Lincoln's Grave Robbers

Lincoln's Grave Robbers

4.5 13
by Steve Sheinkin
     
 

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The action begins in October of 1875, as Secret Service agents raid the Fulton, Illinois, workshop of master counterfeiter Ben Boyd. Soon after Boyd is hauled off to prison, members of his counterfeiting ring gather in the back room of a smoky Chicago saloon to discuss how to spring their ringleader. Their plan: grab Lincoln's body from its Springfield tomb,…  See more details below

Overview


The action begins in October of 1875, as Secret Service agents raid the Fulton, Illinois, workshop of master counterfeiter Ben Boyd. Soon after Boyd is hauled off to prison, members of his counterfeiting ring gather in the back room of a smoky Chicago saloon to discuss how to spring their ringleader. Their plan: grab Lincoln's body from its Springfield tomb, stash it in the sand dunes near Lake Michigan, and demand, as a ransom, the release of Ben Boyd --and $200,000 in cash. From here, the action alternates between the conspirators, the Secret Service agents on their trail, and the undercover agent moving back and forth between the two groups. Along the way readers get glimpses into the inner workings of counterfeiting, grave robbing, detective work, and the early days of the Secret Service. The plot moves toward a wild climax as robbers and lawmen converge at Lincoln's tomb on election night: November 7, 1876.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This meticulous and tremendously suspenseful account of the attempted heist of Abraham Lincoln’s body in 1876 reads like a smartly cast fictional crime thriller, with a skillful buildup of tension and sharp character portrayals. Sheinkin (Bomb) lays the groundwork for the plot by delving into the history of counterfeiting, a booming business during and after the Civil War (“By 1864, an astounding 50 percent of the paper money in circulation was fake”). James Kennally, leader of one of the largest counterfeiting rings in the Midwest, masterminded the plot to steal the late president’s body from the Lincoln Monument, outside Springfield, Ill. His intent was to ransom the purloined corpse, hitting up the government for a tidy sum of money and the freedom of his jailed, top-notch engraver. Perhaps the most dynamic player is Lewis Swegles, a shrewd career criminal who juggled double roles as Secret Service informer and alleged conspirator. Sheinkin’s study of Swegles’s thought process and machinations intensifies the drama of the final showdown between the would-be robbers and government officials. A sizzling tale of real-life historical intrigue. Ages 10–14. (Jan.)
From the Publisher

This meticulous and tremendously suspenseful account of the attempted heist of Abraham Lincoln’s body in 1876 reads like a smartly cast fictional crime thriller, with a skillful buildup of tension and sharp character portrayals. Sheinkin (Bomb) lays the groundwork for the plot by delving into the history of counterfeiting, a booming business during and after the Civil War (“By 1864, an astounding 50 percent of the paper money in circulation was fake”). James Kennally, leader of one of the largest counterfeiting rings in the Midwest, masterminded the plot to steal the late president’s body from the Lincoln Monument, outside Springfield, Ill. His intent was to ransom the purloined corpse, hitting up the government for a tidy sum of money and the freedom of his jailed, top-notch engraver. Perhaps the most dynamic player is Lewis Swegles, a shrewd career criminal who juggled double roles as Secret Service informer and alleged conspirator. Sheinkin’s study of Swegles’s thought process and machinations intensifies the drama of the final showdown between the would-be robbers and government officials. A sizzling tale of real-life historical intrigue.
- Publishers Weekly starred review
VOYA - Pam Carlson
What do counterfeiters, body snatching, and Abraham Lincoln have in common? Sheinkin reveals the link between the three through an engaging narration of an outlandish and little known piece of history. The primary responsibility of the Secret Service in the mid 1860s was to bust up counterfeit gangs, big business in those days. James Kennally, the leader of one such gang, hatched a plot to steal the president's body from its grave in the Lincoln Monument in Oak Ridge, Illinois. The ransom would be the release from prison of his best engraver. Patrick Tyrell was the Chief Operative who took on the task of keeping the plot from succeeding. He successfully placed a "roper" (informant) into the gang and spent months keeping tabs on the gang while attempting to convince his boss that the threat was real. Finally, the big night arrived. Kennally made sure he was far from the scene, leaving the work to his underlings. Suspense built as the roper snuck away from his new colleagues to update Tyrell—until the moment when criminals and cops collided...almost. There is no stereotyping here. Villains are not all dastardly and neither are all the good guys totally worthy of admiration. This is more a caper involving the mind rather than guns a-blazing so it may be a disappointment to those who with a taste for gory criminal undertakings. Readers may be motivated to search out more obscure tales of American history to discover the "rest of the story." Reviewer: Pam Carlson
Library Journal
It is estimated that by 1864 50 percent of the paper money in the United States was counterfeit. This prompted the Treasury Department to establish the Secret Service in 1865 for the purpose of protecting the integrity of U.S. currency and bringing counterfeiters to justice. In 1876, on the very eve of the most-contested election in history, a band of counterfeiters set in motion a plan to rob the grave of Abraham Lincoln. Their intention? To hold the President’s body ransom and free a notorious counterfeit engraver from prison. Sheinkin—author of last year’s wildly acclaimed Bomb: The Race To Build – and Steal – The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon (Flash Point/Roaring Brook, 2012)—again sets a story of intrigue and derring-do against the backdrop of history, here the origins of the Secret Service and the presidential race between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden (which makes Bush vs. Gore look downright civilized). While aimed at a younger crowd than Bomb, Lincoln’s Grave Robbers still delivers for the adult set.

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal
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

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780545405720
Publisher:
Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
01/01/2013
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
80,136
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.84(d)
Lexile:
930L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Steve Sheinkin is the recipient of the YASLA award for Excellence in Nonfiction. He resides in Saratoga Springs, New York.

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