Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin (2012)

lincolnThe master of historical nonfiction takes on a little-known event in American history.

Recommended grade level: 6-10

Pages: 224 (for ISBN 9780545405720)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, history

Tone/Style: conspiratorial

Pace: moderate

Topics: counterfeiting, cons, grave robbing

Themes: respect and disrespect for history

Summary: 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. The plot moves toward a wild climax as robbers and lawmen converge at Lincoln’s tomb on election night: November 7, 1876. (Source)

Who will like this book?: History buffs and nonfiction lovers will get a kick out of this strange and little-known event. With bumbling crooks, grave robbings, and counterfeit, there’s plenty of appealing content to capture the attention.

Who won’t like this book?: This wouldn’t be my first choice to give to a reader who doesn’t typically enjoy nonfiction, as I feel it’s a bit slower-moving than some other big-name historical narrative nonfiction by Sheinkin and others. (But it surpasses all others in weirdness of content!)

Other comments:


What to read next: All of Steve Sheinkin’s excellent narrative historical nonfiction is highly recommended; my favorite is Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon.  Those interested in 1800s American history may enjoy Chasing Lincoln’s Killers by James L. Swanson.

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