Click Here To Purchase and/or to Find Out More About Dynamite Fiend : The Chilling Tale of a Confederate Spy, Con Artist, and Mass Murderer

Author: Ann Larabee

ISBN-10: 1403967946

ISBN-13: 978-1403967947

Before getting into the review of this book I would like to say that is was one of the best historical non-fiction books that I have read in years.  The story is about a Canadian civil war blockade runner and con man, Alexander “Sandy” Keith, and the evil that his sociopathic, self serving ways brought to this world.  In one of those events that “rocked the world” then settled into the annals of history, the

Sandy Keith’s family moved from Scotland to the Canadian Maritimes in the early part of the 19th century, settling in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  As a young man Sandy Keith drifted toward his well to do uncle rather than harboring aspirations to follow in his own father’s footsteps.  Sandy even took on his uncle’s name, possibly in order to be seen as a surrogate son or to gain position as the heir to the elder Alexander Keith’s fortune, mainly from trading, ship’s agency and running a well known brewery.  After working for his uncle a number of years and progressing finely, around the time the US Civil War broke out, young Sandy Keith and his uncle parted ways.  So Sandy Keith hung out his own shingle offering his services as a ship’s agent and interloper for Confederate vessels that desperately needed military and civilian supplies.

It was during this time that Sandy Keith began to show his deviant side.  The more money that he could make on running the federal blockades the more hungry Sandy Keith became.  He became involved in insurance fraud, providing inferior goods to what had been purchased and at times out-and-out theft.  But the most disturbing new developments in the young man’s character, which have never been proven, were his developing tastes for explosives.  While Sandy Keith was still a ship’s agent there were two incidents that pointed to Sandy Keith’s sinister side:  An explosion in Halifax harbor at a coal depot and a disappeared vessel that Sandy Keith had insured to the hilt.  Sandy Keith’s windfall on this missing vessel taught him a terrible lesson…  It was possible to make easy money through destruction.

Nonetheless, Sandy Keith’s dishonesty became his downfall, leading to his having to abandon his Canadian home.  The point of no return came when Sandy accepted money for train engines to be built in Philadelphia, brought to Canada then covertly shipped to the Confederate States of America.  Keith also sold the same engine to an investor in Canada as well.  Sandy Keith traveled to Philadelphia and laid a down payment on the engine.  Once work was started the US Government was mysteriously notified of the true destination for the engine and so the train was seized.  Sandy Keith pocketed the money and claimed to the investors that all was lost

From this point on the good in this man could never be resuscitated.  Sandy was eventually forced to run from authorities in Canada and the United States, leaving a young woman pregnant and penniless in New York, eventually fleeing to Saint Louis and on to the plains of Illinois where he eventually took a wife of French extraction.  Once he was discovered by detectives there Sandy fled to southeastern Germany, living a posh lifestyle, that is until his money started to run out.  It was at that time he turned back to his maritime insurance scam, scouting intercontinental vessels, not caring that these ships also transported people.  At the same time Sandy Keith worked to develop the right time bomb with the unknowing aid of world renowned German watch makers.  In 1875 Sandy Keith sealed his fate in infamy when his contraption was dropped while being loaded about its victim vessel in Bremen harbor.  Penniless and in a hopeless situation Sandy Keith shot himself in twice in the head but even this didn’t end the story.

Sadly, a man with such intelligence as Sandy Keith become one of the early modern terrorists, but not because he was a man of conviction in a political, social or religious cause.  No, Sandy Keith acted purely out of greed and his fascination with explosives.  Unfortunately several innocent people had to die because of this disturbed man’s deviance.

Ann Larabee has done an absolutely excellent job in her research which took her through three countries.  I am very impressed not just in the research but in the writing as well.  The Dynamite Fiend is a real page turner and I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in this era in history.

Click Here To Purchase and/or to Find Out More About Dynamite Fiend : The Chilling Tale of a Confederate Spy, Con Artist, and Mass Murderer