NONFICTION

Lincoln's Spymaster: Allan Pinkerton, America's First Private Eye

224p. bibliog. index. notes. photos. reprods. Scholastic. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545708975; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545709019.
COPY ISBN
Gr 5–8—This serviceable biography sheds light on Allan Pinkerton, America's most famous detective. Readers learn how Pinkerton, a wanted man, fled a life of poverty as a labor dissenter in Scotland for America, where he became a cooper in Illinois. He used his keen observation skills to uncover several counterfeiters and was promptly deputized. This small start in law enforcement grew into employment with the fledgling (and very corrupt) Chicago Police Department. Unable to stomach the corruption, the principled man left after a few years to open Pinkerton's National Detective Agency. The agency's motto: "We never sleep." The agency pioneered many techniques commonly used today, such as working undercover and shadowing suspects. Pinkerton also employed male and female detectives, a practice that was highly unusual at the time. He and his detectives served their country during the Civil War as spies for the Union, occasionally corresponding with Abraham Lincoln himself. After a personal disagreement regarding Union leadership, Pinkerton returned to private detective work. The detailed descriptions of his pursuit of famous outlaws, including Jesse James and Frank Younger, are quite interesting. The overall writing is effective, though not riveting. The photographs and documents are clear, and the bibliography is highly detailed.
VERDICT A welcome but not essential addition.

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