Lincoln’s Grave Robbers

Steve Sheinkin. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-545-40572-0
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.)
Reviewed on: 11/19/2012
Release date: 01/01/2013
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