THE WHISKEY REBELS
Liss does a remarkable job of capturing the early days of the republic, the excitement of building a country from the ground up, as well as the underlying fear that the experiment might just as easily fail as succeed. The plot twists will keep readers turning the pages, but the lovely prose and finely drawn, sympathetic characters -- intelligent, passionate Joan Maycott, especially -- will make them want to slow down and savor the book.
Capt. Ethan Saunders was one of Gen. Washington's spies during the Revolution, but after being branded a traitor, he spends his days lurching from tavern to tavern in Philadelphia's seedier neighborhoods. When old love Cynthia Pearson asks him to find her missing husband, he's pulled into a plot to bring down the U.S. Treasury.
Joan Maycott and husband Andrew moved to the western Pennsylvania frontier to forge a new life for themselves. When Andrew develops a method of distilling superior whiskey, the Maycotts are threatened by rival distillers and government agents aiming to raise bank funds -- and line their own pockets -- through an excise tax on whiskey. When Ethan's and Joan's causes intersect, the repercussions on their lives, their loved ones and their country will change things forever. (Random House, Oct., 544 pp., $26.00)