The First Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch tells the story of America’s first acts of criminal espionage against the government and the government’s first act of counter espionage.
Meltzer and Mensch follow the development of a plot against the Continental Army prior to the start of the Revolutionary War and follows this plot through to the independence of America from Great Britain. The plan involves bribery, treason, and potential plans for murder, and the plan it seems infiltrated the army itself involving people close to George Washington both professionally and personally. While following this plot, Meltzer and Mensch are also keen to point out the ways in which this first act of counter-espionage came to inform current institutions such as the Secret Service and FBI.
While the book is teeming with fun historical facts and interesting tidbits from America’s cultural past, it too often reads like a textbook. The characters are distant and unreachable, possibly in part because of their historical presence and also because of Meltzer and Mensch’s marriage to telling the truth. It’s arguably challenging to create a compelling character when you can only know that character through Congress notes and an odd journal entry. Similarly, the conflict in the book, while undeniability riveting in its content, is not as much so in its telling.
Throughout the course of the book though, Meltzer and Mensch achieve their goal of telling the history of American counterintelligence and sharing details of American history that might have been glossed over in our grade school textbooks.
Slated for release by Flatiron Books in January of 2019, you can preorder a copy of The First Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch from your local bookstore.
Read more non-fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.
FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.