The Last Twelve Miles

Erika Robuck's eighth historical novel, The Last Twelve Miles, vividly chronicles the rivalry between rum-running queen Marie Waite and pioneering cryptanalyst Elizebeth Smith Friedman, two brilliant Prohibition-era women who may have more in common than they realize.

Robuck (Sisters of Night and Fog) begins the story on the high seas, as Elizebeth chases down a boat full of potential contraband alongside her Coast Guard colleagues. From there, the narrative alternates between Elizebeth's orderly life of code breaking and child rearing, and Marie's adventures running liquor alongside her husband, Charlie. Robuck highlights key details of both women's real-life biographies, such as Marie's Belgian and Franco Spanish ancestry, which earned her the nickname "Spanish Marie," and the fierce ambition that drove Elizebeth to pay her own way through college. Though operating on opposite sides of the law, they both know the realities of being the lone woman in male-dominated professions; the challenges of balancing career and motherhood; and the constant internal second-guessing that plagues successful women. Robuck also captures Elizebeth's mingled love and worry for her husband, William, whose mental health suffers as a result of his wartime experiences, and Marie's disillusionment with Charlie, who is impulsive and inclined toward violence. As the stakes mount--Marie risking her marriage and her fortune, and Elizebeth growing more determined to defeat her enemy--Robuck brings her characters and readers to a spectacular finish.

Brimming with ciphers, cocktails, and dramatic tension, The Last Twelve Miles is a breathtaking account of two women whose skills outmatched everyone around them--except each other. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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