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Money to Burn Hardcover – July 1, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (July 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399148914
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399148910
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #827,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When your average first-time thriller writer explains in explicit detail how to rob the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago of $100 million in used money about to be destroyed, you might shrug and think of the latest Bruce Willis movie. But when that writer is a Chicago federal district court judge, you should probably sit up and take notice especially if he writes as well as Zagel. "We had carried out the first indisputable overt act.... Crashing a van into an armored car and running away is not an innocent stunt." That cool customer is Judge Paul Devine, who starts to veer off the tracks when his beloved wife dies young, her law career tarnished because of a nasty bureaucrat who heads the Federal Reserve Bank. The fact that Dave Brody, Devine's best friend from childhood, is a dedicated paramedic and firefighter who sets fires to supplement his income helps push the judge over the line into full-tilt criminality. As Devine and his three cohorts (Brody, plus Charity Scott and Trimble Young, a sharply rendered married couple who work as bank guards and also have reasons to hate the bureaucrats) test their complicated robbery plan, Zagel incorporates enough scenes of Devine at work in his courtroom to convince readers that there are more subtle ways to influence and even short-circuit the judicial system than are dreamt of in our darkest Law and Order fantasies.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

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. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 24 customer reviews
Very intricate and mesmerizing.
These brief examples of justice rendered serve as occasional illustrations throughout the book.
Ted M. Hopes
Here's to hoping for sequel after sequel!
Ben F. Small

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is an incredible book. It is beautifuly written and carefully crafted.
The story centers around four complex characters. Judge Devine is a federal judge, who plots to rob the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago. James Zagel, the author, does an amazing job establishing a credible reason why the judge would commit such a crime (no, it's not greed). The judge is a fascinating character because the criminal and judicial parts of his character seem to live in parallel. He is a model judge in the courtroom, and yet when he romoves his black robe and goes home, he plots a highly complicated and devious robbery.
The plan to beat the Federal Reserve is truly imaginative. But the story does not end there, as the judge and his cohorts find themselves confronted with a dogged investigator who at times seems to have mixed motives himself. Indeed, the process of trying to stay ahead of the investigator provides a lot of sharp twists and elevates the intricacy of the plot.
This book is truly exceptional. The plot has been carefully constructed, both in terms of being very original as well including a lot of very realistic detail (according to the dust jacket, the author is a judge, and former police chief, so that's why this book has a very real feel to it). The characters are not, in any way, predictable -- something encountered in all too many crime based books.
Without doubt, this is one of the best mystery books in a long time from a new author. Read it, it's really great.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. D. Coldren on December 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Let there be mostly boring, mind-numbing cases on Judge James B. Zagel's docket because --- like the fictional Judge Paulie Devine --- he puts what might otherwise be idle brain cycles to good use conjuring up, among other things, intelligent and exciting books and essays. His first published novel, "Money to Burn," is not autobiographical according to the author but law enforcement personnel in Illinois can certainly be excused if they find at least a few extraordinary similiarities between Judges Devine and Zagel.
For one thing, Zagel obviously knows and loves Chicago: its jazz clubs, restaurants, geography, and --- most of all --- its people. And so does Devine. As a $100 million heist of the Federal Reserve is planned, executed, and then unraveled, Devine goes all over town to places familiar to Chicago readers. The images Zagel paints are authentic and could almost be the beginnings of a screenplay.
The planning of the caper and the actual event are told with the attention to detail and plot development that I usually expect only from (real) Tom Clancy novels. It is the darker second half of the book, however, where Zagel's richly-drawn characters agonize over the moral issues of what they have done, that gives this book real intellectual and emotional heft.
I recommend this book without reservation and hope to read more novels by this author.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ted M. Hopes on July 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Money to Burn is a first novel written by James Zagel, a federal judge in Chicago. In addition to telling a compelling story, it provides a palatable description of what a federal court judge does, how he thinks, and how he makes decisions, commenting on both the seriousness of the process and the inevitable strategy and trivia that accompanies it. These brief examples of justice rendered serve as occasional illustrations throughout the book. The reader soon suspects that the story line is a tool in the service of introducing the reader to what courts are really about, but it is wielded so deftly that one comes away with both a rapid heart-beat and a glimpse of a poorly understood part of our legal system.
The story is narrated by a fictional federal court judge in Chicago who decides it is possible to successfully steal a large amount of money from the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank. He arrives at a decision to attempt this feat as a way to prove to himself that it can be done, to extract some vengeance, and perhaps to relieve an underlying boredom with life following the tragic death of his wife. Two incongruities that may be detected early are eventually washed away by either the reasonable development of the novel or by the readerÕs recognition of their unimportance; the narrative is powerful enough to wash them away. One of these is that an intelligent, worldly wise, financially secure and socially prominent judge would consider the project that he undertakes, and the other is that the same clever person would be unaware that a common flaw in legal as well as illegal activities is involving other people. He should have become a cat burglar.
The judge in the novel, Paul Devine, makes a good case for why his plan should succeed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Silver Springer on August 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I can't remember ever reading a novel written by a federal district court judge, but Money to Burn, written by Judge James Zagel weaves a compelling legal thriller/crime fiction tale from this unique perspective.
In the novel, fictional district court judge Paul Devine, plans a robbery of the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago, motivated by a desire to avenge a wrong done by the director of the bank to his deceased wife. Devine is also just bored with his life on the bench and plotting the crime is a thrill for him. His co-conspirator is his best friend and fireman-turned-arsonist Dave Brody, whose own criminal experience and knowledge of explosives and medicine is key to the plot. When a head security guard for the Fed and her electrician/husband appear in Devine's courtroom, the criminal conspiracy is underway.
Concurrent with his crime plotting, Judge Devine carries on his daily courtroom routine. We get to see the workings of a judge's mind: how he decides his cases, his daydreaming during cases and the games he plays to keep cases interesting. Despite his criminal bent, Devine is a crusader on the topic of ensuring the guilty are punished, even if it means bending the law. One story line involves a lazy prosecutor who proposes a plea bargain with a short jail time for a con-artist who cheats the elderly out of their life-savings. Devine refuses to accept the plea and makes suggestions to the police detective on advancing certain evidence that comes to a bad conclusion for the criminal.
The chilling part of the novel includes both the suspensful robbery and aftermath but also involves the same police detective who is the only one to suspect a robbery may have taken place. Like a man on a mission, the detective seems to be everywhere which begins to rattle the suspects.
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