Reviews for Lincoln's Grave Robbers

Booklist Reviews 2013 January #1
With a title uniting two highly popular topics--Abraham Lincoln and ghoulish crime--this is sure to pique the interest of many readers, and Sheinkin's gripping narrative will hold them to the thrilling climax. In 1876, a group of Chicago counterfeiters hatched a half-baked plan to remove President Lincoln's corpse from its resting place near Springfield, Illinois, and hold it for ransom. Although there was minimum security at the grave site and little to prevent the thieves from carrying out their dastardly scheme, the fledgling Secret Service was onto them (more for their counterfeit operations than their grave-robbing conspiracy), and their plans were foiled in the nick of time. While describing this small episode, Sheinkin weaves in information about the formation of the Secret Service, the history of counterfeit operations, presidential campaigns and elections, and much more. Excellent pacing within an appealing format. Photo elements were not available for review. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
Sheinkin shows how, desperate to spring one of their own from prison, a gang of counterfeiters hatched a convoluted plan to rob Lincoln's grave and use the president's remains as leverage for their compatriot's early release. The caper resembles a true crime episode from the Keystone Cops, with many of the players lacking the mental dexterity to pull off such a feat. Glos., ind.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #1
Beginning with a dramatic flashback, Sheinkin introduces readers to Pete McCartney, a captured counterfeiter who in 1864 escaped the authorities by jumping from a train. Sheinkin then launches into a history of counterfeiters; their influence on the national currency before, during, and after the Civil War; and the process of making fake money, or coney. And he shows how, desperate to spring one of their own from prison, a gang of counterfeiters hatch a convoluted plan to rob Lincoln's grave and use the president's remains as leverage for their compatriot's early release. Unlike his other books (The Notorious Benedict Arnold, rev. 1/11; Bomb, rev. 11/12), this one addresses a small anecdote in American history that had little lasting import. The caper resembles a true crime episode from the Keystone Cops, with many of the players lacking the mental dexterity to pull off such a feat. A cast of the numerous characters; glossary; and unseen index, documentation, and archival photographs complete the book. betty carter

Kirkus Reviews 2012 November #1
On election eve in 1876, the Chicago Tribune was dominated by election coverage, except for a curious story on page 5 about body snatchers attempting to rob the grave of Abraham Lincoln. The headline read, "Dastardly Attempt to Despoil the Lincoln Monument: Thieves Trying to Steal the Bones of the Martyr President." The body snatchers had narrowly escaped—without the body—but certain evidence had been found: two sets of footprints, a bull's-eye lantern and grass pressed flat where men had been lying nearby. Sheinkin takes a little-known sidebar of American history and lures readers in with the sheer weirdness of his tale and a new lexicon of coneys, ropers, shovers, bone orchards and ghouls. The robbery was no random act, but one related to the world of 19th-century counterfeiting, so readers are introduced to the history of counterfeiting. This history and other topics provide context but slow the narrative—the grisly autopsy on the body of the fallen president, the design of the Lincoln Monument in Springfield, Ill., and the early days of the United States Secret Service. There's even a "Body Snatcher Bonus Section." The finished edition will include photographs, source notes and an index, not seen here. A good, ghoulish read despite slow spots. (glossary) (Nonfiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 November #3

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.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 January

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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VOYA Reviews 2013 April
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." --Pam Carlson Photos. 4Q 3P J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.