The First Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: George Washington, assassins, and overwrought prose.

Quick synopsis: The story of the assassination conspiracy of George Washington right before the Battle of Long Island.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: New Yorkers in 1770 consumed an average of 6.7 gallons of rum year per person. That is the equivalent of 8 shots per day. And that is ONLY for rum. Everyone was drunk all the damn time. How did the Constitution even get written under these circumstances?

Fun Fact for History Nerds: New York colonial governor, William Tryon, fled to a British ship in New York and sat there for a really long time while the Continentals took over the city before the Battle of Long Island. It would be like if Kim Jung-Un was just sitting in Philly right now, talking smack.

My Take: This book was so infuriating that it ruined my night when I finished it. I was told to calm down.

The good news is the story and research are pretty impeccable. This story is not readily available, and Meltzer and Mensch will in a lot of blanks. The story is mostly complete and pretty compelling to a point. If you are an American Revolution addict, you must read this for the scholarship.

You’ll notice I said it is compelling to a point. The bad news is the compelling part is 150 pages long, but the book is over 300 pages. Meltzer (and I’m blaming him since he’s the big name here) tries way too hard to make this a thriller. Sorry, dude, we know Washington doesn’t get assassinated. Even non-Americans who could not care less about American history know that. Ending a chapter with allusion to maybe it being too late is patently ridiculous.

Another major sin is intertwined with a minor one. The minor sin is Meltzer going out of his way to mention Alexander Hamilton. Yes, I know he’s huge right now. He also has nothing to do with this story. And while Meltzer mentions Hamilton, he completely forgets to address what happened to most of the characters! We only know what happens to one conspirator and none of the others. Now you know why I was so cranky when this book ended! I had to go google it!

Verdict: The actual story is very good and the research is top notch. The prose and narrative really stand in the way of this being a great book. If you love this time period, it’s a must read because of the lack of other scholarship on the subject.

If You Liked This Try:

  • Nathaniel Philbrick, Bunker Hill
  • Nathaniel Philbrick, Valiant Ambition
  • Ron Chernow, George Washington
  • Russell Shorto, The Island at the Center of the World
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The First Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch
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