Lincoln’s Grave Robbers

1 Mar

15809629Steve Sheinkin, author of Newbery Honor book, Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, has written a true crime thriller – Lincoln’s Grave Robbers.  The story “alternates between the conspirators, the Secret Service agents on their tail, and the undercover double agent moving back and forth between the two groups.” – Book Jacket flap

The story begins with the history of money and the coney men known for producing counterfeit money across the Midwest.  An interesting statistic, “By  1864 an astounding 50 percent of the paper money in circulation was fake.” – Lincoln’s Grave Robbers, page 28  I didn’t realize that the Secret Service was originally created to stop counterfeiters, it wasn’t until after three presidents were assassinated that they were later put in charge of guarding the President.

Although the book has a large cast list, it was easy to follow the interesting story that I had never heard about before this book.  It never crossed my mind that by stealing a corpse, the government might be willing to pay a ransom.  But as this book so easily explains, with Ben Boyd in prison (an expert engraver of counterfeit plates), counterfeiters and the distribution force were in need of money and leverage.

I didn’t find this book quite as exciting as Bomb, maybe because there was a lot more background knowledge, and there wasn’t such a “race” to steal Lincoln’s body as there was to create the atomic bomb.  In Lincoln’s Grave Robbers Sheinkin also discusses the presidential election of 1876 as well as grave robbing by doctors and their medical students – all interesting information, but I felt it took away a little from the focus of the story.  I still enjoyed it, but not quite as much as his other work I’d read.  Regardless of my own opinion, I believe that the history that this book and others like it provides is what kids in school would be interested in learning!

Title: Lincoln’s Grave Robbers
Author: Steve Sheinkin
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: 2013
Page Number: 214 pgs.

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