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Lincoln's Grave Robbers



Fascinating nonfiction account of little-known conspiracy.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Lincoln's Grave Robbers explores a little-known conspiracy to steal the assassinated president's body and hold it for ransom. It provides a solidly researched look into the ill-fated plot itself and the history of counterfeiting rings.

Positive messages

On its most basic level, Lincoln's Grave Robbers proves that crime doesn't pay. But it also demonstrates that the best-laid plans of those in authority can be undone by bad luck and overconfidence.

Positive role models

Patrick Tyrell of the Chicago Secret Services does his utmost to protect the remains of Abraham Lincoln. He's virtually the only lawman to take the rumors of the conspiracy seriously and work actively to foil them. Despite his indefatigability, he also proves very human, capable of making errors that threaten to undo all his hard work.


Guns are drawn and warning shots fired, but otherwise there is very little violent content.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The conspirators do much of their business at a saloon called The Hub. Assorted drunks appear from time to time.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the nonfiction Lincoln's Grave Robbers is a fascinating look at a little-remembered episode in post-Civil War history. It gives a fair amount of background on the history of counterfeiting currency in America and then proceeds to chronicle the twisted tale of a group of counterfeiters who conspired to steal the assassinated president's body and ransom it for cash and the release of one of their confederates. It's another detailed, suspenseful story by Steve Sheinkin, author of the acclaimed Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon.

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What's the story?

After master counterfeiter Benjamin Boyd was arrested by the Secret Service in 1875, his confederates devise a plot to steal the remains of President Abraham Lincoln and ransom them for Boyd's release (plus a large amount of cash). It's up to Patrick Tyrrell, Chief Operative of the Chicago District of the Secret Service, to foil the plan. With the aid of Lewis C. Swegles, a career criminal turned double agent, Tyrrell and his men prepare to meet the would-be grave robbers at the run-down Lincoln Monument on a chaotic election night.

Is it any good?


LINCOLN'S GRAVE ROBBERS is an exciting, fast-paced and well-researched chronicle of a little-known sidelight of post-Civil War history. It provides the right amount of background on the history of counterfeiting in America, then gets down to the twisty tale of a plot to steal a beloved president's remains. The real-life cast is populated with some fascinating characters, from upright lawmen to conniving counterfeiters to a slippery double agent. Author Steve Sheinkin presents the material with clear prose and an eye for the telling detail.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why the theft of a late U.S. president's body would be so shocking and traumatic to the nation. What do you know about Lincoln that made him especially loved and especially controversial?

  • How does Author Steve Sheinkin write history in a way that makes it as engaging and entertaining as a good novel? What's the difference between fiction and nonfiction?

  • Does counterfeiting still occur in the United States? How have changes in technology affected the production of counterfeit bills?

Book details

Author:Steve Sheinkin
Topics:History, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Non-Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Press
Publication date:January 1, 2013
Number of pages:224
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 14
Available on:Nook, Hardback, Kindle
Award:ALA Best and Notable Books

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