A thriller writer and TV documentary producer team up to unravel the little-known Hickey Plot of 1776, in which the governor and mayor of New York launched a deadly plot against the most important member of the military: George Washington himself.
It's a fascinating story, and Meltzer and Mensch do an excellent job explaining it. Meltzer...brings a propulsive energy to the narrative—it can be difficult to create tension and suspense in a nonfiction book where the reader already knows how the story ends, but the authors do a great job keeping the reader turning the pages. The book is also extremely well-researched. Meltzer and Mensch cite an impressive number of primary sources, including letters from Washington and others, as well as a heroic number of history books. Nothing about the book is phoned in; the amount of research behind it is genuinely remarkable. If there's one thing that doesn't quite succeed, it's Meltzer and Mensch's prose, which at times tends toward the breathless ... But that's a minor complaint ... The First Conspiracy is an excellent book, enthralling and beyond fascinating, and it's sure to delight both fans of thrillers and American history.
Messrs. Meltzer and Mensch offer a fresh perspective by focusing on the strange and astonishing events arising from British schemes to undermine Washington’s command from within and on the initiatives to frustrate such efforts through the formation of a Patriot 'Secret Committee' employing methods that prefigure today’s 'counterintelligence' ... Narrated in short, fast-paced chapters, The First Conspiracy deploys a conversational style that may rankle some readers ... There is also much repetition, and some hyperbole. For example, the authors never tire of emphasizing that the British soldiers and sailors converging upon New York were members of 'the biggest, most powerful, most feared military in the world' ... Their conclusion that Washington was a target rests on rumors of a 'horrid' or 'hellish' plot that began circulating several days before Pvt. Hickey’s trial. But none of the official records...reveal such bloodthirsty objectives ... A more plausible explanation is that an exaggerated account of the conspiracy was spread to bolster the Patriot cause.
It’s a breezily entertaining account of a treasonous plot among various pro-crown figures, including some of Washington’s bodyguards, to assassinate the general and turn the tide of the Revolutionary War ... For Meltzer, a best-selling author of thrillers and a popular History Channel host, this foray into non-fiction has a decidedly melodramatic flavor, rushing along in the present tense from one breathless, cliffhanging chapter to the next, replete with bold-faced teasers...and flash-card prose ... But the research shown is solid, citing newspaper accounts, journal entries and letters from such revolutionary leaders as John Hancock, John Adams and Washington himself. To their credit, the authors turn the oft-chronicled details of Washington’s rise to prominence and the first American presidency into a colorful origin story ... The details of...treachery are less interesting, though, than the larger point that in the revolutionary era, peopled by colonists with divided loyalties to Britain and an emerging America, 'the two sides are porous and always changing.'