Meltzer and Mensch (The First Conspiracy) deliver a solid recounting of the conspiracy to assassinate president-elect Abraham Lincoln during his February 1861 railroad trip from Springfield, Ill., to Washington, D.C., and the successful efforts to foil it. Opening in dramatic fashion (“There’s a secret on this train”), the authors describe how “America’s first private detective,” Allan Pinkerton, and two undercover agents—a man and a woman—snuck Lincoln, who was disguised as the woman’s invalid brother and concealed in a sleeper berth, into Baltimore, Md., in the middle of the night, where he changed trains and immediately departed, thwarting “an underground network of secessionists” who expected him to arrive a day-and-a-half later. Flashbacks to Lincoln’s presidential campaign illuminate the tensions between pro- and anti-slavery activists, and the authors briskly detail the backgrounds of conspirators Cypriano Ferrandini, Baltimore’s “most powerful barber,” and 28-year-old socialite Otis K. Hillard, as well as the efforts of Pinkerton Agency detectives to gather intelligence on the white supremacist societies allegedly behind the plot. Meltzer and Mensch maintain suspense despite the known outcome of the story, and convincingly counter claims that Pinkerton made the whole thing up for publicity purposes. Readers new to the “Baltimore Plot” will appreciate this comprehensive and well-written overview. (May)
Reviewed on : 03/13/2020 Release date: 05/05/2020 Genre: Nonfiction
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