The Lincoln Conspiracy (Conspiracy series book 2)

Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

Flatiron Books

May 5th, 2020

The Lincoln Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch is a story about a little-known plot to assassinate President Lincoln. Readers are used to fast-paced fictional thriller plots written by Meltzer, but in this case the riveting plot is actually true to life.  

“We wanted to show the context around the assassination attempt. We actually try to flush out the people involved.  What I am most proud of is that the readers can meet Abraham Lincoln as a person instead of what we knew about him from the clichés. In this story, we show what he was doing when he hears he won the Presidency, for example, playing handball on the back of a building. Or before he leaves for Washington going to see his beloved step-mother who said I will never see him again, he will die.  Suddenly Lincoln is a human being who has fears and concerns.”

The story opens with the division between the Southern and Northern states, Lincoln’s Republican primary election on the third ballot, the debates, and the 1860 Presidential election.  It intertwines this with the plot by a Southern group to kill the President-elect before he would be sworn in.  The authors discuss the historical significance, including South Carolina seceding from the Union six-weeks after the election, and Jefferson Davis being sworn in as the Confederate President.

“For example, we put in   how Lincoln said that the federal government would not interfere with slavery in states where it exists, and that he was willing to compromise by agreeing that the Northern states fully comply with the Fugitive Slave Laws.  But he was insistent with regard to not spreading slavery into the new territories. He came about the opinion that all slaves should be freed by the influence of those like Frederick Douglas who pushed him along. We think our heroes are fully formed, but greatness comes about when people are presented with incredible problems and are judged on how they will rise or fall.” 

A White Supremist society based in Maryland led by Cypriano Ferrandini, Baltimore’s “most powerful barber,” and 28-year-old socialite Otis K. Hillard, plotted to kill Lincoln on his way to the capital. They were members of pro-slavery groups, the Knights of the Golden Circle and National Volunteers. The book details how they were thwarted by Alan Pinkerton who was asked to investigate the plot.  Pinkerton was charged with logistics. He studied the train route for Lincoln’s inaugural journey, planning for every contingency, and eventually masterminding a plan that involved smuggling Lincoln, in disguise, onto a train days before he was expected.  Two of his undercover agents greatly helped in finding the conspirators, and guarding Lincoln during his journey to the Capital. 

Even though Ferrandini will remind readers of Snidley Whiplash in his looks, according to Meltzer he “is the ultimate bad guy.  His name to fame was Baltimore’s famous barber.  I think he was diabolical on every level.  A racist who was determined to have Lincoln killed because he wants slavery to continue.  He actually walked away scot-free and what he did was buried and ignored.”

Readers will understand that Presidents have their lives at risk, especially before the Secret Service was formed. “We wrote that in Buffalo we have an account, “The crowd, in its crazed eagerness to get nearer to the distinguished visitor… became an ungovernable mob.”  The security detail was overwhelmed but there was a police escort, a military escort, and a friendly crowd.  The President-Elect was lucky to escape serious injury. When Lincoln arrives in Baltimore there will be an unfriendly crowd, no police escort, and no protection other than the Pinkerton agents. There is also the stop in Philadelphia.  He went there to honor his hero George Washington.  It was an incredible lost moment in history.  He was told someone was trying to kill him and he should change his schedule.  But Lincoln refused, even though his life was at risk, because he insisted on honoring his hero.”

This story shows true heroes that could have possibly saved the Union.  Who knows what history would have been like if Lincoln had never become President?



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About the Author

Elise Cooper

Elise writes book reviews that always include a short author interview.