Everyone knows the story of Abraham Lincoln's assassination in 1865, but few are aware of the original conspiracy to kill him four years earlier in 1861, on his way to Washington, D.C., for his first inauguration.
... fascinating and extremely readable ... Considering Meltzer's literary background, it's no surprise that The Lincoln Conspiracy reads like an expertly crafted thriller. What's remarkable about the book is that Meltzer and Mensch are able to sustain the suspense even though the reader knows how it ends ... They're able to pull that off because of their gift for pacing and because of the structure of the book — it has short, punchy chapters, each of which teases the next. As was the case with their book about George Washington, Meltzer and Mensch do have a tendency to end each chapter with somewhat breathless prose, not unlike the way some television shows end each act with a cliffhanger. And while that may annoy readers with a taste for more academic history, it's an effective technique that's likely to pique the interest of more casual history fans. That's not to say the book isn't well researched; it is, very much so, with nearly 50 pages of endnotes drawn from Lincoln's and Pinkerton's papers. Meltzer and Mensch have clearly done their homework, and they prove to be experts at rendering history in an urgent, exciting way ... is, despite its dark subject matter, relentlessly fun to read. Meltzer and Mensch are refreshingly unpretentious authors who prove gifted at providing essential context to the main storyline — they deftly paint a picture of 19th-century America, taking deep dives into Lincoln's life and the prevailing attitudes toward race and politics at the time. It's an expertly crafted book that seems sure to delight readers with an interest in lesser-known episodes of American history.
... remarkable and often riveting ... Drawing from contemporaneous accounts and biographies of the central characters, Meltzer and Mensch use Lincoln’s two-week journey by train from his home in Illinois to his under-cover-of-darkness arrival in Washington as a gripping narrative to revisit the discovery of the assassination plot and the frantic efforts to prevent its success ... In their briskly paced telling — each of the book’s 81 chapters is just a few pages long — the authors provide a robust historical framework.
Meltzer and Mensch introduce a constellation of pro-slavery militias and secret societies, with names like the Knights of the Golden Circle, which worked with the local police on plans to ensnare Lincoln, while their discussion of how the newly founded Pinkerton National Detective Agency infiltrated the conspiracy includes unexpected details of undercover work, 1860s-style—including by pathbreaking women detectives. A delightful addition to popular literature on the Civil War era.