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.
The authors, Meltzer and Mensch, worked together on a cable TV show called 'Lost History' and their TV signposting techniques just do not translate to the solitude of print. These chapter endings come with such gong-like regularity, one begins to fear their arrival in the quiet space of one’s head. Or, as later happened, I just found myself pausing afterward, as if awaiting a commercial for bamboo steamers or Mayochup. Cheap mechanics aside, it doesn’t really matter. You will turn the pages because this is a page-turner of a story.
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.