Long before the CIA was formed, on the brink of war, George Washington assembled his own band of soldiers known as “Life Guards” to help identify traitors, track their moves, and, perhaps most importantly, help stop an assassination attempt he knew was coming.
Opening in 1776, Meltzer (The Escape Artist, 2018, etc.) and veteran television producer Josh Mensch take readers back in time to Manhattan, where George Washington is mere moments from walking into an elaborate trap. With the stage set, the authors jump further back in time, using historical documents and thorough research to chronicle the lead-up to the exciting opening.
Leading up to the Revolutionary War, Washington becomes privy to alarming news: Not only were there a number of traitors among his men, but a plan was said to be in the works to have him killed. In response to the shocking revelation, Washington hand-picks his own circle of bodyguards, which was later nicknamed his Life Guards, to help him thwart the murderous plot. Among the conspirators were the governor of New York, William Tryon, and Mayor David Mathews, two powerful men who’d gone to great lengths to plan the elaborate scheme that included, believe it or not, Washington’s own housekeeper . . . and the men he trusted most.
Meltzer, known for his fiction work and hosting duties on the History Channel’s Decoded and Lost History, has a knack for bringing history to life in a way that few others can. Likewise, there is nobody better when it comes to decoding conspiracies and getting to the truth while keeping things interesting and fun. Part of the appeal is that Meltzer tends to focus on moments, people, and times not typically well covered in history books, which makes following him an enjoyable learning experience on top of the inevitable first-rate entertainment you know you’ll get whenever his name is on the cover. That’s certainly true here, as The First Conspiracy clocks in as one of Meltzer’s fastest-moving stories yet despite being nonfiction.
True to Meltzer’s writing style, the chapters are short and designed to keep the story moving quickly, though everything is well presented and it’s obvious the authors did an extensive amount of research into Washington and his life. The dialogue is crisp and authentic to the time, and visual descriptions paint a vibrant picture of what life looked like more than two hundred years ago.
After a long career crafting fictional stories around historical facts (and a successful children’s series that teaches kids about courageous historical figures), it seemed inevitable that Brad Meltzer would one day enter the nonfiction waters, and his first offering doesn’t disappoint. Josh Mensch proves to be the perfect co-author to bring this fascinating plot to life, and readers will no doubt hope the duo are working on a second book focusing on a new conspiracy.
With all the makings of a breakneck thriller, The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot Against George Washington is one hell of an exciting read and should appeal to a wide range of readers.
Author: Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch
Pages: 432 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: January 8, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 8.5/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.