Title: Lincoln’s Grave Robbers
Author: Steve Sheinkin
Published: January 1, 2013 by Scholastic
Category: History, True Crime (Young Adult/Middle School)
Rating: 5 out of 5
A true crime thriller — the first book for teens to tell the nearly unknown tale of the brazen attempt to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body!
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.
First a confession. I read little non-fiction, even less history. However, I am glad I picked up Lincoln’s Grave Robbers. My family convinced me to see Lincoln in the theater last year, and they were right- it was good, and I think that is part of the reason this title caught my eye. In the end though, it’s a fascinating story told in an interesting way. I enjoyed reading it and learned a lot. I’m actually thinking about looking for more of Scheinkin’s books.
The book starts out with a cast of characters and most of the bad guys are counterfeiters. I think I learned more about counterfeiting in the 1870s than anything. I didn’t realize it had been so profitable or such a major problem. Did you know the secret service was first established to deal with counterfeiter? I had no idea.
This is a true story, but it’s almost unbelievable. Ben Boyd, the best of the engravers, is in jail and these guys some up with the plan of stealing Lincoln’s body and then demanding the release of Boyd as part of the ransom. Seems a little crazy but they had a solidish plan, spoiled by one of their own working with the Secret Service. We learn about the bad guys plans, how the secret service was going to deal with it, how some folks weren’t taking the plot seriously and even how worried the memorial’s caretaker was. Sheinkin obviously did tons of research and has a list of his sources in the back.
The story is just absurd, from the plot to how the secret service blew the big night. It’s an exciting story, though, a fun to read. The criminals are a lively bunch, and Powers, the caretaker, is dedicated to his job and to Lincoln. The good guys aren’t perfect. The most amazing part, I think, is that it’s all true. I would definitely recommend this one to middle school kids and young teens. And adults like me.
History can be cool! Wish I had realized that when I was younger.