Money to Burn, by James Grippando

What would you do if you checked your bank account one day and found it empty? This dilemma faces Michael Cantella, a young-ish and very successful investment banker on Wall St. It’s much worse than that – Michael rapidly discovers that not only his bank account but all his investments, including his shares in his own company Saxton Silvers, have also vanished.

Michael immediately reports his loss, which he puts down to identity theft, to his firm’s legal counsel and, through her, to the FBI. Unfortunately for Michael and exacerbated by a larger-than-life TV financial journalist who dons boxing gloves and steps into the ring to deliver his hyped-up reports, he himself comes under suspicion for having stashed away the money. Saxton Silvers, barely recovered from its earlier exposure to the sub-prime mortgage market (an escape made possible by Michael having forced through a company ruling to stop this type of investment, creating some internal enemies among his colleagues who were doing very well out of it), is now teetering on the brink. Whoever sold Michael’s shares in the company did so at a considerable loss, which causes other investors to lose confidence in the company and dump their shares. 

The novel rushes on at a cracking pace, as Michael tries to cope with disaster after disaster – losing his money, being thrown out of his fancy apartment by his wife who tells him she wants a divorce, coming under suspicion from his boss (and mentor) as well as from the police and the FBI – could life get any worse? Well – yes, it could.

A second plot running through the book is that of Michael’s first wife, Ivy. Some years previously, the couple had met (over an investment, of course) and married very quickly afterwards, while on holiday (at the company’s expense, naturally) in the Bahamas. No sooner had Michael and Ivy tied the knot than she vanished from the boat on which they were staying, presumed drowned and her body eaten by a shark. Michael has never really recovered from her death, and some circumstances about his missing money make him suspect that she might still be alive. Whether this is true, and how all these elements fit together, forms the basis of this financial thriller.

Money to Burn is a lightweight, fun read. I found the corporate espionage part of the plot much the strongest, and was not so taken with the gangster conspiracy aspects. It is certainly a bang on-trend book and taught me a few lessons about spyware, passwords and being careful with my accrued millions and my blue-chip portfolio!

I thank the publisher, Harper Collins in the USA, for so kindly sending me a proof copy of the novel.

Other reviews of this book at: Huffington PostReviewing the Evidence and Book Reporter.

Review first posted at Petrona, May 2010.

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