Conman and condemned prisoner Moist von Lipwig cheated the noose once, but it's not the sort of thing you really want to get good at; while practice makes perfect, mistakes make cadavers. You can imagine why von Lipwig is particularly attentive when his benefactor, Lord Vetinari, tyrannical Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, favors him with a Godfather-style offer that he dare not refuse . . . and why would he want to? Like the fox being given the henhouse key, the former swindler is appointed to the post of Master of the Royal Mint. English satirist Terry Pratchett apparently found our universe too mundane, so he invented seemingly, in fact, lives in one of his own. Making Money is the 36th novel in the venerable Discworld series, and the second to feature Moist von Lipwig, who had previously displayed a talent for wrangling bureaucracy in 2004's Going Postal. When Royal Bank chairman Mrs. Topsy Lavish (nŽe Turvy), whose death may or may not have been untimely, leaves a 50 percent share in the bank to her dog, Mr. Fusspot and leaves Mr. Fusspot in von Lipwig's care hijinks ensue. Much like certain Helmsleys you may have read about recently, the members of the Lavish clan who have been, as they see it, unfairly cut out of the will in favor of a canine, are not pleased. And when 10 tons of gold bullion disappears from the bank's vault under Mr. Fusspot's and von Lipwig's four suspect eyes, it's a race to see which will collapse first: Ankh-Morpork's economy, Lord Vetinari's dictatorship or Moist's windpipe, as the noose tightens around it for a second, and presumably final, time. Pratchett can always be counted upon for a high-spirited romp, and his observational skills seem only to sharpen with each succeeding novel. With equal doses of Molire and Michael Moorcock, Pratchett holds up a funhouse mirror to our own culture and leaves us with a simple question: Which universe would you rather live in? No wonder so many of us, three dozen times now, have joined him in his.

Thane Tierney makes his money in Los Angeles. He just has trouble passing it.

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