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The Lincoln Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill America's 16th President — and Why It Failed


The Lincoln Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill America's 16th President — and Why It Failed

“There's a secret on this train.”

Thus begins the Prologue to THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch, a historical work that reads like a page-turning thriller. Many parts of the story are reinforced with photos and images, some of which I never saw before in other books about Abraham Lincoln or the Civil War. It's almost like your American history textbook became cool and could be read like a bestselling novel.

To take a step back for a moment and put everything in perspective, we as a nation, and a world, are going through some of the most trying times we’ve ever had to endure. Whether or not you are a supporter, there’s no denying that President Trump is dealing with one of the biggest crises in our nation’s history. It is now mind-blowing to think that many of the issues and events facing Lincoln, both as President-elect and as our 16th President, were unprecedented up to that point.

"...a historical work that reads like a page-turning thriller.... It's almost like your American history textbook became cool and could be read like a bestselling novel."

Those who follow my reviews or know me personally are aware that I work at Walt Disney World. My favorite place there is EPCOT, specifically the World Showcase. I have viewed the American Adventure film at the American Pavilion countless times. The one part that always sends chills down my spine is the picture of a solitary Lincoln, standing before a window in the White House on the eve of the Civil War. I don't think that any photo, Spielberg movie or text can fully portray the weight that this man had on his shoulders --- a weight that no President before or since had to face.

These facts are what made reading THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY that much more fascinating for me. We all know what happened during the Civil War and the assassination of Lincoln that shortly followed, but many of us probably are not aware of the serious threat to his life as he embarked on a train tour of the country while still President-elect. Like the opening line of the Prologue, it all will come down to the train and the skill and bravery of the few who stepped up to ensure that he would make his inauguration and be successfully sworn in as our 16th President.

There was actually a conspiracy that came out of the meetings of a secret group that called themselves the Knights of the Golden Circle, or KGC, a precursor to other hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. These “citizens” were very much pro-slavery to the point of wanting a secession of pro-slavery states from the rest of the Union. The last thing they wanted to be faced with was a President who was anti-slavery, spoke well and could rally the spirit of much of the country behind that cause. As far as the KGC was concerned, Lincoln needed to die before the train ever got him to Washington, D.C.

THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY jumps back and forth in time and gives readers a historical context to Lincoln's rise to the presidency. Even though we have found out much of this information through school textbooks or various documentaries and film adaptations, in the hands of Meltzer and Mensch, it is told in riveting fashion. The narrative is so fluid and interesting that you find yourself rooting for Lincoln like he was the heroic protagonist in a fantasy novel. The intent of the “bad guys” is to have him killed in Baltimore.

It will take the work of a number of people to protect him and see him safely through. Some of those bearing this huge responsibility had been political adversaries, such as Stephen Douglas and William Henry Seward, former Governor of New York and the man Lincoln beat to become President. Allan Pinkerton, the first American detective, and his security company are also brought on, along with Kate Warne, the first female detective. Having the conspiracy revealed and knowing that Lincoln does survive this ordeal does not take an ounce of tension out of the reading experience.

We witness Lincoln's inauguration and the changing of the guard between him and his predecessor, James Buchanan. Buchanan famously states to Lincoln: “If you are as happy, my dear sir, on entering the White House as I am in leaving it, you are the happiest man in the country.” The Acknowledgements and Credits are almost as long as a novella and show the depth of research that Meltzer and Mensch brought to this engaging and exhilarating book.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 8, 2020

The Lincoln Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill America's 16th President — and Why It Failed
by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

  • Publication Date: May 4, 2021
  • Genres: History, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250805899
  • ISBN-13: 9781250805898