Money to Burn

by James Zagel

When a judge turns to crime, one can be sure he will be exceedingly cautious, with an eye, always, to the end game. Two judges play a role in this heist story: the one who conceives and directs the caper, and the author, both Federal District Court judges in Chicago. Judge Paul E. Devine narrates, enchanting the reader with his bench smarts, like the ways a judge has of sizing up attorneys, defendants, and witnesses. Devine is unhappy. His beloved wife has died, and the man who persecuted her thrives as a power within the Federal Reserve Bank. Devine has seen enough unjust justice to want to get a little of his own back, preferably against the man who assailed his wife. Enter a scheme to walk away with millions from the Federal Reserve itself, a plan both ingenious and arduous. The prose is sometimes klunky (too many tacked-on Chicago factoids and too much unconvincing Irish patter), but the story is compelling.

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