Lincoln's Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin
Digital Audiobook narrated by Will Patton
Published by Scholastic Press on January 1st 2013
Genres: Children's, Historical, History, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction
Length: 214 pages or 3 hours, 16 minutes
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The action begins in October of 1875, as Secret Service agents raid the Fulton, Illinois, workshop of master counterfeiter Ben Boyd. Soon after Boyd is hauled off to prison, members of his counterfeiting ring gather in the back room of a smoky Chicago saloon to discuss how to spring their ringleader. Their plan: grab Lincoln's body from its Springfield tomb, stash it in the sand dunes near Lake Michigan, and demand, as a ransom, the release of Ben Boyd --and $200,000 in cash. From here, the action alternates between the conspirators, the Secret Service agents on their trail, and the undercover agent moving back and forth between the two groups. Along the way readers get glimpses into the inner workings of counterfeiting, grave robbing, detective work, and the early days of the Secret Service. The plot moves toward a wild climax as robbers and lawmen converge at Lincoln's tomb on election night: November 7, 1876.
So. This is a middle grade book, and I don’t think I realized that when I added it to my TBR. I left it because, darn it, the topic seemed interesting. And it was! Though I Googled it, and MG is ages 8-12 and I don’t know that it’s a good idea for an 8-year-old to read this book.
Here’s the scoop. A bunch of counterfeiters wanted to get their buddy out of jail, so one of them decided it would be a good idea to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body and ransom it. Because, obviously, that would be my first thought as well. *eye roll* Anyway, they tried it, and it failed. End of story, right? WRONG. The mastermind put together a new crew to try again. This crew had a snitch, though… so that plan also got royally foiled, in the end.
This was an interesting story, but it was definitely a little gruesome at times. That should be expected from any grave robbing or body snatching story, I suppose, but I expected it to be simplified a little more than it is. There are descriptions of Lincoln’s corpse, as they kept checking inside the coffin to make sure he was still here. These descriptions are mostly limited to his face, but still. Dead bodies. Fun stuff. Blech.
Otherwise, it was really interesting. At first, I was frustrated by all the asides, but there were some fascinating tidbits in there as well. For example, did you know that Mary Todd Lincoln was institutionalized by her son? I didn’t! There were a lot of little things like that I kept Googling to see if they were over dramatized, and they weren’t. All legit. Simplified sometimes, but facts.
All in all, this was an interesting little book. It was only a three hour audiobook, and a good introduction to crime and politics in the late 1800s. I think that mature middle graders could handle it, but make sure your child isn’t easily frightened – the last thing anyone needs is their child having nightmares about a zombie Abe Lincoln.