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The Whiskey Rebels    by David Liss order for
Whiskey Rebels
by David Liss
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2008 (2008)

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

History has always been fascinating to me. When I can get a history lesson with a good story woven into it, I'm one happy camper. Such is The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss, author of A Conspiracy of Paper.

The Whiskey Rebels takes readers back to the time just after the Revolutionary War. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton is engaged in a power struggle with political rival Thomas Jefferson over the Bank of the United States, the country's first real financial institution. Interesting stuff. Enter Ethan Saunders who was a very successful spy for General Washington during the war but was charged with treason after the struggle. His reputation in tatters, he dissolves into drink when the love of his life marries another man.

In the meantime, Joan Maycott, along with her war veteran husband, travel west with the promise of good land on which to build their lives, only to find they had been swindled and are left with nothing. Joan's husband throws in with other settlers to produce some mighty fine whiskey. Hamilton decides that the way to support his bank is to issue a whiskey tax. Needless to say, this does not go over well with the producers of said product and they rebel, trying to overthrow the bank by financial means.

This is a fascinating taste of American history not just in the overall happenings but also with respect to conditions in early New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The manner in which people existed - and what they had to do it with - shows us how very far we have gotten in the few hundred years since the founding of the United States. We've all heard of the Whiskey Rebellion but I don't believe I've ever read anything about it since high school fiction or non-fiction.

The machinations that weave through this story of the rebellion left me with my mind whirling, trying to track opposing factions and keep their dealings straight. The characters became almost like an extended family as I enjoyed reading this satisfyingly long tome. The Whiskey Rebels is an excellent read, highly recommended.

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