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The Whiskey Rebels

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  5,351 Ratings  ·  757 Reviews
David Liss’s bestselling historical thrillers, including A Conspiracy of Paper and The Coffee Trader, have been called remarkable and rousing: the perfect combination of scrupulous research and breathless excitement. Now Liss delivers his best novel yet in an entirely new setting–America in the years after the Revolution, an unstable nation where desperate schemers vie for ...more
Hardcover, 519 pages
Published September 30th 2008 by Random House
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Best Historical Mystery
168th out of 1,308 books — 3,432 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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I really enjoyed this book. I learned a lot about the Revolutionary period, and like any solid work of historical fiction, this book piqued my interest in learning even more. I enjoyed Liss's writing style and his humor. I was very surprised by how much of this wild story is actually based on reality.

This book was a five for me for probably the first third, but I docked it a star for what, at times, felt like anachronistic humor (very funny, but still) and for too many characters who felt a bit
Sep 20, 2008 Spuddie rated it really liked it
Historical fiction set in the immediate post-Revolutionary War period in Philadelphia and New York. The story is told from the point of view of two people: Ethan Saunders, a disgraced spy, and Joan Maycott, a young woman with literary aspirations. Ethan’s story begins in the present time while Joan’s starts in the past with her early life. Her and Ethan’s paths begin their fateful crossing when she and her husband Andrew trade in his war debt for a parcel of land in western Pennsylvania, which ...more
Jul 26, 2016 Misfit rated it it was ok
Recommended to Misfit by: Amazon Vine
For over two months I have tried to get through this book and I am now calling *uncle*. I love historical fiction and I've not found many novels based on this period in US history so I was very much looking forward to this book. I have lost count of the times I have picked this book up and put it down for another. Unlikeable characters, a plot that takes too long to get moving and the worst sin of all (at least for me) is the alternating chapters with the first person point of view of Ethan and ...more
Dec 23, 2008 Mark rated it it was amazing

Part potboiler, part history lesson, part financial treatise, part love story, part adventure tale, this highly entertaining novel by Goodreads author David Liss takes us back to the early days of America in the 1790s, when Alexander Hamilton was setting up the Bank of the United States, America was developing its first stock markets, and the frontier border was in the rugged woods of Western Pennsylvania.

"The Whiskey Rebels" is based on real historical events -- not only a financial crisis that
Sep 16, 2008 Richard rated it really liked it
The Whiskey Rebels

I’ll tell you right off, I hate novels that are written in alternating chapters. My complaint is that one story is never allowed to develop without the interruption of another story, and though David Liss is a skillful writer, and the stories eventually intersect quite artfully, I still think it’s a lazy way to put a novel together. I know, I know, “try it yourself and see how easy it is…” Well, no, I won’t, but that doesn’t make it any less an irritation. The double-edged savi
Richard Derus
Dec 20, 2011 Richard Derus rated it really liked it
Rating: 4.5* of five

Liss in true Liss form! I adored A Conspiracy of Paper and A Spectacle of Corruption and enjoyed greatly The Coffee Trader. Mr. Liss is a writer with several gifts, and seemingly displays them to their best advantage in works of historical fiction. (I was no fan of The Ethical Assassin since it felt undeveloped and unfinished to me.)

Most unusually, Mr. Liss can take any business conflict and make it into a story. He tells us the story of the business panic that in part led to
Feb 24, 2011 Kelly rated it it was amazing
I loved Ethan Saunders in this book as much as I've ever loved a character in any book. He has a rakish and witty/sarcastic arrogance that is so engaging. No matter how bad things were for him (of his own doing or others), he never doubted he was all that. For some reason it made him so loveable.

In a conversation with another man he promises "You have my word as a gentleman." The other man remarks that he is not a gentleman. He replies "Then you have my word as a scoundrel, which, I know, opens
Jun 10, 2009 Scot rated it really liked it
For historical fiction fans who enjoy a plotline rather complicated with intrigue, usually offering opportunity for some reflection on how the forces of capitalism affected political and social change in another time and place, David Liss is an author you need to check out. I thoroughly enjoyed one of his earlier books, A Spectacle of Corruption, and looked forward to this volume with some eagerness, as western Pennsylvania has long been dear to me, and I anticipated a tale offering a view of po ...more
Sep 05, 2008 Carrie rated it really liked it
This was another Early Reviewer book and the second I've read by Liss. He writes historical fiction and this particular book is set in America, shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War and deals with actual historical events and figures from the time. I thought it was really well written, and I found it much more engaging than The Coffee Trader, his other novel that I have read. (The Coffee Trader wasn't bad, I just found it dull at times). In any event, this book was quite good and has ...more
Sep 28, 2015 Stacey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
The character of Ethan Saunders was rather entertaining and I enjoyed this author's witty writing. It did take me a little while to get in to the dual storyline as one is told from the perspective of Ethan Saunders in the novel's "present day" and the other from the perspective of Joan Maycott, which starts about 10 years prior. The story slowly builds as the two story lines come together. The author shows you how events can change a person and how the line between good and bad can become ...more
Kelsey Demers
Feb 06, 2011 Kelsey Demers rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
I now officially wish that I could give books half stars. When going back and forth between "I really liked it" and "It was amazing." I find myself somewhere in the middle.

I, myself am surprised that I liked this book so much as I did. For one, historical fiction is really quite hit or miss with me. (That isn't to say that I don't like it, rather that my tolerance can be low.) Also, I rarely ever like alternating chapters as a method to tell a story unless it is because there simply is no other
Claire Monahan
Hm. What a letdown.

The process of reading this book for me fluctuated like a sound wave: at times my interest was high, and in other parts I felt like this could not drag on any longer. If the book had not been an easy read, I suppose I would have quit much earlier on.

My criticisms for this book are quite high in the historical side, since I disagree very much with the representations of Hamilton, Philadelphia, Burr, and other Federalist stars. Still, I could have forgiven this if I had truly
Apr 26, 2009 Mick rated it really liked it
So, you're into historical fiction. And, on occasion, you truly enjoy a political thriller. Yet you also tend to savor a good mystery. Should that be the case--along with the added bonus of engaging, clever writing--may I recommend THE WHISKEY REBELS?

Set in America's infancy--a 1792 that saw the fragile American Experiment in danger of being torn asunder by the Hamiltonian Federalists and the Jeffersonian Republicans--author David Liss presents two protagonists, both with compelling, and quite
Aug 15, 2008 Kirk rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fiction lovers/Historical Fiction
Recommended to Kirk by: Me - previously read Liss and loved it
So I wrote this about a month ago:

Looking forward to reading what I'm guessing is going to be another great historical fiction - this time set in the early founding days of the Good ol' USA.

And I was correct - it was both another great historical fiction from David Liss AND set in the early days of the US! A page-turning great historical fiction novel.

Without giving much away the story focuses on early America where going "west" meant Pittsburg. Hamilton is in charge of our countries finances a
Apr 04, 2016 Lisasuej rated it it was amazing
This author never disappoints. He truly understands the historical fiction genre. Everything is meticulously well-researched, and the story is always tightly written. I have read nearly all of his books, and not one has been a stinker.. This is actually more of an accomplishment than it sounds. It's impressive to be consistently excellent!

This particular book is actually a 4.5 star book in my opinion, but I've rounded up, because, you 1/2 stars here at Goodreads.

I found the characters
Nov 17, 2015 Rich rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, library, 2015
This. This is what a historical fiction novel should be. This is what a spy novel should be. I absolutely loved The Whiskey Rebels.

The Whiskey Rebels takes place after the Revolutionary War when America was just starting to flex it's muscles and find out what it was to become. References to historical events, and wonderful fictitious plotting combined with truly fascinating characters kept the pages turning. The Whiskey Rebels reads as much like a thrilling spy novel as it does historical fictio
Jun 11, 2011 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd love to give this 4 & 1/2 stars - it's a rollicking tale from start to finish! The story, set in post-Revolutionary War Pennsylvania and New York, alternates between two engaging narrators: Joan Maycott, is a self-possessed young woman with who reads 'Wealth of Nations' and other economic treatises, and Captain Ethan Saunders, a spy for the American side during the war, falsely accused of treason and now fallen on hard times. Captain Saunders is a loveable rogue in the best tradition, an ...more
Sep 09, 2009 Siobhan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is my first book by David Liss, but it won't be my last. I enjoyed every second of it. I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable about history, but knew little of the years after the Revolutionary War. The book encouraged my interest in learning more facts upon which the fiction is based. I listened to the audio version of it, and the reader does an excellent job.
Dec 06, 2014 YouKneeK rated it really liked it
Whiskey Rebels is a historical fiction novel set in the late 1700’s, after the Revolutionary War. I don’t normally read much historical fiction, unless it has some sort of science fiction or fantasy element to it, but I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I don’t know the history from this time period very well, so I can’t vouch for its authenticity, but it came across as being plausible and consistent with what little I do know. Although there are real historical characters in the book, they are not ...more
Tammy Dotts
For many Americans, the time between the American Revolution and the Civil War is a blur. General U.S. history classes in school paid the period little mind except brief mentions of westward expansion and the presidents between Washington and Lincoln.

The Whiskey Rebels takes a closer look at this time, focusing on 1789-1791. The story follows two main characters. Captain Ethan Saunders left the Army of the Potomac in disgrace and, in 1791, finds himself caught up in intrigue swirling around his
Steven Z.
Jan 01, 2014 Steven Z. rated it liked it
I have been a fan of David Liss’ historical novels since they first appeared. THE CONSPIRACY OF PAPER, THE COFFEE TRADER, AND THE DEVIL’S COMPANY all possessed a historical flair that drew in the reader into a rather plausible plot line. Liss’ THE WHISKEY REBELS, though a good read, falls short of the quality of his first three efforts. The narrative of this somewhat light historical novel centers around two characters Ethan Saunders, and Joan Claybrook, who become involved in a plot to either ...more
Dec 14, 2008 Christa rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
The Whiskey Rebels takes place after the American Revolution. The primary characters are fictional, and many of the minor characters are prominent historical figures. The storyline was very interesting, and is written in the first person from the perspective of two different characters. One main character, Ethan Saunders, appears at the beginning of the book to be about as unlikely a hero as could be found. Ethan's story is told in alternating chapters with that of the other major character, ...more
Nov 08, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
The Whiskey Rebels, by David Liss, was another free sample ebook, but I'd been meaning to read another one of Liss's books anyway, so I decided to start with the free one.

This novel is not about the Whiskey Rebels that you've heard of, but rather about a group of "Westerners" (residing near Pittsburgh) who'd been cheated out of their back pay from serving in the Revolutionary War, in exchange for nonusable land. They resort to selling whiskey, the most portable commodity they can create, but the
Apr 05, 2015 Mommalibrarian rated it really liked it
Read July 1, 2009
Another well researched book with a financial angle. The men are very manly and there are fisticuffs and lots of verbal action. The big pleasant surprise is a well written female character - Joan! This book is worth reading!

Reread finishing Sunday, March 15, 2014
I had a sneaking suspicion that I had read this book before but there are two listings in Goodreads and my search brought up the duplicate (without my review). I am upping to four stars and here is my latest review.

Jim Loter
Aug 13, 2012 Jim Loter rated it really liked it
Novels with alternating plot lines are tricky. I often find one more intriguing than the other and feel like I have to slog through every other chapter just to get back to the story and characters that I like. In The Whiskey Rebels , David Liss manages to weave two seemingly very different tales that remain individually compelling until they intersect - a rare feat.

Liss also faces a considerable storytelling challenge in that his main topic - bank share trading and taxation in the nascent Unite
Oct 06, 2009 Tim rated it really liked it
What's this, a fiscal historical thriller? How can that work?

Oh, but it does. David Liss gives us a sharply written narrative with as much literary merit as action, and a complex plot teeming with interesting characters, from historical figures to likable scoundrels. It works even if your knowledge of early America and the Whiskey Rebellion are sketchy.

Two story arcs eventually come together here. Disgraced spy Ethan Saunders is drawn into the rivalry between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jeffer
Nov 21, 2013 Amy rated it it was ok
Since the summary/plot of this story is well-covered in other reviews, I'll jump to my thoughts about this book. The first 1/2 the book I was completely captivated by the stories of both Ethan and Joan. I could hardly put the book down - I was so excited and already recommending the books to others. Then about 1/2 way through everything changed. I felt the book drifted from a page-turning mystery to, well, I'm not sure how to describe happened! All I know that, I found the background and and ...more
Mar 11, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it
Bonus star for the new knowledge that the neighborhood a block north of my office used to be known as Helltown. Funnily, it goes by "Old City" now....

Also, file under "Everything is turning up Hamilton" - good ol' Alexander Hamilton is a secondary character in this book, which largely deals with the shenanigans around the early years of the Bank of the United States. And grumpiness from the western Pennsylvanians answering to the book's title.

While intellectually I know that Philadelphia was on
Oct 28, 2013 Ann rated it really liked it
David Liss does meticulous historical research and then uses it to create a richly detailed time and place and people it with characters you really care about. In this case, the time and place is post-Revolutionary War Pennsylvania. The chapters alternate point of view of the two main characters, Ethan Saunders, a disgraced veteran, and Joan Maycott, a woman who moves with her husband to the frontier of western Pennsylvania. Their stories gradually converge and intertwine over the issue of the ...more
May 01, 2013 Tyra rated it really liked it
The one advantage of paying no attention to history when I was in school is that when I read historical fiction, I usually have no idea how the story ends. This book proved that point to me...I have only recently even heard of the Whiskey Rebellion (thanks to Randi Roads on talk radio) and the only thing I knew about Hamilton was that he is on the $20 bill and was in a duel with Aaron Burr. I now know much more about those events.

The story is told from two different people and in two different p
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I am a novelist living in San Antonio, Texas, though, for the record, I am not from Texas. I just live here. I have four novels published: A Conspiracy of Paper (which won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel) and A Spectacle of Corruption were both national bestsellers. They are set in 18th century London and feature Benjamin Weaver, a Jewish former pugilist, thief-taker for hire. Weaver will be ...more
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“I enjoy my pettiness with a dose of wit.” 10 likes
“I did not tremble to lose what men called beauty, but I feared the loss of my spirit and humor and love of living, the things I believed made my soul human and vibrant.” 6 likes
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