are believable and realistic. The rollercoaster of emotions of Sonny throughout the story feel authentic and relatable. The story is fast-paced but in a good way. None of the characters feel stereotypical or like caricatures, two traps that too many authors fall into, particularly with law enforcement officers. There were enough subplots and potential suspects to make it interesting, but not so many as to be distracting or for the reader to cry foul, all the clues are there, but you have to pay attention. Overall the book was done extremely well, particularly the court proceedings, a la John Grisham and Steve Martini. Even if I had not already been a fan of this genre, I would have enjoyed this great job and would definitely recommend.