Reviews for The first conspiracy : the secret plot to kill George Washington

Publishers Weekly
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This protracted history of a conspiracy against the Continental Army before the American colonies had even declared their independence doesn't showcase thriller author Meltzer (The Escape Artist) at his best. Meltzer and television veteran Mensch set the scene of the conspiracy in the prologue-a moonlit night in 1776 in a clearing in Manhattan, as George Washington emerges from a coach into a planned trap. Then the narrative moves back to 1752; after several chapters, Washington and the Continental Army arrive in New York City in early 1776, where the British governor, William Tryon, is already gathering intelligence against them and pays a New York gunsmith, Gilbert Forbes, to recruit Washington's soldiers into a plot on his life. The authors recount the plot's thwarting by a nascent counterintelligence group led by John Jay, later the first Supreme Court Justice. The authors draw out the story a great deal, breaking it into brief chapters ending in often melodramatic statements like "One thing is clear: nothing in this war will be easy." Some readers may find that the choppy structure heightens the work's drama, while others may find it and the simplistic prose off-putting, but the topic is one that will draw interest. Agent: Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, William Morris Agency. (Jan.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

An atmosphere of distrust and subterfuge pervaded the Colonies on the eve of war.In brisk, tense chapters, Meltzer (The Escape Artist, 2018, etc.) and documentary TV producer Mensch relate a tale of spies and treason, conspiracy and counterintelligence at the start of the colonists' war against Britain. Using present tense, the authors create a sense of immediacy and peril: Patriots are being hastily formed into a ragtag, rowdy army; the British, with its incomparable navy, are mounting a well-orchestrated campaign, sending hundreds of ships to assail Manhattan; and the clock, as clocks do in such thrillers, is ticking. Central to the convoluted plot is the fate of George Washington, portrayed by the authors as a paragon of leadership and perfection: "perfect poise, perfect manners, perfect horsemanship, perfect appearance." He faces a population of "divided loyalties and shifting allegiancesripe for treachery, spying, and double-crossing." Farmers and townsfolk are lured into fighting for the king and conveying secret information. New York Gov. William Tryon and the city's mayor, David Mathews, are conspirators, Tryon masterminding treachery from aboard a British ship docked in New York's harbor. Shocked by rumors, Washington decides to assemble an elite band of soldiers enjoined to protect him. Their nickname was the Life Guards. In addition, he convenes "a dedicated team who can uncover the enemies' secret activities," learn their plans, and thwart them. The secret Committee of Intestine Enemies, the authors assert, will become, two centuries later, the CIA: "the domain of dedicated agencies with well-trained experts and sophisticated technologies." As rudimentary as it was, however, Washington's clandestine committee ferreted out important information: Among turncoats were members of Washington's Life Guards and, astonishingly, his housekeeper. The authors acknowledge that some elements of the plot remain mysterious: Washington's housekeeper, for example, left his employ suddenly, but no records point to her involvement. Nevertheless, the conspiracy is foiled, and in July 1776, Washington's public reading of the Declaration of Independence finally energizes his soldiers.A lively political thriller. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Best-selling novelist and television-host Meltzer (The Escape Artist, 2018) and documentarian Mensch bring the fast pace and sensibility of a thriller to the Hickey Plot, a failed 1776 scheme to kidnap and possibly murder George Washington. They vividly evoke the world of occupied New York City in which the scheme unfolded, describing the tensions within the overcrowded wartime community and the webs of relationships linking powerful backstage plotters with the greedy, desperate, or committed ordinary people designated to carry it out. Hickey itself was hardly a uniquely menacing undertaking, however. As the book makes clear, the Revolutionary War was fraught with conspiracies and plots against key leaders on both sides. What Meltzer and Mensch do bring out is how the scheme helped to inspire American innovations in defensive spycraft, eventually known as counterintelligence, by their juxtaposing the Hickey attempt with the ad hoc nature of the political and military leadership seeking to control the city and prosecute the war. Readers who like their histories full of twists, turns, and cliff-hangers will enjoy this romp through the Revolution.--Sara Jorgensen Copyright 2018 Booklist

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

History Channel personality Meltzer and television producer Mensch collaborate on an account of a little-known assassination plot against George Washington, then leader of the Continental Army. This conspiracy occurred when Washington headquartered the army in New York during the spring and summer of 1776. The fast-paced narrative explores the rivalry between Washington and New York’s colonial governor, William Tryon. Tryon, with British assistance, financed irregular operations against American patriots. Meltzer and Mensch reveal how Washington deciphered the plot against him by relying on the first documented instance of American counterespionage. What makes the story more intriguing is the portrayal of the divisions between loyalists and patriots in New York, as loyalty to the Crown is often underrepresented in Revolution histories. VERDICT Highly recommended for popular history fans, this work adds to the knowledge presented in David McCullough’s 1776 and makes a great companion volume to John A. Nagy’s Invisible Ink: Spycraft of the American Revolution.—Jacob Sherman, John Peace Lib., Univ. of Texas at San Antonio Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.