The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot Against George Washington and the Birth of American Counterintelligence

Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch. Flatiron, $29.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-13033-4
This protracted history of a conspiracy against the Continental Army before the American colonies had even declared their independence doesn’t showcase thriller author Meltzer (The Escape Artist) at his best. Meltzer and television veteran Mensch set the scene of the conspiracy in the prologue—a moonlit night in 1776 in a clearing in Manhattan, as George Washington emerges from a coach into a planned trap. Then the narrative moves back to 1752; after several chapters, Washington and the Continental Army arrive in New York City in early 1776, where the British governor, William Tryon, is already gathering intelligence against them and pays a New York gunsmith, Gilbert Forbes, to recruit Washington’s soldiers into a plot on his life. The authors recount the plot’s thwarting by a nascent counterintelligence group led by John Jay, later the first Supreme Court Justice. The authors draw out the story a great deal, breaking it into brief chapters ending in often melodramatic statements like “One thing is clear: nothing in this war will be easy.” Some readers may find that the choppy structure heightens the work’s drama, while others may find it and the simplistic prose off-putting, but the topic is one that will draw interest. Agent: Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, William Morris Agency. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/26/2018
Release date: 01/08/2019
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Library Binding - 630 pages - 978-1-4328-5959-6
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-250-23821-4
Compact Disc - 978-1-4272-9918-5
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