Lincoln's Grave Robbers

224p. glossary. index. notes. photos. Scholastic. Jan. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-40572-0.
Gr 5–9—Lively dialogue and a fascinating narrative make this an entertaining read. A true-crime thriller set in 1876, the story involves Secret Service agents on the trail of counterfeiters who hoped to spring their leader from jail by holding the body of President Abraham Lincoln for ransom. The men involved included "Big Jim" Kennally, the mastermind behind the plot; Terrence Mullen; and Benjamin Boyd. Among the lawmen are James Brooks, chief of the Secret Service, and agents Patrick Tyrrell and Elmer Washburn. The account of the body-snatching plot is interwoven with the presidential election of 1876 between candidates Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden. There is also information about Mary Todd Lincoln and her son, Robert, who was a prominent Chicago attorney at the time. Readers also learn about the workings of the association in Springfield that operated the Lincoln Tomb. The book includes a glossary of phrases used in the dialogue. Readers will be entertained by the animated writing style, which creates a real page-turner, and learn history at the same time. An essential addition for all collections.—Patricia Ann Owens, Illinois Eastern Community Colleges
Beginning with a dramatic flashback, Sheinkin introduces readers to Pete McCartney, a captured counterfeiter who in 1864 escaped the authorities by jumping from a train. Sheinkin then launches into a history of counterfeiters; their influence on the national currency before, during, and after the Civil War; and the process of making fake money, or coney. And he shows how, desperate to spring one of their own from prison, a gang of counterfeiters hatch a convoluted plan to rob Lincoln's grave and use the president's remains as leverage for their compatriot's early release. Unlike his other books (The Notorious Benedict Arnold, rev. 1/11; Bomb, rev. 11/12), this one addresses a small anecdote in American history that had little lasting import. The caper resembles a true crime episode from the Keystone Cops, with many of the players lacking the mental dexterity to pull off such a feat. A cast of the numerous characters; glossary; and unseen index, documentation, and archival photographs complete the book. betty carter

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